Saturday, November 26, 2016

TIME AFTER TIME (1979) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Archive
Rating: PG
Duration: 112 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Cast:   Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen, Charles Cioffi, Kent Williams, Andonia Katsaros, Patti D'Arbanville
Director: Nicholas Meyer

Synopsis: London 1893 is home to a killer with a macabre nickname.and also to a visionary genius who would write The Time Machine. But what if H.G. Wells' invention wasn't fiction? And what if Jack the Ripper escaped capture, fleeing his own time to take refuge in ours - with Wells himself in pursuit?

From writer/director Nicholas Meyer, Time After Time is a marvelous entertainment of shivery suspense and sly social comment. In modern-day San Francisco, the Ripper (David Warner) finds our violent age to his liking. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) dislikes the brave new world of fast food and television, far from the utopia he envisioned. But he is cheered by the emancipation of women, particularly one irresistible banker (Mary Steenburgen). For mystery, romance and excitement, Time After Time is time well spent.

Time After Time opens in 1893 London with a deeply fog-shrouded Ripper sequence, with the dapper Victorian murderer approaching a lady of the evening for a what she believes to be a quick cash for gash transaction, however, it ends with her literally being ripped open by the infamous murderer who then flees the scenes with the police sounding the alarm. Soon after we find ourselves at the home of writer Herbert George Wells (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange) who has gathered an array of dinner guest to announce his new invention, a time machine. Late to the dinner is a surgeon named John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner, Waxwork) who does eventually shows up. With everyone gathered the author/inventor invites his guests to the basement where he reveals to them in fine detail just how the time machine works, including a "non-return" key that proves integral to the story, a sort of homing beacon which allows the machine to return to its original point of origin in time. Of course the guests think that this is a bunch of poppycock but are nonetheless wowed by his machine. with Stevenson being the most intrigued by the invention. 

Soon after the police arrive at the scene in search of the Ripper, they're doing house by house search of the area, while making their way through the house they find Stevenson's surgical bag with incriminating evidence inside, a pair of bloody gloves, but somehow he seems to have slipped past the authorities and escaped the house. Wells realizes that his friend Stevenson is not only the infamous Jack the Ripper but that he has made his escape through the use of his time machine, with the author and inventor fearing he's unleashed a madman upon what he theorizes to be the Utopian society of the future, boy is he in for a shock. 

However, a short time later the time machine returns without Stevenson, owing to the fact that he did not have the aforementioned non-return key, which is in Wells possession. Wells gathers what valuables and money he can on short notice and hops into the time machine, setting the date for 1979, which is where Stevenson travelled to, in a naive effort to capture and return him to his own time to face charges for his hideous crimes. 

Truly, the time-travel sequence is a bit old-fashioned and quaint by today's standards for optical effects, with a series of disorienting flashing lights, it sort of feel like a less accomplished version of the 2001: A Space Odyssey time and space trip, but I like it still, it has a certain vintage charm about it that I love. Wells arrives in 1979, not in London, but in San Francisco! The move in location owing to the fact that in 1979 the time machine is part of a H.G. Wells display at a museum in San Francisco. 

He arrives a bit disoriented, first spotted by a young Corey Feldman, playing a kid at the museum with his mother, which is just a nice piece of trivia. From here we get a fun fish-out-of-time story with the awkward and inquisitive Wells tracking down his former friend The Ripper in modern day San Francisco. Of course he is bewildered by the inventions of the modern day, with the advent of motorized cars, women's liberation, phones, fast food and a violent history of World Wars. it seems this future is not the utopia the inventor has envisioned! Wells deduces that much like himself the Ripper would have had to trade-in his British currency for American dollars, to this end he visits numerous banks, eventually getting a lead as to the whereabouts of Stevenson from a foreign currency banker named Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen, Dead Of Winter) who immediately takes a liking to Wells and his overly polite peculiarities and Victorian moustache. Together the two embark on a time-crossed romance, while Wells pursues the nefarious Stevenson, though at times it does seem the search fro the Ripper takes a backseat to the budding romance. 

Eventually Wells catches up to Stevenson at a hotel, the two have a great dialogue exchange while watching modern day atrocities on the TV, with the Ripper explaining that "Ninety years ago I was a freak. Today I'm an amateur.", that he is more suited to the modern day than Wells himself, which is certainly true. There's a lot of humor peppered throughout the movie, most of it concerning Wells and his difficulties adapting to modern life, a problem which Stevenson does not have, he in fact is decked out in modern (awful denim)fashions, meanwhile Wells stays garbed in his deerstalker hat and outdated dapper tweed suit. When Wells refuses to hand over the "non-return" key to Stevenson the murderer hatches a plan to kidnap Amy to force Wells to hand over the key, which would prohibit anyone from following Stevenson through time. 

I've always loved time travel movies, and I also have a fondness for Jack the Ripper lore, and this is one of my favorites of the bunch. I love the mash-up of the storylines, the blending of the Victorian author and the murderous menace, and it still hold up well today. Malcolm McDowell is great as usual, his shy and inquisitive Wells is in stark contrast to his more menacing roles I best remember him for, surprisingly he makes an effective  romantic lead, and he plays well off the menace of David Warner's Ripper, plus Mary Steenburgen offers a nice naive but liberated love interest for him, she's always idiosyncratic in her roles, and I love her here. I've always been a fan, even her recent turn as a wine-sipping alcoholic in the post-apocalyptic comedy Last Man On Earth.  

Nicholas Meyer's film is a bit slow-paced by modern thriller standards but it is never dull, I love the fish out of water storyline, the time-hopping escapades and the genre mash-up of time travelling and Victorian thriller. Anyone familiar with director Meyer's work knows he has somewhat of a fascination with time-travel and Victoria thrillers, as he wrote Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and co wrote the screenplay for the underrated The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) which is a team-up of Detective Sherlock Holmes with Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, and another great watch, which along with Bob Clark's Murder By Decree (1979) are two of my favorite Holmes stories on screen.

The movie may be a touch too much on the romance side for viewers looking for a time-travelling thrill ride and Ripper gore, the time travel and gore is kept to a bare minimum, instead the story focuses on our three main characters, with the romance seemingly taking top billing over science-fiction and thriller elements, though there's a severed arm in here, but this is a largely bloodless affair. While I would not have minded more science fiction and gore the ideas and story are top-notch, and the finale is a real nail-biter. I hope this Blu-ray garners more attention for this oft overlooked gem of a genre mash-up, this is great stuff, highly recommended.  

Audio/Video: Time After Time(1979) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the Warner Archive who sourced the new crisp 2K scan from a very nice looking interpositive, the results are pleasing. Framed in the 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio the movie looks wonderful, both the shots of Victorian London and late 70s Bay Area look great to my eyes. The London scenes showcase a lot of dark wood interiors, fine detail of the woolen suits with plenty of textures, the then modern San Francisco shots are appropriately brighter and more vivid, with nice panoramic shots of the Bay Area. The image is crisp and grain is nicely resolved, skin tones look accurate and though some of the optical effects shots look dated, such as the time travelling sequences, this is a wonderful presentation on Blu-ray.  

Audio on the single disc Blu-ray comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track with optional English subtitles, it is crisp and clear, and while not the most dynamic stereo track but it does have good fidelity, the Miklós Rózsa orchestral scores comes through nicely in the mix. 

The only extras on the disc is the theatrical trailer and an audio commentary with  Actor Malcolm McDowell and Writer/Director Nicholas Meyer, and is a carry-over from the 2002 DVD. The track is solid but a bit weird, in the early days of DVD I recall several commentaries employing the trick of stitching together separate audio tracks to give the illusion of two or more participants sitting side by side viewing the movie, giving comment as it goes along. However, this one goes the extra-weird mile and actually inserts audio bits that make it seem as though they're having a conversation. It doesn't detract from the informative commentaries, it's just a bit weird. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary from Actor Malcolm McDowell and Writer/Director
Nicholas Meyer

- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins)