It's not often you find a well-done romance featuring Jack the Ripper. A young Herbert George Wells in 1893 London invites a few close friends to his home for a meal and a look at his latest invention. It's a time machine, and he intends to use to it visit the future, which because of science and man's intelligence he is sure will be a utopia. The police interrupt his evening gathering because Jack the Ripper has struck again and they know he is in the neighborhood. But when his guests leave, one is unaccounted for, and the time machine is missing. It returns empty, having gone to November 5, 1979, where Herbert's friend, Dr. John Leslie Stevenson now known to be Jack, got off. Herbert gathers what money he has, packs a travellling bag, and sets off in pursuit. He cannot let the madman who was his friend infect utopia.
Wells winds up in San Francisco. He meets Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen), a bank teller who helps him with some of his strange money, rather likes his curiously old-fashioned suit, and then helps him just get around. The future turns out to be a difficult and confusing place. He and Mary develop feelings for each other and he tracks down Jack, who is in his element. As Jack tells him, "Ninety years ago I was a freak. Now I'm an amateur." The resolution of the plot is final for Jack, but is just a beginning for Herbert and Mary. But Wells is determined to return to his time, just as Mary is reluctant to leave her time. His disallusionment with the future is understandable. In a museum he finds an exhibit about himself with copies of his books he hasn't written yet. "I have to go back," he tells Mary. "I have to destroy this machine. I have all those books to write, whatever they are. Fiction, I hope."
This is a charming movie which is hard to catagorize. Some will call it science fiction. I think it's basically a romantic suspense film, which has a lot of humor built in. The future turns out not to be utopia, and Wells' attempt to deal with things is touching and ironic.
Malcom McDowell, an actor I have a lot of respect for, turns in a first-class performance as the shy, earnest and brave Wells. Mary Steenburgen just about matches him as Amy, a woman who also is shy but who values independence and is not about to simply settle for the title "spouse."
This movie works on a lot of levels. You might not fall in love with it, but you'd have to be both hard-hearted and humorless not to at least like it.
I thought the DVD transfer is just fine.