- Year: 1980
- Director: Jeannot Szwarc
- Starring: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer
Well, it’s finally time to talk about the longest episode of The Twilight Zone ever. No, you haven’t clicked on the wrong review—I consider Somewhere in Time to be a 100-minute episode of The Twilight Zone. Don’t get me wrong, because I like The Twilight Zone, but you could easily compress this story into 25 minutes, add some Rod Serling narration around it, and you’d have an episode.
Richard Collier, a playwright trapped in the wrong time. He’s fallen in love with an image of a woman and will stop at nothing to be with her. He will embark on a journey out of his own time, and into The Twilight Zone.
Sure, Somewhere in Time doesn’t have aliens, monsters, or supernatural beings, but we forget that only a percentage of The Twilight Zone did. Episodes like “Miniature” dealt with taboo love and featured fantasy themes. Oh, and Richard Matheson, the author of the book that became Somewhere in Time, wrote 16 episodes of The Twilight Zone.
The film starts with college student Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) being given a watch by a mysterious old woman, who tells him “Come back to me.” Unlike any other college student, who would sell the thing, he holds onto it. Eight years later, he checks into the Grand Hotel in Chicago to hopefully write his next play. While there, he
falls in love becomes obsessed with a portrait, which he later finds out is of turn-of-the-century actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour).
Of course, it was an aged McKenna who gave him the watch back in 1972, before dying that very night. Collier does some research into time travel with his old professor Dr. Finney. The way time travel is approached is one of the best things about this film, because it’s not in a time machine, but rather through the power of one’s mind. Dr. Finney suggests Richard take away any affects from the current time, so he buys older clothes and money, lies down, focuses, and eventually does end up in the Grand Hotel in 1912.
Honestly, the scenes up until this point are very well done. Sure, it seems a little silly that Richard falls in love with a portrait, even with the whole watch thing, but the intrigue grows as he delves more and more into Elise’s past and the possibility of time travel. This film really makes us feel that if time travel was possible in the real world, it would be something cerebral like this.
When Richard arrives in 1912, he tries to find Elise and somehow explain everything, knowing that leading with “I stared at your picture for hours” might not be the best pick-up line. He eventually does meet up with her, but he discovers she is constantly followed around by her agent, William Fawcett Robinson. Robinson is played by a ventriloquist doll done up to look like Christopher Plummer.
Way too much of Plummer’s performance consists of him standing still in one place, while his mouth moves up-and-down unnaturally. In addition, this is just a thinly-drawn character—the agent who has trained his protege from a young age and wants no one else to have any involvement in her life, while clearly being in love with her himself…
Well that’s my warning light that any-and-all Celine Dion jokes are too soon, so I’m just gonna move on here. After constantly pursuing Elise to a level that some (you know, law enforcement officers and linguists) may call stalking, Richard finally convinces Elise to spend an afternoon with him, even if it is against the wish of Captain Von Charlie McCarthy. He’s convinced that his actress falling in love may interfere with her career, because 1910s and old standards of gender… you get the picture.
After one whole afternoon together, Richard and Elise decide they’re in love. She gives Richard a ticket to her play that night… where she changes an entire monologue just to show her love. Look, Disney movies get criticized a lot for showing romances that happen too quickly, and while that’s a discussion for another time, this is allegedly a movie for adults. I could maybe understand Elise being crazy for the first man she meets, because her agent is so controlling, but Richard has had at least one long-term relationship in the past. He knows how these things work. Neither one of our romantic leads is mentally stable, and I don’t think that’s what this movie was going for… or maybe it is and this is even more like an episode of The Twilight Zone than I originally thought.
How hard would it have been to show two or three dates? I’m not saying they have to be together for a long time, because Elise’s play is only in town for a short while, but the director could have at least respected the audience enough to show them a week’s worth of dates. Anyway, Robinson locks Richard in a stable overnight and tries to convince Elise that he’s gone, but of course she stays behind and finds him. They then participate in 1912 sex, which I think involves the Titanic somehow… I’m not really sure.
Early in the morning, they begin to plan their lives together, because at the rate they’re going, why not. The breakneck pace of their romance aside, the chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is very good. I was actually enjoying this scene, until it had to be an episode of The Twilight Zone and not give us a happy ending.
Richard is showing Elise his suit and all of the pockets… oh this is so stupid. I almost can’t talk about this, because it’s so stupid.
Richard is showing Elise his suit and all of the pockets, including one that holds his change. He takes out a penny from 1979 and is pulled back into 1980 as she screams his name.
Richard Collier never felt at home in his own time, but he soon found out the sad truth that even the invention of time travel could not stop that great god, money… You know what, I never wrote anything this stupid. If I wrote a twist ending, at least it made good sense.
It would appear I have been far too kind to Somewhere in Time. It is not an episode of The Twilight Zone at all, but rather an episode of The Outer Limits. Basically a lesser Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits (the reboot in particular), relied heavily on twist endings that existed just to be dark and make the audience feel like crap.
Oh but this movie takes it one step farther. Arriving back in 1980, Richard tries to go back to 1912, but he cannot. He then sits in his room, refuses to eat anything, and dies of a broken heart. Hey, at your next class reunion, check-up on that pretentious kid from your 12th grade writing class, because I think he’s written a screenplay.
In the famous final scene, Richard and Elise are reunited in heaven, Richard at the age he died and Elise at the age she knew Richard, because apparently nothing else important ever happened to her. This scene would be much better if they showed Elise’s agent in the background, still trying to prevent Richard from talking to her, but perhaps they weren’t going for comedy here.
Well, I’ve talked about cult classics before, but this is such a cult classic that I’m pretty sure you can register your religion as Somewhere in Time Fan. This movie has its own fan club that meets in the Grand Hotel in Chicago every year to watch the movie and presumably burn all pennies from after 1912. So why do people like this movie so much?
First of all, the music is outstanding. John Barry’s hauntingly beautiful score sounds like something out of the era, and it fits the lush landscapes of the film perfectly. As I mentioned above, the chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour works when they actually get the chance to show it off. There’s also a nice little nod to how we look at the past with Richard thinking his suit is fine as it’s early 20th century, but people keep telling him it’s 10 years too old. The costumes and set pieces really do make you feel like you’re in 1912, but unfortunately this leads to that old complaint of style over substance. When you get down to it, there just isn’t much substance here. Let’s look at the final score.
Story (10/30 Points)
Before Richard arrives in 1912, the story is pretty engaging. After he does, however, it’s really predictable and unsatisfying. The ending is frustrating, not because our lovers don’t get a happily ever after (There are endless romantic classics that end with couples not being together), but because of the terribly shoehorned way it’s done.
Cast (17/30 Points)
Reeve and Seymour do alright with what they’re given, but they barely have anything to work with. Christopher Plummer must have gotten some bad direction here or something, because his performance is really bizarre and wooden. He’ll make up for it in an upcoming time travel movie though, so don’t worry.
Experience (22/25 Points)
The film’s theme is the best part, by far. Heck, I would argue it tells a better love story than the film itself. Somewhere in Time is beautiful to look at and listen to, so I completely understand the love it gets in this category.
Originality (7/15 Points)
The way time travel is approached is very original. I actually like that there’s no time machine beyond one’s own mind. Everything else is something we’ve seen before.
FINAL SCORE: 56%
I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t imagine it being one I’ll be dying to see again anytime soon, although I may pull up the soundtrack every now and then. If Somewhere In Time is a guilty pleasure, or you think it’s just a good movie people don’t give a fair shake, I get it, but it’s just not for me. The twist ending followed by death from a broken heart is so dark and stupid all at once that it loses credibility in my book.
Next week, I’ll be back (sorry, had to) with my review of The Terminator.