Menacing Talent

I see with sadness that veteran Brit actor David Warner has gone to join the Choir Invisibule, and the screen has lost one of its better character actors in consequence.

My favorite of his roles is in the (apparently-forgotten) time-travel piece, Time After Time, in which he played Jack The Ripper to Malcolm McDowell’s H.G. Wells (storyline here).

What I loved about this movie was that when H.G Wells (the good guy) is transported from his comfortable Victorian life forward to modern-day San Francisco, he finds it incredibly difficult to cope.  Not so for the Ripper (Warner), who finds that evil transcends culture and, for that matter, time as well — and among San Francisco’s prostitute population, he has an even greater choice of victims than in 19th-century London.  And Warner is beyond-words excellent in the role.



  1. “Time After Time” was on heavy HBO rotation when we got our first satellite dish in the early 80s, back when they were the 10-foot fiberglass monstrosities. (Dad was the manager of a fiberglass plant where they were made, and he “finessed” a whole system for the house.) Warner’s long and lean features made him an ideal villain, a perfect counterpoint to Malcolm McDowell’s wide-eyed innocent.

    “Ninety years ago I was a freak. Today, I’m an amateur.” Forty years and little has changed about San Francisco.

    (Side note: did you notice the passing of Taurean Blacque a few days ago?)

  2. “Time After Time” has long been a favorite of mine. It’s rare to see a movie than works in so many genres at once: it’s a science fiction romance thriller with some horror and comedy mixed in. It was my introduction to Mary Steenburgen, who seems to have a habit of falling in love with time travelers; she did it again in “Back to the Future III.” Malcolm McDowell is great as H.G. Wells, and later appeared in “Star Trek Generations” as Tolian Soran, the mad scientist who killed Captain Kirk.

    David Warner’s list of roles is too long to include here, but in addition to “Time After Time” and “Tron,” I also remember him for two Star Trek roles: the martyred Klingon chancellor Gorkon in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” and Gul Madred, the Cardassian who tortures and interrogates Captain Picard in the two-part TNG episode “Chain of Command.” It’s hard to think of two more different roles; Gorkon is as saintly as a Klingon ever gets, while Madred is a cold-blooded and sadistic villain. (He also had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”)

  3. Another somewhat satanic role (literally) that Warner played completely over-the-top was as “Evil Genius” in Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits”.

    I’m not much of a fan of Gilliam’s work, but I thought that one was a really good movie. Besides, how bad could it be if it’s got Sean Connery playing Agamemnon?

    I think a lot of the actors, including Warner, just had a lot of fun making that flick.

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