The Time Machine:
The Journey Back

June 1992

 

I first learned about The Time Machine: The Journey Back from Bob Burns. Bob had been contacted by Clyde Lucas about doing a documentary about the George Pal production of The Time Machine, more specifically the full size movie prop of the machine and its history from its origins up to present day.

Rod & Alan onset.
Alan Young and Rod Taylor rehearsing.
Photo by Mary Coleman
Bob told me that Clyde was planning a scene reuniting George and Filby and as Bob didn't want to move the original machine the scene was being planned to include the sundial from the film instead. Bob knew that I was a model and prop builder for films and suggested that I make the reproduction of the sundial. I was able to track down a plaster copy of the pedestal which was identical to the one used in the film. Bob had two set stills which showed the sundial and I was using these to make drawings in order to reproduce it. I was about ready to start cutting materials when Bob called me and informed me that the scene had been scraped in favor of recreating the workshop.

Set still of sundial from 1959

Considering Bob's reluctance in moving the original machine, a 'stand-in' was needed. A photo of the machine was taken, then enlarged to nearly full size. It was then mounted onto foam core and cut out. The result was a large stand-up of the machine.

Filming began at the home of Bob Burns with Rod Taylor doing narration and various introductions used to connect the many segments.


Clyde Lucas and Rod Taylor
going over the script.

That's me in the picture also.

The scene with Whit Bissel was also shot at Bob's home.


Whit Bissell wearing one of the smoking jackets from
The Time Machine, also note the model of Big Ben
from the opening credit sequence.


Other segments include insights to the filming
by Wah Chang and Gene Warren.

The most exciting time was the two day shoot inside the newly built workshop. The first day saw the construction of the workshop inside a sound stage in the San Fernando Valley.

During the set up, the Time Machine stand-in was brought in to check the lighting. It was discovered that the stand-in could only be viewed from the same angle as it was originally shot at Bob's home. Bob was finally convinced that in order for the scene to be shot, the original machine would have to be used. Later that day the scenes of the 'young' George constructing the time machine were filmed. At this time the actor playing George was Robin ? and his face was not seen during these sequences.

The unfinished console on the work table and the lever which is put into the walnut box were parts I had made for my own time machine. I have since retired that particular console as it was 11" in diam. and the console should be 9".

One segment of the scene required the unfinished dish to spin. How to do this had not been worked out in advance. I suggested mounting the dish on a C stand and use a pair of vise grips as a handle to spin the dish. So when you see the dish spinning it is because one of the effects men is behind it turning it by hand.

The next morning found the Time Machine Wranglers removing the dish from the Time Machine and carrying the machine out of Bob's Basement and loading it into a rental truck.


The Time Machine inside the truck
being secured for the trip to the soundstage.

Photo by Don Coleman

Getting the machine through the sliding glass doors was no easy task, where are Morlocks when you need them. At one point my wife had to crawl under the machine to get outside to help carry the machine. With the machine safely loaded on the truck we all met at the sound stage to unload it. After unloading the machine I was walking down one of the halls in the sound stage and as I rounded the corner I was face to face with David Filby! Alan was already in makeup and wardrobe, it was quite a surprise.

The segments were shot in sequence, so the machine was not needed until later in the morning. The scenes of Alan securing the house and about to leave were shot and we then moved the Time Machine in position and reinstalled the dish and made sure everything worked. Rod had arrived at some point in the morning and was also in wardrobe. He had brought with him the smoking jacket that he had worn in the original film, and it still fit him! As we broke for lunch, Rod hung the jacket on the control lever of the machine. A great Kodak moment.

After lunch Rod and Alan did a complete run through of the scene from when Filby first sees George until Filby leaves. Their performance was flawless, when they finished the scene everyone remained silent for some time composing themselves.


David Filby saying Good-bye once again
to his 'old friend'.

Finally after 32 years the two timeless friends had been reunited only to be again separated. It was also the first time Rod and Alan had been reunited since the filming of the original film. It was a real joy to see the two of them together again.

"It was so good working with Rod again. I think we felt the camaraderie there and it was a very touching, very touching little scene."
—Alan Young


"I think "The Time Machine" is probably George Pal's strongest
science fiction work, and the one for which he will be most
remembered. He was one of the most creative and wonderful men
it has been my pleasure to work with"
Rod Taylor—

My fondest memory of the days events is seeing Rod, Alan and the Time Machine together again in the reconstructed workshop.


It's also nice to get one's name in the credits.

 


The "Time Machine: The Journey Back" is now included on the Warner Bros. DVD release of The Time Machine.
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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
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