Time After Time opens in fog-enshrouded London in 1893 with the murder of a prostitute by Jack the Ripper (shot in first-person, perhaps an homage to the opening scene in Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). The Ripper then appears at the home of H.G. Wells, who does not know that his friend Dr. John Leslie Stevenson is a serial killer. Stevenson joins the dinner party as Wells is explaining to other skeptical guests about his latest invention: a time machine.
|Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells.|
Believing that the future will be a perfect world without war and crime, Wells is devastated (“What have I done? I’ve turned that bloody maniac loose upon Utopia.”). When the time machines returns, Wells follows Stevenson into the future—San Francisco in 1979.
|Wells and his time machine "land" in a San Francisco museum.|
|David Warner as Jack the Ripper.|
|McDowell and Steenburgen as time-challenged lovers.|
Writer-director Nicholas Meyer went on to contribute to three of the best Star Trek films: The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home (another time travel picture),and The Undiscovered Country. Earlier in his career, he wrote two above-average made-for-TV movies: The Night That Panicked America (about Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds) and Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (an engrossing mystery featuring Robert van Gulik's seventh-century Chinese detective).
Time After Time tops my list of the best time travel movies. It explores the usual time travel conumdrums with aplomb, but never lets them get in the way of a delightful love story and clever social satire.