October 15, 1979 12:00 PM

Combining the grisly legend of Jack the Ripper with H.G Wells’ 19th-century time machine has produced an absorbing, scary story. Malcolm McDowell plays Wells, the prolific British writer who loved to dabble in futuristic claptrap. While hosting a dinner party in his London digs, he discovers that one guest—a surgeon played threateningly by David Warner—is really the Ripper. What to do? Jack jumps aboard the time machine and whisks himself to San Francisco—in 1979—with Wells close behind. The love interest is Mary Steenburgen, Jack Nicholson’s find in Goin’ South; as an innocent bank teller who gets mixed up in the chase, she’s winsome. The direction by Nicholas Meyer occasionally slips, but sci-fi buffs won’t mind. (PG)

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