My Review of ‘Time After Time’ (1979)

Time After Time is a very clever time travel movie. It’s also something of the genre-bender, in that it’s a science fiction/thriller/romantic suspense movie. And it’s a fictionalized account involving real people—one of whom wrote a novel about a time machine.

The story starts in 1893 London, where H. G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) is holding a dinner party during which he intends to reveal his new invention—a time travel machine.

Image from Insomnia Notebook.

His announcement is delayed as one of his guests arrives late—Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (played to perfection by David Warner), head of surgery at a local hospital. During the festivities, the police show up. It seems that Jack the Ripper has struck again. Upon discovering bloody gloves in Stevenson’s medical bag, the coppers conclude that he seems to be “head of surgery in Whitechapel,” a.k.a., the elusive Ripper. A search of the premises fails to turn him up. Care to take a guess how he escaped? If your answer is that he nicked the time machine and set course for the future, you get a gold star.

Fortunately for Wells (and the story), he took the machine without its handy “non-return” key, so the machine will automatically return to 1893 after Stevenson reaches his destination. After the machine comes back, Wells jumps inside and races off after the Ripper with the intent to bring him back and see justice done.

Image from Tumblr.

One thinks that part of the reason Wells is so hot to chase the killer is that (based on his theories), in the future, humans will live in a socialist utopia. Well, we know how that turns out.

Wells follows Stevenson to 1979 San Francisco (how he ended up leaving London is anyone’s guess), where he eventually tracks Stevenson down with the help of the lovely Amy Robbins, a bank employee who handled a money exchange for the Ripper (a part played charmingly by Mary Steenburgen). When Wells eventually confronts Stevenson, Wells’ quarry mocks him for his delusional thoughts of a utopian future. In fact, he feels quite at home in the real and very violent future.

Image from Following the Nerd.

Then Stevenson delivers the following inadvertently funny line, “Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Now … I’m an amateur.” This is one of those things that tends to happen in stories about the future. Years later, usually the future that’s predicted is nowhere close to the actuality. In this case, Stevenson’s line had me thinking, “You think 1979 is violent? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

In any case, is it really a spoiler to say that Wells and Amy develop a romantic relationship? And, because of that, Amy is targeted by the Ripper, who is hell-bent on getting that “non-return” key for the time machine that I mentioned. On top of which, a clever “ticking clock” plot device is thrown into the mix, which I won’t go into in detail for fear of spoiling the viewing experience.

Image from Seven Inches of Your Time.

One interesting thing to note about the movie is that it was based on an unfinished novel. It’s also one of the last films scored by veteran composer Miklós Rózsa. The music is fantastic, as are the various San Francisco landmarks seen throughout the film. There’s also a little homage to the chase scene in Bullitt that you might catch in this trailer!

And according to Wikipedia, the studio wanted Mick Jagger for the role of Stevenson. Thank God they picked David Warner.

Image from David Warner’s website.

This review is submitted as part of the Time Travel Blogathon co-hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Rich of Wide Screen World.

And how apt is that banner? 🙂

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21 Responses to My Review of ‘Time After Time’ (1979)

  1. maddylovesherclassicfilms says:

    This is such an awesome film. I love David Warner and think he is well cast in this. It’s great fun. Good choice for the blogathon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Announcing the Time Travel Blogathon – Silver Screenings

  3. Oh yes, thank goodness the role went to Warner!

    I enjoyed your writing on this film. Now, I think I must be off to the Scottish restaurant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      I know. I can’t even imagine Mick Jagger in the role. David Warner nails the part!

      And that always cracks me up when McDowell says that about the Scottish restaurant! 🙂

      I also think McDowell plays the part of Wells with so much charm!


  4. Troy T. says:

    I saw this in the theater when it was first released. It has been some time since I last saw it on dvd, but I have great memories of the film.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SindrElf says:

    I never realised it before reading this, but I think ‘Blackadder: Back and Forth’ must have been a parody of this movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rich says:

    I saw this one months ago. The time travel mechanics struck me as odd, but I thought it was okay. Always liked Mary Steenburgen, who looks just like Kate Bush.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had a crush on Mary Steenburgen when I was a kid. I loved her in this and years later I still loved her some when she played in Back to the Future Part III. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mick Jagger was a choice? Oh dear.

    Having said that, though, I haven’t yet seen this film, but I love the unusual premise and that it involved H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper. A terrific idea! I also like that it takes place in San Francisco and not the usual locale (e.g. LA or New York).

    Thanks for joining the blogathon and thanks for the introduction (for me, anyway) to this film. I’ll be looking out for it, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dj says:

    I saw this fairly recently, It’s not a bad film at all and I love the works of HG Wells. The Jack the Ripper mystery has always been intriguing for me too not that this film is related to real life. There is very strong acting and a well-made film. I love time-traveling movies and they are so difficult to do well. Great post! We should have written something about time-travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. dj says:


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