What if Jack the Ripper (David Warner) were really an old friend of H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) and what if H.G. Wells actually invented a time machine and what if Jack the Ripper used it to escape to San Francisco circa 1979 and what if H.G. Wells figured out a way to follow him? What

if H.G. fell in love with a kooky bank officer (Mary Steenburgen) and what if Jack tried to kill her? It's convoluted and the plot device that allows Wells to follow Jack is laughable, but this is such a conscientious undertaking you might as well take a look.

Meyer had tried this historical twist before with his screenplay for THE SEVEN-PERCENT SOLUTION, in which Sherlock Holmes meets Sigmund Freud, but TIME AFTER TIME actually works better. It's a well-crafted blend of fiction and history boosted by some excellent special effects. McDowell is

marvelous as the free-thinking Victorian who is suddenly confronted with the future--a spectacle he finds both wonderful and horrifying. Steenburgen, in her first major role, does an engaging turn as the daffy bank worker, and the chemistry between the two is good. (They fell in love while making

TIME AFTER TIME and were later married.) Meyer makes a fine directorial debut, pacing the film for optimal suspense despite some obvious holes in the script. For some more sophisticated treatments of time travel, see Alain Resnais' JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME, or Chris Marker's LA JETEE, a haunting

parable composed almost entirely of still images.