Time After Time (1979)

PG | 112 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 28 September 1979

Director:

Nicholas Meyer

Writer:

Nicholas Meyer

Producer:

Herb Jaffe

Cinematographer:

Paul Lohmann

Editor:

Donn Cambern

Production Designer:

Edward C. Carfagno

Production Company:

Warner Bros., Inc.
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HISTORY

The following written statement appears at the start of the end credits: "H.G. Wells married Amy Catherine Robbins, who died in 1927. As a writer, he anticipated Socialism, global war, space travel, and Women's Liberation. He died in 1946.”
The end credits also contain the following acknowledgments: "Filmed at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California" and "The Producer wishes to thank the following organizations for their help and cooperation in the making of this movie: The Chartered Bank of London; The Oakland Museum; California Academy of Sciences; K.F.W.B. Los Angeles."
       As covered in several sources, Time After Time represented Nicholas Meyer’s latest project to intermingle famous names, usually from Victorian literature or history, in make-believe encounters as he did in the best-selling novel and screenplay adaptation of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976, see entry), which introduced fictional character Sherlock Holmes to historical figure Sigmund Freud. The development of Time After Time was outlined in interviews with Meyer from the Jan 1980 Films and Filming, the 23 Sep 1979 NYT and the Apr 1979 American Film. His screenplay was based on an unpublished novel titled The Time Travelers by Karl Alexander that had originated as a short story by Alexander and Steve Hayes, partially inspired by The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Using his own money, Meyer optioned the rights and offered the project to his friend and collaborator, producer Herb Jaffe. Warner Bros. Pictures was the only studio that agreed to finance the film under the terms set by Jaffe and Meyer, which included a non-negotiable condition that Meyer would direct. ... More Less

The following written statement appears at the start of the end credits: "H.G. Wells married Amy Catherine Robbins, who died in 1927. As a writer, he anticipated Socialism, global war, space travel, and Women's Liberation. He died in 1946.”
The end credits also contain the following acknowledgments: "Filmed at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California" and "The Producer wishes to thank the following organizations for their help and cooperation in the making of this movie: The Chartered Bank of London; The Oakland Museum; California Academy of Sciences; K.F.W.B. Los Angeles."
       As covered in several sources, Time After Time represented Nicholas Meyer’s latest project to intermingle famous names, usually from Victorian literature or history, in make-believe encounters as he did in the best-selling novel and screenplay adaptation of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976, see entry), which introduced fictional character Sherlock Holmes to historical figure Sigmund Freud. The development of Time After Time was outlined in interviews with Meyer from the Jan 1980 Films and Filming, the 23 Sep 1979 NYT and the Apr 1979 American Film. His screenplay was based on an unpublished novel titled The Time Travelers by Karl Alexander that had originated as a short story by Alexander and Steve Hayes, partially inspired by The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Using his own money, Meyer optioned the rights and offered the project to his friend and collaborator, producer Herb Jaffe. Warner Bros. Pictures was the only studio that agreed to finance the film under the terms set by Jaffe and Meyer, which included a non-negotiable condition that Meyer would direct. Orion Pictures Company was also brought in as a “silent partner.” According to the American Film article, Warner Bros. was known to avoid first-time directors, but Jaffe’s influence was responsible for convincing them to give Meyer the opportunity. To offset his inexperience, Meyer forced himself to be meticulous about preparation. He insisted on five days of rehearsal prior to shooting and hired a sketch artist to create a storyboard. Although the drawings were never used, the process of describing the scenes to someone enabled him to recognize how dialogue could be eliminated and covered visually.
       In the Films and Filming interview, Meyer explained that he wanted to pair Derek Jacobi as “H.G. Wells” with Edward Fox as “John Stevenson/Jack the Ripper” and create a visual contrast between a nerdy scholar and an elegant killer. Studio executives countered with the commercial options of Richard Dreyfuss and Mick Jagger for those respective roles. According to a 23 Sep 1979 NYT article, Tom Conti was also on Meyer’s list to play Wells. A compromise was found when the studio suggested Malcolm McDowell for the lead, which pleased Meyer to portray heroism through an actor who was often cast as a villain or thug. It also helped that McDowell resembled the young Wells, which Meyer noted in an article for the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of Ampersand. In terms of background research on Wells, Meyer admitted that it was not important beyond what he needed for the story. His knowledge primarily came from The Outline of History, a work of non-fiction Wells wrote in 1920 that provided general insights about his life and political views. As far as the Ripper was concerned, Meyer only viewed him as a symbol of evil and avoided studying historical accounts, as explained in the Films and Filming interview.
       McDowell took a similar approach to the project. In the production notes at the AMPAS library, the actor said that he did not require a detailed biography for his portrayal, but relied on a creative interpretation, which led him to disregard certain accuracies, such as Wells’s high-pitched voice. He wanted to emphasize a childlike curiosity that fit the romance and whimsy in the script. In Films and Filming, Meyer claimed that McDowell was initially reluctant to wear spectacles to convey the bookish Wells, fearing that they would hinder his tendency to act with his eyes. Meyer was able to persuade him that the eyeglasses would defer the dramatic effect, thus making the impact stronger when he removed them. The American Film article mentioned that the project represented McDowell’s first experience working in America.
       Meyer said in the Films and Filming interview that the studio offered the female lead of “Amy” to Sally Field, but she declined it. Meyer’s first choice was his girlfriend at the time, actress Shelley Hack, but the studio protested, and Hack also felt uncomfortable about it. According to Meyer, she preferred to earn the part rather than contend with the impression that it was given to her because of her relationship with the director. Meyer cast her instead as the voice of the “Docent” for the H.G. Wells exhibit. He also considered Blythe Danner for Amy, but ultimately wanted someone younger to play opposite McDowell. Meyer was also looking for an actress that reminded him of Jean Arthur, and was surprised how well Mary Steenburgen fit the part, since she was the opposite of the fast-talking type he originally had in mind. Steenburgen and McDowell, who had never worked together, were married in 1980, a year after the film’s release.
       The production notes provided details about the location shooting that began in San Francisco, California on 18 Sep 1978. Filming in the area lasted four weeks and comprised 37 interior and 55 exterior sites, including the Palace of Fine Arts, Grace Cathedral, Union Street, the financial district, the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park, North Beach and Muir Woods in Marin County. Meyer prioritized the modern architecture of the city, as opposed to the Victorian styles that would have been more familiar to Wells. He chose the Hyatt Regency Hotel because it was reminiscent of the sets in the 1936 film, Things to Come, (see entry) which was based on Wells’s book, The Shape of Things to Come. Fittingly, the architect of the hotel had also been inspired by the design of the 1936 film. The History Department at the Oakland Museum stood for portions of the interior museum, and the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park was the exterior. After San Francisco, the production moved to the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios to film the sets for Victorian London and the H.G. Wells museum exhibit.
       According to the production notes, the set of the museum exhibit contained reproductions of Wells’s own drawings, as well as actual photographs he took and portraits of him as an older man. The antique clocks predominant throughout the film were obtained from various collections in the Los Angeles, California area, including California Clockmakers and John Hogg of Pasadena. Elements of wardrobe and dialogue also depended on authenticity. The single outfit Wells wears through most of the film was identified as a typical English sports suit from the 1890s of “cashmere herringbone tweed with a Norfolk jacket” that had been thoroughly researched by costumer Sal Anthony. In the Films and Filming interview, Meyer stated that he was particular about McDowell and David Warner remaining true to Victorian English, which limited the degree to which they could improvise compared to the contemporary characters.
       The production notes pointed out that director of photography Paul Lohmann employed single source lighting for Victorian London as much as possible to distinguish it from modern San Francisco, where he made use of multiple sources for greater illumination and also relied on a 50mm Panavision T1.1, which was referred to as a “miracle lens” for its ability to convey natural light. In the commentary for the 2002 DVD edition, Meyer remarked that it was the first time this lens was used. As explained in the production notes, the night scenes of the car interiors were lit with fluorescent camper lanterns, purchased from a hardware store.
       As noted in the 23 Sep 1979 NYT article, Meyer instructed production designer Edward C. Carfagno to design the Argo time machine as a Victorian spectacle, with reference to the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, see entry). According to the production notes, it was built by the Prop Department at Burbank Studios, made of fiberglass and measured “12 feet long, 4 feet wide and 8 feet high.” The American Film article cited the cost as $70,000 dollars. In Meyer’s interview for Films and Filming, he complained that the machine was a “terrible disaster” and caused significant scheduling delays. An undated studio press release announced that the prop would be displayed outside of the Bruin Theatre in Los Angeles and the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, to commemorate the 113th anniversary of H.G. Wells’s birth.
       Meyer mentioned in the Films and Filming interview that the shooting was completed in 52 days at a cost of $3.5 million. At one point when the production was momentarily ahead of schedule, an allegation arose that Meyer tried to push the shooting even faster to validate the studio’s gamble in hiring a novice director, but in the American Film article, he dismissed this claim.
       Meyer also remarked in Films and Filming that the completed film managed to encompass a variety of genres, including thriller, comedy, science fiction, romance and social criticism, which was his intention for the project. However, he claimed Warner Bros. executives “despised” it and did not understand the humor. They objected to the scene in which Wells begs for Amy’s life and were concerned about the two English leads and even asked if it was possible for the Ripper to be from Boston. After a couple of positive sneak previews, the studio appeared more supportive.
       As stated in a press release, the world premiere was on 7 Sep 1979 at the Toronto Film Festival, known then as The Festival of Festivals.
       Despite predictions of $20 million, the film grossed only $5 million which was enough to cover the advertising budget, according to a 10 Dec 1979 Village Voice article. The reason for the disappointing result was blamed on the lack of a big star to support the complicated premise.
       In addition to being the directing debut for Nicholas Meyer, Time After Time was the feature film debut for actor Corey Feldman. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Film
Apr 1979
pp. 60-65.
Ampersand
Jan/Feb 1979
pp. 12-13.
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1978.
---
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1979.
---
Film World
Aug 1979.
---
Films and Filming
Jan 1980
pp. 8-15.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1979
p. 3, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1979.
---
Los Angeles Magazine
Jul 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1979
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1980.
---
Marquee
Sep/Oct 1979
p. 19, 21-22.
New West
24 Sep 1979.
---
New York Times
23 Sep 1979
p. 1, 19.
New York Times
28 Sep 1979
p. 10.
Variety
8 Nov 1978.
---
Variety
5 Sep 1979
p. 20.
Variety
5 Feb 1980.
---
Village Voice
10 Dec 1979.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Herb Jaffe Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Stills
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Audio mont
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
Optical eff des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod's secy
Prod secy
D.G.A. trainee
Transportation capt
Loc liaison
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord/Stunt
Stunt
Stunt
Stunt
ANIMATION
Electronic anim
Electronic anim
Electronic anim
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 September 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 28 September 1979
Production Date:
began 18 September 1978
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc. and Orion Pictures Company
Copyright Date:
28 November 1979
Copyright Number:
PA52140
Physical Properties:
Color
Color by Metrocolor®
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26609
SYNOPSIS

In 1893 London, serial killer Jack the Ripper strikes again, luring a prostitute into a dark alley and murdering her. That night at the home of Herbert George Wells (aka H.G. Wells), a writer and scientist, several learned friends are gathered at the dinner table. Dr. John Stevenson, a prominent surgeon, arrives late. With all his guests now present, H.G. makes a special announcement that he is planning a journey through time. In his basement laboratory, he demonstrates the machine named Argo and explains that it can go forward or backwards at two years per minute. The safeguards include a feature that automatically returns the machine to the starting date, unless overridden by a special key, and a vaporizing equalizer on the exterior, which keeps the passenger attached to the machine. Without it, the occupant travels through time in limbo. H.G. is enthusiastic to see the future where he predicts a social utopia exists. Stevenson disagrees believing mankind will not change. At the front door, Scotland Yard authorities interrupt to alert H.G. that Jack the Ripper is nearby. During a house search, an officer finds a knife and bloody glove in a case belonging to Stevenson, who is suddenly nowhere to be found. Later that evening after the police and guests have left, H.G. discovers that Stevenson escaped in the time machine. He checks his pocket for the crucial key, which is thankfully still in his possession. When the vehicle reappears in the basement, H.G. looks at the console indicating the destination was set to November 1979. In preparation to pursue Stevenson and rescue the future ... +


In 1893 London, serial killer Jack the Ripper strikes again, luring a prostitute into a dark alley and murdering her. That night at the home of Herbert George Wells (aka H.G. Wells), a writer and scientist, several learned friends are gathered at the dinner table. Dr. John Stevenson, a prominent surgeon, arrives late. With all his guests now present, H.G. makes a special announcement that he is planning a journey through time. In his basement laboratory, he demonstrates the machine named Argo and explains that it can go forward or backwards at two years per minute. The safeguards include a feature that automatically returns the machine to the starting date, unless overridden by a special key, and a vaporizing equalizer on the exterior, which keeps the passenger attached to the machine. Without it, the occupant travels through time in limbo. H.G. is enthusiastic to see the future where he predicts a social utopia exists. Stevenson disagrees believing mankind will not change. At the front door, Scotland Yard authorities interrupt to alert H.G. that Jack the Ripper is nearby. During a house search, an officer finds a knife and bloody glove in a case belonging to Stevenson, who is suddenly nowhere to be found. Later that evening after the police and guests have left, H.G. discovers that Stevenson escaped in the time machine. He checks his pocket for the crucial key, which is thankfully still in his possession. When the vehicle reappears in the basement, H.G. looks at the console indicating the destination was set to November 1979. In preparation to pursue Stevenson and rescue the future from the Ripper, H.G. collects any money in the house as well as jewelry for bartering. While his housekeeper watches in amazement, H.G. departs amid a spectacle of lights and electrical flashes. Following a hallucinatory journey, he finds himself and the machine parked in the middle of a 1979 museum exhibit titled, “H.G. Wells: A Man Before His Time.” He sees artifacts from his past and future life, including a pair of glasses to replace the one that broke during the time voyage. Leaving the museum, H.G. walks around the city enthralled by everything he sees and writes down observations in a notepad. From a newspaper, he learns that he is in San Francisco, California. Throughout the day, he visits various banks to inquire where Stevenson exchanged money. At the foreign currency desk of the Chartered Bank of London, Amy Robbins says that she remembers H.G.’s countryman and recommended the Hyatt Regency hotel to him. Smitten with H.G. and his accent, Amy offers to show him San Francisco when he has time. Grateful, H.G. proceeds to the Hyatt and surprises Stevenson in his hotel room, demanding that he return to face the penalties for his crimes. Unfazed, Stevenson argues that he belongs in this permissive society, which makes him feel like an amateur, and to demonstrate he flips through a series of violent and aggressive images on television. However, to control time travel, he must have the special key and attempts to wrestle it away from H.G. A housekeeper barges in during the scuffle, and Stevenson runs out the door. H.G. chases him, but eventually loses his trail and wanders back toward the bank where Amy works. Noticing him through the window, she suggests lunch and chooses a revolving restaurant with a panoramic view of the city. He is flattered by her attention, and they spend the afternoon together touring sites and going to a movie. That evening, Amy prepares a romantic dinner at her apartment, and they spend the night together. Meanwhile, after making headlines for murdering a prostitute, Stevenson continues on the prowl in the red-light district of North Beach. When H.G. wakes up the next morning, he hears the news on the radio about a second prostitute slaying and informs Amy that he needs to locate Stevenson but does not know how, certain the local police will not believe his story. While Amy goes to work, H.G. stays at her apartment. Later at the bank, Stevenson appears at Amy’s desk to exchange more currency. In an attempt to detain him until H.G. arrives, she asks if Stevenson found a room at Hyatt Regency, and he realizes that she was the one who gave away his location. As he leaves, Stevenson turns menacing and warns Amy that H.G. must leave the key at the exhibit or there will be consequences. Later, he finds her address in a telephone book. Shaken by the encounter, Amy insists that H.G. reach out to the police. While providing a description of Stevenson to Lt. Mitchell, H.G. claims to be a detective named Sherlock Holmes, not realizing the name is still well known in 1979. Besides being skeptical of a tip from Sherlock Holmes, Mitchell finds no record of Stevenson entering the country and tells H.G. there is nothing he can do. Back at the apartment, H.G. finds a note from Stevenson threatening to kill Amy if he does not give up the key. He decides to reveal to Amy his actual identity and voyage through time, which causes her to walk away in anger and disappointment over falling for a crazy person. To prove his story, he takes her to the Wells exhibit. Meanwhile, Stevenson kills a woman named Shirley at her apartment. When the museum closes, H.G. and Amy succeed in remaining inside unnoticed, and they enter the time machine and travel three days ahead to 10 Nov 1979. The imperceptible journey takes a fraction of a second, and Amy gets out, unconvinced that anything has changed, until she finds a newspaper dated 10 Nov 1979. On the front page, a headline reports that she was murdered on 9 Nov at 7:30pm. Shocked, she and H.G. immediately return to 7 Nov. According to the 10 Nov newspaper, Stevenson’s next victim will be Dolores Mark in McLaren Park at 3am, so H.G. proposes surprising the killer before he strikes again. However, due to a flat tire, Amy and H.G. arrive on the scene just as Dolores’ body is pulled from the river. The following morning at the police station, Mitchell is suspicious that the Englishman who calls himself Sherlock Holmes left a 911 message about Dolores’ murder prior to the crime being committed. As the hour of her killing gets closer, Amy is worried that they might not be able to prevent it. H.G. must run an errand and instructs Amy to check into her favorite hotel, The Huntington, if he has not returned in an hour. In order to rest, she takes a sedative as well as a swig of brandy from H.G.’s flask. On his way back from purchasing a gun, H.G. is arrested for the murders outside Amy’s building. She is sound asleep and does not hear him shouting at her to leave the apartment. During his interrogation at the police station, H.G. pleads with Mitchell, but telling the truth about being H.G. Wells and chasing Jack the Ripper only keeps him further detained. Meanwhile, Amy realizes that she overslept and quickly starts packing a suitcase for the hotel. Just as she is about to leave the apartment, the knob on the front door turns. Stevenson enters, looks around and pulls out his knife while Amy hides in a closet. Out of desperation, H.G. confesses to the killings so that the police will send a patrol to Amy’s apartment. Upon arrival, they discover a dismembered body, and H.G. is released from custody. Despondent over Amy’s death, he wanders through the Palace of Fine Arts near her apartment. Suddenly, he sees Amy among the columns, and she calls out that the newspaper was wrong. Her friend Carol, who was scheduled to come over for dinner tonight, became Stevenson’s next victim. From the shadows, Stevenson emerges and points his knife at Amy’s neck, demanding the key from H.G. As soon as H.G. hands it over, Stevenson forces Amy to drive him to the museum, instead of releasing her as promised. Although inexperienced with a car, H.G. manages to catch up to them in Amy’s vehicle. Inside the exhibit, he begs for Amy’s life. Stevenson is unmoved, but as he fumbles with the door to the time machine, Amy escapes his clutch. Once Stevenson is sitting inside the machine, H.G. pulls out the vaporizing equalizer, catapulting Stevenson into infinity. Thereupon, H.G. says goodbye to Amy so that he can return to Victorian London and continue with the work documented in this exhibit. After pleading with him to wait, she joins him in the time machine. They kiss and return together to 1893. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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