Somewhere in Time (1980)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 18-Nov-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Jeannot Szwarc (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Back To Somewhere In Time
Gallery-Production Photographs
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 99:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jeannot Szwarc

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Jane Seymour
Christopher Plummer
Teresa Wright
Bill Erwin
George Voskovec
Susan French
John Alvin
Eddra Gale
Audrey Bennett
William H. Macy
Laurence Coven
Susan Bugg
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music John Barry
Sergei Rachmaninov

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"He Sacrificed Life in The Present...To Find Love In the Past."

    There are a million quotes about love. Ones that have been repeated over and over throughout the years. "Love knows no bounds. Love conquers all. It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. True love never dies."  These are just a few that spring to mind. But what if the object of your affection was separated by an insurmountable barrier...time. It that too much of an obstacle to conquer? Is it too much of a boundary to cross? What would you do to bridge the gap between your own world and that of your true love...a gap that is 70 years across.

    Playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) has hit a dry spell. After several years of hits on Broadway, the dreaded writer's block has set in, and with a play very much anticipated by his backers, it couldn't have come at a worse time. In an attempt to shrug off his haze and return to form, Richard spontaneously decides to drive to the country outside of Chicago looking for somewhere to rest and rejuvenate his mind. Driving aimlessly through the countryside, he comes across the majestic Grand Hotel, and seeing it to be an idyllic place of rest, promptly checks himself in. Little does he know that he has just taken the first step in a journey across time. Settling in at the hotel, he sets out to have a look around and perhaps a bite to eat. When he finds the hotel's dining room closed, he instead wanders into the Hall of History, an archive of memorabilia from the hotel's history. It is here that Richard becomes mesmerized by a photo of a young woman, a photo where the woman doesn't seem to be looking at a camera, but straight at Richard himself. Immediately smitten by the image, Richard attempts to go about his weekend retreat, only to be again and again drawn to the picture. Asking about her identity, he learns that the woman is the actress Elise McKenna, a star of the stage in the early 1900s. At the local library, Richard begins his search into the history of the young actress in the picture when he makes an astonishing discovery. On the night of his very first play, Richard was visited during the after party by an elderly woman who gave him a gift of an antique gold watch and just four words: "Come back to me". In his research into the life of Elise, Richard discovers that the woman that gave him the watch is in fact the same woman in the picture!

    Startled by his discovery, Richard travels to the home of Laura Roberts (Teresa Wright), the companion of Elise at the time of her death. Laura is at first hesitant to answer the inquiries of the young stranger, but when he produces the gold watch that was presented to him by the elderly Elise, she immediately changes her mind. Laura is well aware of the gift, as it disappeared the night of Elise's death, the same night she gave Richard the watch. The more Collier learns of Elise, the more he becomes convinced that the pair are somehow connected. When Laura tells Richard that her favourite book was Travels Through Time, written by a former professor of Collier, Richard is far more than convinced, he's positive. A visit to his former professor and author of Travels Through Time further inspires Collier as he learns that maybe...just maybe, time travel might be possible. The key is to immerse one's mind in the belief that you indeed are in the time which you desire to travel to. Through a sort of self hypnosis, one just might be able to travel through time.

    Determined that the years will not separate him from the woman that haunts his every waking thought, Richard sets out to prepare himself for the journey. Clearing his hotel room of anything that would remind him of the present day, he dresses in the manner of gentlemen of the age, lines his pockets with money of the period, pre-records a tape of himself repeating over and over that it is the year 1912, and that he is in the hotel with Elise McKenna. Unfortunately, this plan fails to transport the lovestruck playwright to the past and frustration turns to anger. While again wandering the Hall of History, Collier spies one of the check-in records from the hotel's past and seeking out the complete records, finds the sign-in book for 1912. Searching through the pages, he finds the page where Elise and her manager had signed in, and on the very next page he finds his own signature. He had travelled back in time, and in the book was the proof.

    Assured of his success, Richard again returns to his hotel room and begins his efforts to travel back to 1912. While he is certain that he will succeed, he is unaware that his success could cost him everything, even his very life!

    This is one of my favourite romance films. Not only is it one of the greatest love stories ever to grace the screen (my opinion, as your mileage may vary), but it is proof that science fiction concepts such as time travel can be combined with a pure romance storyline in a cohesive manner. This story, originally published as Bid Time Return (1975), was written by author Richard Matheson who'll probably be most remembered for authoring such works as The Shrinking Man (which was made into the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man), I Am Legend (which was filmed as The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man), What Dreams May Come (the Robin Williams film) and A Stir of Echoes which was made into a film staring Kevin Bacon. Richard also penned several episodes of television shows such as Star Trek: The Original Series, Combat (1962) and Have Gun - Will Travel (1957). Matheson wrote Bid Time Return after seeing the captivating photo of actress Maude Adams (1872-1953) during a trip to Nevada. So enamoured with the photo was he that it inspired him to write a story based on the real actress' somewhat mysterious life. In the book, the main character detailed his encounter with the photo and his travels back in time in a journal. As the writer of the journal suffered a terminal brain tumour, and it is read by the main character's brother after his death, there is some question as to whether the time traveller has indeed travelled back in time or instead imagined the whole thing. Don't worry, this isn't quite the direction the story takes as told in this film, so I'm not giving anything away. Just bear in mind that while the film is based on the book, there are significant differences between it and the film.

    After the stellar success of the big budget blockbuster Superman, Christopher Reeve was inundated with film offers. For the most part, these were more in the realm of the big budget action blockbuster in the mould of the tested and proven Superman film. The one thing that attracted Reeve and the thing that director Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws 2, Ally McBeal - TV, C.S.I.: Miami - TV) set out to highlight was that this story was a real actor's piece. Despite the reservations of his agent, and despite there being almost a dozen offers waiting his acceptance, Reeve decided that it would be Somewhere in Time that would be the follow-up to his success in the Superman films. While the film was a disappointment at the box office, it is a high point in Reeve's acting career. His performance as Richard Collier is fabulous. The shot of his gazing at the photo of Elise with a look of total fascination and wonderment is a real testament to his ability to go beyond the simple job of acting and instead truly become the character on screen. Equal in ability and quality is Jane Seymour (Battlestar Galactica , Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman), who captures the grace and mystery of the Elise character. Rounding out the main characters is William F. Robinson, played by Christopher Plummer. He's great here, and through the years I've always loved to see him doing his usual great performances on screen. This film is no exception. I always had the impression that his character in this film might also have been from the future, therefore explaining his almost psychic premonitions about the coming of Collier. This isn't borne out in the storyline we see in the film, but watching this film over the years I always wondered if this was something that the filmmakers considered.

    As stated before, this film didn't quite work at the box office. Despite the modest US$5 million budget, the film wasn't a huge hit in theatres, and this wasn't helped by a crippling actor's strike that prohibited the cast from going on the promotional circuit to plug the film. Instead, the movie faded from theatres in less than a month and it very well could have gone the way of the dinosaur...but it didn't. What brought it into the public's eye again? In the early 1980s, the advent of pay cable television and home video meant that films that might have been missed could have a second life, none more so than Somewhere in Time. After screening on cable, stations began to receive numerous letters requesting the film. From there, the film really took off. Instead of fading from memory, the film actually did a 'Star Trek' and inspired a whole legion of fans that would be avid and evangelical proponents of the movie. All these years later, this film remains much loved and this Collector's Edition of the film goes a long way to satisfying fans of the film who might wish to see more about the production of the movie.

    So popular has this film become over the years that it has inspired a group called INSITE, The International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts . The group publishes a quarterly journal that covers news and articles about the film and its stars. Each year, the group holds its annual meeting at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (the location of almost the entire film) in Michigan where they hold dinners and seminars about the film. Cast and Crew are often guests during these meetings and from all accounts it sounds like a whole lot of fun.

    This is a wonderful film that should satisfy both the fan of classic science fiction as well as those looking for a good ol' fashioned love story. This film features both, and delivers in spades. Hugely recommended (can you tell that I'm a fan?).

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This film has been screened on television and released at least once here in Australia, but this release marks its Region 4 debut in the DVD format. Despite the fact that we have a somewhat substandard video transfer here (as does Region 1), it still is able to convey the story in a decent and watchable manner.

    This disc presents the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. However, there is no 16x9 enhancement! Don't feel left out though, as 16x9 enhancement looks to be unavailable across the world with this title.

    The image that we get here is reasonably sharp considering the age of the film, the film stock used (more on that later) and the different focus effects employed. For the most part, we get a decent level of sharpness, though there is the occasional issue in terms of focus, such as that seen at 19:26 and 32:39. The director and cinematographer Isidore Mankofsky used a more diffuse style of both colour and focus for certain portions of the film. Where these are employed (hard and sharp for the present, soft and subdued for the past), the DVD is able to display these in reasonable fashion. Shadow detail is fair throughout the program, but it is a little wanting at times, such as that seen at 82:05. I had no problems with low level noise.

    Colour's use in this feature was quite important to the filmmakers. As the film takes place in two distinct time periods, it was decided to use two different film stocks. For the footage set in the present, Kodak film was chosen for its high resolution and sharp level of detail, while for the footage set in the past, Fuji film was chosen because of its softness and warmth in terms of image capture (some call it almost sepia in tone, but I don't think it gets that far). You can really see the difference in the film stock and this disc is able to portray these differences effectively. Within the limitations of the transfer print used to commit this film to disc, we get a well transferred image that remains fairly accurate in regards to its original theatrical appearance.

    This film is transferred to disc at an average bitrate of 5.60 Mb/s, though there are peaks of 8.90 Mb/s and troughs of 3.60 Mb/s. This transfer is fairly stable and only reactive when required. The general level of compression isn't so great that it causes any MPEG nasties such as pixelization and macroblocking and the image is fairly clean in this regard. The time-travelling bugbear edge enhancement isn't as much a problem here as might be expected and doesn't effect proceedings to any great extent. The print used to transfer this film is reasonably clean and although there is the occasional instance of telecine wobble and image jitter, the print is fairly stable. Grain is an issue from time to time, as can be seen at 82:05, but it isn't a real problem. It's disappointing that a 16x9 enhanced transfer couldn't be sourced for this feature, but as this is the case world-wide, there isn't much we can do other than hope for a future definitive version (which this should have been). I again must raise the oft-remarked upon issue with sharpness of image and focus here, as many reviewers have misinterpreted the somewhat hazy look of the image as a transfer issue. This is not the case and that soft focus / frost lens look, especially in the past portions of the film, are indeed intended by the filmmakers and therefore are not a transfer problem.

    English, French and Spanish subtitles are all on offer here on this disc and I watched almost the entire film with the English titles enabled. I found the subtitles to be fairly accurate and able to convey the gist and meaning of the film quite well, though they were not word for word.

    This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place in Chapter 13 at 79:20. This is mid scene, but it isn't as disruptive as it could have been. I found it to be more of a distraction during the commentary, so it really isn't that bad.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The sound here is fairly basic, but it is able to serve the film fairly well.

     There are four audio options here, these being English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (running at 192 Kb/s). There is also a Director's Commentary in English Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to both the original English track as well as the commentary, both in their entirety.

     If we had dramas with the dialogue quality with this disc, then we'd really be in trouble as it's dialogue that is quite important to the film. I found the spoken word very understandable throughout the program and I had no real issues with audio sync.

     Music for this film comes from traditional classical composer Sergei Rachmaninov as well as from prolific film scorer John Barry. John's film score history covers a huge range of films, and he'll no doubt be remembered for such classic scores as the ones for Dances with Wolves, Goldfinger, Out of Africa, Peggy Sue Got Married (another time travel classic), and Chaplin amongst many, many others. John's music for this film is wonderful and I can't imagine the film without it. Sergei Rachmaninov contributes with his Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini, which is a fantastic piece of music and integral to the storyline of the film. I like this piece of music so much that it even makes its way onto my wedding video (I'm a hopeless romantic, I know).

     As this disc presents the audio in a very basic 192 Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0, we aren't going to get a huge dynamic sound from it. In any event, the sound is reasonable and serves the film reasonably well. You'll have to depend on your AV receiver to derive whatever surround information it can, but if you are just listening to the straight audio stream you won't get anything in regards to surround information. My subwoofer wasn't troubled during this program.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     For fans of this film, it's great to see that we do get some very important extras here.


     After the distributor's logo, we are taken to a language selection menu which offers us English, French or Spanish. After selection, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:

     The menus are 16x9 enhanced and the Main Menu features audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. It's sad that the 16x9 enhancement afforded the menus isn't available for the actual feature film.

     Selecting the Bonus icon, the viewer is taken to the list of extra features on offer, which are:

Theatrical Trailer - 2:08

     This is a decent trailer that some complain gives too much away in terms of the story. If you haven't seen the film before, it is best to avoid this until you've seen it. This is a fairly age affected print that exhibits many nicks, flecks and scratches. Still, it is nice to have it included. It is presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Back to Somewhere in Time - Featurette - 63:43

     Along with the commentary, this is the real gem in this edition. Featuring all the major living actors and crew involved in the making of the film, this details the conception of the story by Richard Matheson, the studio politics that almost halted the production, and the casting of Christopher Reeve straight out of his success in Superman. Featuring all up-to-date interviews with the cast and crew, we really get a sense of how much this film meant to those involved and how satisfying it is to have the film become so popular years after it was first screened. A real treat and a must see for any fan of this film. This featurette is presented full frame with audio in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Feature Commentary with Director Jeannot Szwarc

     From this commentary you get a sense of the passion that the director had for this production, and how much he enjoys its belated success. This is an interesting commentary that details much of how the film was laid out and made. It features many anecdotes and stories that are not featured in the Back to Somewhere in Time Featurette, so it's definitely worth a listen.

Production Photographs - 47 images

     Some basic shots of those involved in the production of Somewhere in Time.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released twice in Region 1. The first edition was released in August 12, 1998, while the newer Collector's Edition came out on October 31, 2000. It's been a fair while coming to Region 4, so it's good that Universal elected to give us the newer Collector's Edition rather than the original basic release. That said, we do miss out on a couple of extras on our disc that our Region 1 cousins get.

    The original Region 1 version featured:

    The newer Region 1 Collector's Edition features:     The Region 4 Collector's Edition features most of the extras afforded the Region 1 disc (which I've highlighted with red * stars). It's most disappointing to see that we miss out on the short (3 minutes) documentary on INSITE, The International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts. That said, the 'Network' is mentioned in the featurette, so it doesn't miss out on a plug. The link I've provided above should take you to the group's website and will describe all their activities and aims. I found it strange that we in Region 4 get a Spanish audio track on the Collector's Edition while the Region 1 disc omits this track. This one isn't a total hands-down win for Region 1, but is it still a win. We miss out on the INSITE featurette and some other bios and production notes, and these things would be fairly important to a major fan of this film. If the Region 1 disc can be found at a reasonable price, then it'll be worth getting. However, the local affordability and availability of the Region 4 disc will make it attractive to some, and it is a fairly decent package for the fan. A win to Region 1, but Region 4 is a close second.


     You've read the above, and you can tell that I'm a fan of the film. If this isn't your cup of tea, then forgive me. 'To each, his own' as they say. Some have called this saccharine, schmaltzly and hammy. Call it what you will, but I still find it one of my favourite films in the romance category. This film stands so far ahead of the 'chick flick' crap that comes along every month at the local cinema that it isn't even funny. Great cinema stands up over time, and this one has stood up to the test of time. A wonderfully romantic film that deserves a look.

     The video is just all right, but a 16x9 enhanced transfer is badly needed here. If you are going to produce a Collector's Edition, you really have to do the whole hog and get it all right the first time. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board and another release in 5 years (like we've never seen that before). This is one film that deserves the full-blown Special Edition treatment. This disc is half a job, and it'd be nice to see the whole job done right some day.

     The audio is rudimentary, but serviceable. I would have liked to have seen a full Dolby Digital 5.1 remaster here, but alas, it's the ol' Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kb/s, which is just okay.

     The extras are quite good and feature some important information on the production of the film. The featurette and the Director's commentary are by far the best features.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

Other Reviews
MovieHole - Clint M

Comments (Add)
Richard Matheson. - wolfgirv REPLY POSTED
Soundtrack to Somewhere in time -