Time after Time turns 40: Epic quest across centuries to find a killer

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Time after Time – Courtesy of Orion Pictures, Warner Bros

Time after Time is a glorious mix of science-fiction, horror and romance that hit the silver screen in 1979. Starring legendary actors, Malcolm McDowell and David Warner, it is a dynamic story pitting H.G. Wells against the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Turning Back the Years

Time after Time is one of those ageless classics. Although it premiered 40 years ago, it still holds up. That is a testament to Nicholas Meyer, the writer and director. Star Trek fans know Meyer as the force behind three of the franchise’s most popular films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

What makes this film so special is that it combines several well-known genres into one shining masterpiece. Epic in scope and spanning from the Victorian era to San Francisco of the 1970s, it is Steam Punk with a dash of romance for good measure.

H.G. Wells (yes, the fictional version of the famous author) as played by the brilliant actor, Malcolm McDowell is your typical science nerd. Eccentric and a bit of an outcast, he has grand ideas that aren’t exactly in sync with society. You see, Herbert believes in time travel and free love.

The real Wells was known for his progressive ideas on sexual matters, so why shouldn’t his cinematic counterpart? Of course, the times in which the inventor found himself were very restrictive. They were even more so for one of his close friends, Dr. John Leslie Stevenson.

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Stevenson is a respected surgeon and a member of the posh upper echelon of society. Of course, the exceedingly talented, David Warner brings this character to life with aplomb. While Wells openly espouses his unpopular views, Stevenson keeps his hidden because his proclivities are of the dark and deviant kind.

From Hell

He harbors a secret that not even Herbert knows. To everyone, he is a surgeon, a man trusted with saving lives. However, in reality, he delights in taking them in the most violent of ways. John is Jack the Ripper and he is terrorizing White Chapel on borrowed time.

When Stevenson is invited to Herbert’s home for the grand unveiling of his latest experiment, a time machine, constables appear at the door. They are looking for the notorious serial killer. While Wells is preoccupied with law enforcement who are searching his house, John is panicking.

One of the officers finds blood stained gloves in the surgeon’s bag. When they go to arrest him, he is nowhere to be found and the time machine has disappeared!

What ensues is an epic game of cat and mouse that will traverse the centuries and culminate in a race through San Francisco to prevent more women from being killed. Luckily for Herbert, “Jack” didn’t have the return key so the machine reappears and he is able to trace him to the city by the bay.

Time after Time – David Warner – Courtesy of Orion and Warner Bros.

Using his powers of deductive reasoning as an inventor and a scientist of sorts, he believes that he may be able to track his old friend down by finding a bank that would exchange his now antiquated form of currency. This leads him to the lovely Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen), an employee at the Chartered Bank of London.

What occurs next is a case of love at first sight but there are bigger fish to fry. Amy points Herbert in the direction of Stevenson by giving him the name of the Hyatt Regency Hotel where she referred “Jack.”