S. T. Joshi points to Berkeley Square, a 1933 fantasy film, as an inspiration for The Shadow Out of Time: "Lovecraft saw this film four times in late 1933; its portrayal of a man of the twentieth century who somehow merges his personality with that of his eighteenth-century ancestor was clearly something that fired Lovecraft's imagination, since he had written a story on this very theme himself--the then unpublished The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)." Lovecraft called the film "the most weirdly perfect embodiment of my own moods and pseudo-memories that I have ever seen--for all my life I have felt as if I might wake up out of this dream of an idiotic Victorian age and insane jazz age into the sane reality of 1760 or 1770 or 1780." Lovecraft noted some conceptual problems in Berkeley Square's depiction of time travel, and felt that he had "eliminated these flaws in his masterful novella of mind-exchange over time." See more »
A new Fire of London, that's what's needed here. Yes, and a new Plague too. Dirt, disease, cruelty, smells - Lord, how the eighteenth century stinks!
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Leslie Howard stars in "Berkeley Square," also starring Heather Angel.
Howard plays Peter Standish, who is fascinated by all the material he finds in his house from his 18th century ancestors, 146 years earlier. He believes that if he wants to, he can go back to that time. This film is the predecessor to many time travel films, including Somewhere in Time.
His ancestor, also Peter Standish, visited his house from America on a particular date. Peter changes places with him on that date in the present.
At first, all is well; then he starts slipping and speaking of things in the future to the extent that people begin to believe he is possessed b the devil. The only person who senses the real Peter is Helen Pettigrew (Heather Angel) a Standish cousin. He and Helen fall in love, and she is able to see the future through his eyes -- war, weapons of destruction, neon lights, cars - it all terrifies her. This is the best sequence in the film.
Helen cannot go into the future with him -- and doesn't want to, given what she's seen -- and he's a pariah, and will make her one, if he stays.
This is a charming film badly in need of restoration. Leslie Howard is perfect as Peter -- handsome, ethereal, and well-suited to the period aspects. Heather Angel, whom I've just gotten to know in the Bulldog Drummond series, is delightful, petite and pretty with a soothing voice and a fragility that lends itself well to the role.
Berkeley Square was remade in 1951 as "I'll Never Forget You," starring Tyrone Power, which has a less sober ending - before it was released on DVD, it was in the top ten of most requested films at TCM to be released as a DVD. There's something appealing about time travel - otherwise, there wouldn't be so many films about it. But there's also something appealing and modern about the premise of Berkeley Square - that all time runs parallel and is all happening at once. Quantum physics would tell us this is so.
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