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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells


Put on your rubber Bullwinkle life vests. Time for the annual Joe Bob Briggs Summer Vacation Guide.

Actually, before we start, I should mention that this is H.G. Wells Night, with not one but TWO movies based on his classic novel "The Time Machine"--first "The Time Machine," where Rod Taylor of Hitchcock's The Birds takes a little vacation on New Year's Eve, 1899, and goes 800,000 years into the future, and then "Time After Time," where H.G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper in 1979 San Francisco.

Okay, it's Memorial Day Weekend--time to start planning your summer. Our first vacation destination is the General Elmo Randolph Lincoln Reservoir and Dam. This out-of-the-way fun spot, just off State Route 22 south of Selma, Alabama, is maintained by District 13, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for your boating and swimming pleasure. But plan to stay an extra day or two for side trips to the vulcanized zinc pottery factory in Gastonburg and, of course, the ruins of Old Junius. The ruins date from May 23, 1957, the day the Corps first released water from the dam and forgot that Junius, an 87-year-old mule-skinner, was still sleeping in his prefab fishing shack located in a part of the flood plain they "forgot" to mark on the map. Pay the two extra bucks for the glass-bottomed boat ride, and look closely at the famous "Mystery Window" of Old Junius. Is that an eyeball or just a finger? Families have been arguing about it for years.

Our second vacation spot is the Long 'n' Slippery Water Amusement Park. You know that long stretch between Salina, Kansas, and Lincoln, Nebraska, the one where the kids always say: "You call this a vacation? Get with the program, dude," and then start playing the "Let's Scare Daddy" game? Well, you don't have to worry about it anymore. Just veer off on U.S. 136 to Red Cloud, Nebraska, turn right at Bo Diddley Pioneer Museum and say to anybody on the street, "We're lookin for Long 'n' Slippery." They'll take you to the world's most disgusting mud slide, courtesy of the Webster County Irrigation District, which opened for business in 1983 with the slogan "We'll tucker the little suckers out." Parents can stay next door at the Dirt Plaza. Watch any cable movie free that has the word "hookers" in the title.

Our third destination is Wet 'n' Deep. Owned by the Long 'n' Slippery people, operated in Vero Beach, Florida, and Heritage Village, North Carolina, for Christian families who are morally opposed to abortion but have no qualms about sending their children to play in Alligator Falls, the only water slide with genuine, man-eating reptiles waiting at the bottom.

And my fourth and final suggestion for the evening is Canoeing the Titaluk. Pack an extra thermos for this one! Head 400 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, take a left at Deadhorse, and if you get to the Beaufort Sea, you've gone too far. Ask for a guide named Nunchuck at the last liquor store on the Trans Alaska Pipeline, and tell him you're ready to "Shoot the Titaluk." Also say the following words: "Joe Bob expects his cut." Don't worry what the words mean. It just means that you'll get the real "Eskimo Treatment." Okay, next week we cover dude ranches.

And speaking of traveling, Rod Taylor is about to ride his little Santa Claus sled to the year 802,701, give or take, where a bunch of Aryan zombies are being bred for lunch by the ugly pus-monsters who live underground. And nobody at home in 1900 will believe him, including his friends Mr. French from the old tv-series "Family Affair" and Wilbur from "Mister Ed." Or as Mister Ed used to call him, Wilbur-r-r-r. Let's do the drive-in totals and get it started.
We have:

Six dead bodies.
No breasts.
Cigar transport.
Victorian scientist transport.
Millennial reveling.
A-bomb stock footage.
Spontaneous lava flow.
White-water body-surfing.
Talking bracelets.
Kung fu.
Morlock fu.

I give it about . . . three stars. Check it out, and don't forget after this, Jack the Ripper rides the sled again in "Time After Time." Okay, roll it.

[fading] Also starring Yvette Mimieux, as a futuristic bimbo with a permanent wave. Is she a zombie, or did she just grow up in the fifties? You decide.

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #1

That H.G. Wells was a LONG-winded S.O.B. wasn't he? These things are always so TALKY at the beginning. AND he wastes a perfectly good cigar. How could Sebastian Cabot let that happen? No wonder he's so dang cranky. Am I the only one who thinks he seems a little irritable? And not only does Rod Taylor break the cigar in three, he sends it off into the future where 90 percent of the places you go don't allow smoking. Which reminds me, the cigar doesn't have the ability to pull the little lever back to turn the little time machine off, so where does the cigar stop? Does it just go on into the future forever? What if the universe expands or contracts, or whatever Einstein said it's gonna do, and the space doesn't exist anymore? Does the cigar crash into something? Or is H.G. Wells, who wrote the novel this is based on, postulating that time is infinite? And more importantly, why did Rod Taylor just put on a smoking jacket? Is he gonna take another time machine and go find the cigar? All right, well, let's find out. Roll film.

[fading] By the way, did you guys recognize Wilbur-r-r-r? He's the sensitive red-headed guy, Filby. Played by Alan Young. Best known these days as the voice of Scrooge McDuck. Does a lot of the same cartoons Mark Hamill does. The two of 'em are probly havin lunch right now. Well, it's kinda late for lunch, I guess. But I bet they know each other. You guys don't care, do you? As I was saying, a cigar propelled infinitely through time becomes not just a cigar but a transcendental object with some degree of immortality. Unless you smoke it, of course.

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #2

[print bedsheet (something a la Joe Bob) w/small slit cut in center and lightly re-stitched or taped so you can't see it, tennis balls, bowling ball, piece of garden hose]

Those were Oscar-winning special effects--pretty impressive, aren't they? Remember, this movie was made in 1960, when time-lapse photography of flowers blooming was considered high-tech. Or maybe there just wasn't a lot of competition that year. Anyhoo, I thought this would be a good time to demonstrate how scientists TODAY think time travel could be possible. And to help me out, because it's a holiday weekend and there's no mail, [enters w/bowling ball] is the relaxed and rested Rusty, the TNT Mail Girl. Oh, good, Regal Lanes was still open.

MAIL GIRL: Actually, they weren't. Billy says you owe him a six-pack.

Tell him I'll buy it with the 200 pesos he still owes me from the last poker night. [unfolding sheet] Grab an end there. [Joe Bob & Rusty hold sheet out flat] Okay, this sheet represents spacetime. Don't ask me exactly what spacetime IS. Let's just say when you put space and time together, you get . . . spacetime. Rusty, do you see a couple of tennis balls over there? Roll one on here. [she does, while holding sheet] See how the ball distorts the sheet when it rolls to the center? That represents matter distorting spacetime. Now roll the other ball on there. [she does] See, the second ball's dragged toward the first ball, cause the first ball distorted the spacetime. Now, take out the tennis balls and put the bowling ball on there.

MAIL GIRL: I don't think I can hold the sheet and put the bowling ball on it at the same time.

All right, I'll do it. [gets out bowling ball while holding sheet] Okay, hold tight. Watch how the bowling ball distorts the spacetime. [Joe Bob rolls bowling ball onto sheet, and the ball (hopefully slowly) rips through sheet]

MAIL GIRL: Whoops.

No, no, that was supposed to happen. You know what that is?

MAIL GIRL: Um... a black hole?

Exactly! And if you look at it from the other side, it's a white hole, maybe even a wormhole. Now, a bunch of American and Russian physicists with too much time on their hands got together and decided that if you use gravity to tow one mouth of the wormhole until it rests up against the other end--go ahead, Rusty, feed that hose through there . . . [she feeds it through the hole] Don't think about it, guys. [she joins the two ends together] --that a time traveler who jumped into one mouth would come out the other one at a different time, because time is the physical property of each wormhole mouth. Get it?

[Rusty shakes her head no]

See, because there's a disparity in spacetime between the two mouths.

MAIL GIRL: How do you use gravity to tow a hose?

It's not a hose, it's a wormhole.

MAIL GIRL: I don't get it.

Well, I'm glad I ripped up my bedsheet for this.

MAIL GIRL: This is the sheet off your bed? [she drops it like a hot potato] I need to go wash my hands. [exits]

Don't you want me to explain the granny paradox?


There's just no sense of intellectual curiosity around here.

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #3

Some more mind-boggling special effects in that last part. Hard to believe this movie was made 40 years ago, isn't it? How do they do that thing with the mannequin changing clothes like that? But are we supposed to believe that the place across the street remained a dress store for at least 100 years, with the SAME mannequin in the SAME place? Uh, okay. This flick was directed by George Pal, and three other movies that he produced got Oscars for Best Special Effects, too: "Destination Moon," "When Worlds Collide," and The War of the Worlds, which was another H.G. Wells story. George Pal is the guy who thought up the idea for Puppetoons, which were cartoons made with stop-motion puppets. Made a ton of em in the forties. Then he got into the sci-fi invasion movies of the fifties. In fact, the flick we're watching now is full of that fifties paranoia, which is totally different from the book--but we'll get to that later, cause I don't want to give anything away. Back to the flick.

[fading] By the way, shouldn't Rod Taylor have some kinda Victorian English accent in this? Sometimes he sounds English, sometimes he sounds like he's from the Hoosier state or somethin. He's actually from Australia--he's like the Mel Gibson of the 50s and 60s. Kinda looks like Mel Gibson, too, now that I think about it. What's my point? I have no idea. Remember Rod Taylor in "The Birds"? Tippi Hedren had the HOTS for him, didn't she? And his name is "Rod."

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #4

The yummy Yvette Mimieux as Weena, looking very mannequin-like herself. Ironically, one of the other movies she did in 1960 was "Where the Boys Are," which was written by George Wells. No relation to H. George Wells, who wrote this one. Our favorite Yvette Mimieux flick around here is, of course, "Jackson County Jail," from 1976, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, where Yvette gets thrown into the small-town Southern jail, where she is brutally raped by the sadistic redneck jail guard, then she busts out and gets her revenge. Excellent Roger Corman-produced flick from his golden era. Check it out. Okay, let's get back to the movie. Rod Taylor's hacked off cause all these kids do is SWIM, and DANCE, and PLAY. BAD kids. And you know what the WORST of it is? They DON'T TAKE CARE OF THEIR BOOKS!

[fading] And here it is Memorial Day, too. Let's observe a moment of silence for all the soldiers we're honoring this weekend. Memorial Day is for soldiers, right?

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #5

All RIGHT--make that blank stare WORK for ya, girl. I can see why Rod Taylor likes ole Weena. That's just how I like em--pretty, self-sacrificing, and dumb as a box of rocks. "Honey, go on down to the 7-11 and get me some more of my medicine. And don't stick your hand in the fire." I'd show HER out of the Dark Ages anytime, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Okay, let's get back to the flick.

[fading] A woman who doesn't know what the past or the future is. Think about it. She'll never say "What girls were you with before me? Did you love her?" AND she'll never say "I want to talk about . . . our future." It's just like, "Would you like to have a picnic?" Where IS Yvette? She's still around, right?

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #6

Isn't it sad that some people don't get satire?So basically, Rod Taylor wants em to start another war, is that about right? See, now that we've got a little plot out of the way, I can talk about how they changed the story for the movie. The first thing you have to remember is that H.G. Wells was writing in the 1890s, about a generation after Dickens. And he was a socialist sympathizer, because all around him he saw the working classes being exploited, starving and working long hours, living in terrible housing conditions. Meanwhile the rich industrialists and people of leisure were livin large. So H.G. Wells wrote this as a satire where the Eloi are the descendents of the leisured classes, who've become these brainless zombies who die young--we'll see why in a minute--and the Morlocks are the descendents of the working classes, who were driven into underground factories, but who now prey on the Eloi at night. But when they made the movie in 1960, they "updated" it. They dropped the whole class thing, said that people CHOSE whether to go underground or above-ground, and put all the war stuff into it. See, this was at the peak of the Cold War, right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, right after the McCarthy Era, when all the sci-fi flicks were about, like, invasions of giant Red ants and stuff--representing the Commies. And of course, in this flick, the attacks in the near future come from atomic satellites--or Sputniks. And the Eloi are like the rebellious Youth of the era, you know? Hedonists that need to be whipped into shape to defend their country, dang it. And the women--represented also by the mannequin and the housekeeper--are supposed to dress nice and get dinner on the table. The Feminists hate this flick almost as much as the Liberals do. And I'm ruinin the movie again, aren't I? All right, I'll shut up. Go.

[fading] Oh, and you know what else makes em mad? In the book, the sphinx is white. But in the movie, the sphinx is brown. People write whole academic papers on that one. I read one a few years ago in the Quarterly of the Salisbury State University. Not to be confused with the Salisbury STEAK University. They don't write a lot of papers there.

"THE TIME MACHINE" Commercial Break #7

[dabbing eyes] I felt like the proud papa when the Eloi kid with the bowl haircut makes his first fist and kills the Morlock, didn't you? All they needed was for Rod Taylor to hand him a cherry Lifesaver and I woulda been a goner. That big Morlock fist-fight looked pretty lame, though. But I liked the guy in the firesuit. I always like a good firesuit. It always comes down to cannibalism, doesn't it? They were EATING the Eloi. Soylent Green is people! Soylent Green is people! Sorry. Carried away. Wrong movie. All right, time for the exciting, not-by-the-book conclusion to "The Time Machine." Roll it.

[fading] Here comes the scene that REALLY annoys the Feminists. A MALE Eloi saves George, and now George and Weena talk about... Wella Balsam hair-care products. You'll see.


Everything tied up very nicely there at the end. A very ENGLISH ending, wasn' it? "He has all the time in the world." Did you guys notice the scene the Feminists hate? It's the one where all Weena wants to talk about is hairstyles, and Rod Taylor calls his housekeeper "old and useless." That really makes their blood boil. In the book H.G. Wells has a manservant, and Weena dies, and then he goes thirty million years into the future where man is a little football-sized thing hopping around like a turtle with a couple a feet missing. Pretty bleak. Actually, I would have liked to see that.

"The Time Machine" is available on video and on DVD from

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