Growing up, one of the films my brothers and I repeatedly checked out from the local library in Parker, Colorado, was George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960).
Despite its dated special effects and occasional 1960s corniness, I loved everything about this movie: the opening scene with the roomful of ticking and chiming wall clocks, when Rod Taylor’s character suddenly bursts in on his stuffy British colleagues with disheveled hair and tattered clothes; the sleek, retro design of the time machine (especially the dollhouse miniature of it that George sends somewhere into the fourth dimension). I loved the way time was shown to speedily pass, by witnessing the accelerated life cycles of flowers and of fashion trends on department store mannequins.
I loved the bizarre future society depicted, where dumb, childlike Eloi lived above the ground, and creepy blue Morlocks ruled the dark underground caverns. It is a terribly fun science fiction adventure that adequately retains much of the social commentary found in H.G. Wells’ classic novella.
But one of the things about The Time Machine that really stuck with me was Russell Garcia’s fantastic, thematic score. A rousing adventure theme, rife with danger, opens the score, and follows George on his chronos-spanning odyssey with a multitude of variations. (Here it is in the standout track where George first takes the machine for a spin.)
This melody is retooled into a gorgeous love theme that paints the strange romance between middle-aged inventor George and the puerile, dimwitted Weena. The theme also often comments on the tragedy of George’s anachronistic circumstances.
But my favorite theme—and surely one of those themes that planted a seed in my young mind that would yield a future obsession with film music—is the one that represents George’s best friend, Filby. It is a gorgeous, tragic, Irish-flavored melody for oboe and strings that transcends the film and is one of my favorite themes of all time.
Composed in 1960, Garcia’s score could accurately be categorized as a “golden age” score, yet it defies my expectations (and general distaste) for most scores from this era. (My apologies to Jim Lochner.) It is so rich with melody, teeming with orchestral life, and does a marvelous job of what—I think—every great film score should do: it uses instruments and melodies to tell the story at hand.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of Film Score Monthly’s release of The Time Machine. And don’t forget to check out a VHS copy of the film at your local library! But, you don’t have to take my word for it.