Somewhere in Time (1980)
Character Name: Richard Collier
Reviewed by Betsy Mahon (email@example.com)
After the success of Superman: The Movie, Christopher Reeve could presumably have had any movie role he wanted. Reportedly, he turned down the lead in American Gigolo because he found the idea of a young man servicing older women for money "distasteful". He rejected Body Heat, stating that he didn't think he would be "convincing as a seedy lawyer". Against the advice of almost all his advisors, he chose to do the time-travel romance Somewhere in Time. It was Reeve's way of "escaping the cape". The movie is based on the Richard Matheson novel Bid Time Return. It was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, the Frenchman who had previously rescued Jaws II and produced by Stephen Deutsch. The film was made on a miniscule budget of 6 to 7 million dollars. Reeve reported took the role because he liked "the story and the character". In addition, the movie attracted the considerable talents of Christopher Plummer and Jane Seymour. John Barry created the haunting soundtrack, including Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Pagnini". He provided the arrangement at a price the producers could afford as a favor to his friend, Seymour. It turned out to be his greatest hit.
The movie opens at Milford College in May 1972. Richard Collier (Reeve) is celebrating the opening of his new play, when he is approached by an old woman who hands him a pocket watch and says "Come back to me". We next see Richard 8 years later as a successful Chicago playwrite who is obviously struggling with writer's block. He finally crumples his papers and heads for his car. He ends up at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan. Arthur, the venerable hotel employee, asks him if they have met before (presumably Richard's first inkling that something is strange). While killing time, he wanders into the "Hall of History" and is struck by an untitled picture of a young woman. He is informed by Arthur that she is Elise McKenna, an actress who starred in a play at Grand Hotel in 1912. Richard is troubled by this information; he does some research and comes to the conclusion that the old lady was indeed Elise McKenna.
He shows the watch to her former housekeeper, who tells him that the watch was Elise's most valued possession and disappeared the night she died. Among her possessions, he also finds a book on time travel written by his old philosophy professor. Richard returns to Millford College to find out more. The old professor is cagey, but does give him a few hints about recreating the past environment and disassociating himself from the present. Richard buys himself an antique brown suit and some old coins, cuts his hair and attempts unsuccessfully to will himself into the past. Somewhat skeptical, he awakens Arthur in the middle of the night and has him search his attic for old guest registers. Sure enough he finds that Richard Collier of Chicago, Illinois registered as a guest on June 27, 1912. He returns to his room, lies down on the bed and tries again. This time, he is transported back to the Grand Hotel of 1912. He marvels at his surroundings and, in one of my favorite scenes, he meets the young Arthur playing with a ball in the hotel lobby (just as the old desk clerk had told him). After a search, he locates Elise McKenna (Seymour), who greets him with the question "Is it you?"
Richard also encounters her handler, W.H. Robinson, (Plummer) who is clearly unsettled by his presence and threatens to have him put out of the hotel. He pursues Elise with 1970's forthrightness and eventually convinces her to spend the afternoon with him. Before their date occurs another of my favorite scenes: Richard registers at the hotel and is given the key to room 420. He spends a few anxious moments before the desk clerk corrects his error and gives him the key to room 416 - the room he had signed for in the old guest book. Richard and Elise spend the afternoon walking and riding around Mackinac Island. They discuss Robinson who had warned Elise that she would meet a man who would change her life. At one point, Elise admires Richard's pocket watch and asks where it came from. He replies "It was given to me." This reminds me of one of the understated scenes in Superman: The Movie when Lois Lane asks Superman who he is and he responds simply "A friend".
During that evening's performance of her play, Elise changes her lines to give her "Man of my dreams" speech and ends it with an "I love you" directed at Richard. At intermission, she poses for the picture that hangs in the Hall of History. Robinson manages to have Richard abducted and he regains consciousness much later, only to discover that Elise and company have checked out of the hotel. He sits morosely on the veranda as Elise approaches slowly in the background. They embrace and kiss passionately, before retiring to the hotel for the romantic lace curtain love scene. Afterwards, they share a relaxed meal while they plan their future together. Elise offers to buy Richard a new suit that is not so outdated, but Richard insists on showing off the features of the one he is wearing. While demonstrating the pockets, he pulls out a 1979 penny and begins to fade away as Elise cries out for him.
Richard awakens in the present. Despondent, he walks along the beach and retraces his steps with Elise. He falls into a coma-like state and is eventually discovered by Arthur. While a doctor attempts to revive him, we see a light coming through the window and Elise coming toward him. He joins her, presumably for eternity.
Somewhere in Time was filmed on Mackinac Island in the Great Lakes of Michigan. As cars are not allowed, the crew required special permission to bring their sound truck from the mainland on a barge. Travel on the island is by bicycle or horse drawn carriage. The abundance of horses created allergy problems for the sensitive Reeve and clean up problems for the maintenance workers. In "Still Me", Christopher Reeve remembers the shooting of Somewhere in Time fondly. "...the location quickly cast a spell on our entire company. The real world fell away as the story and the setting took hold of us. I've rarely worked on a production that was so relaxed and harmonious. Even the hard-boiled Teamsters and grips from Chicago succumbed to the charms of the island and the mellow atmosphere on the set."
The film opened in theaters on October 3, 1980 to generally good reviews. However, Jane Seymour stated: "[It] was never released properly, because there was an actor's strike and Chris and I were not allowed to talk about it." Later reviews were brutal, particularly in regards to Reeve's performance. One critic wrote that he looked like someone "who had inhaled a helium balloon" while another described him as "too bulkly, too big, too cartoonish for the role". The movie closed relatively quickly. Reeve says: "I had never failed so visibly before... We had such a wonderful time filming 'Somewhere in Time', but maybe we lost our objectivity. In any case, we were devastated by the public's rejection of our work. Cast and crew alike moved quickly into other projects."
Over the years, however, the film was rediscovered by film buffs on video store shelves and cable TV stations. In 1990, some 10 years after the film was released, Bill Shepard founded INSITE (the International Network of "Somewhere in Time" Enthusiasts) in response to renewed fan interest. The group prints a quarterly newsletter and has an annual reunion on Mackinac Island which Chris and Dana Reeve attended in 1994. Jo Addie, who was an extra in the film, maintains the "Somewhere In Time" Homepage. INSITE was instrumental in obtaining a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Christopher Reeve in the spring of 1997 and the group is now working on one for Jane Seymour.
Somewhere in Time has proved to be timeless. It shows up on lists of favorite movies and continues to be a popular rental. A theater in Hong Kong ran it continuously for 18 months. When Jane Seymour met Colin Powell recently he told her it was his favorite movie. She adds: "Anywhere I go in the world, 'Somewhere in Time' is the first thing I'm asked about." She named one of her twin sons, born in the fall of 1995, after Reeve and reportedly asked that the Somewhere in Time soundtrack be played in the delivery room. Many people have commented on the similarities between Somewhere in Time and the recent blockbuster Titanic. The SONY Imax theater in Manhattan features Across the Sea of Time, a time travel short with a John Barry score.
Why are so many of us willing to watch Somewhere in Time over and over again? I personally enjoy the pure romanticism and the magnificent setting. As a 40-something, I enjoy watching the youthful romance of my contemporaries (Reeve and Seymour) more now than I did when I was younger. The theme of one true love across time has appeal as one deals with the vagaries of middle age. The gallant, yet gentle manner of Christopher Reeve that was so appealing as Superman appears in Richard Collier as well. I would be happy to spend an evening with either one of them. I still see these characteristics in Christopher Reeve today. Somewhere in Time clearly means different things to different people. When I asked two friends what they liked best about the movie, one answered immediately "The music - I love the music!". Another thought for a while and finally said, "I don't know what my favorite part is or why I like it. I just do." Maybe that's the best answer of all!
A charming, witty, passionate romantic drama about a love transcending
space and time. Universal's Somewhere in Time is an old fashioned film in
the best sense of that term. Which means it's carefully crafted, civilized
in its sensibilities, and interested more in characterizations than in shock
effects. Christopher Reeve is smashing in his first film outing since Superman.... Variety, September 24, 1980
Fandom - November 7, 2000: "SOMEWHERE IN TIME: DVD Review This 20th Anniversary Widescreen Edition of this overlooked fantasy love story" by Frederick C. Szebin.
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