Back to the Future!

Ronald Reagan? The actor?!
July 06, 2009
Set in 1985, representing and defining much of how the 80s were to be later characterized, Back to the Future certainly deserves an homage in the Retro Junk universe!

Since one of themes of this glorious site is not only looking at the past, but looking at ourselves within that past, I will start with my earliest memory of BTTF. It was summer of 1987. I know, it came out in 1985, but hey, this was rural Illinois and the local "Village Video" was the only place we had for a weekly media pilgrimage. Popping the VHS into the recorder, I'm not sure if my parents quite know what they were allowing their 7yr old son and 2yr old daughter to be viewing. But alas, this is the great thing about the 80s and a MPAA that put PG ratings on movies laced with violent words and deeds. Our family watched as Marty, a teenage boy in a suburban California town called Hill Valley struggles with a family that continually comes up short, and a school environment that ridicules or ignores him. Discovering that his friend "Doc" Emmett L.Brown has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean, much excitement ensues as Libyan "nationalists" hunt down Doc for stealing their plutonium... you know, because terrorists have such things..., and Marty escapes by jumping into the DeLorean. Unintentionally, he finds himself in Hill Valley 1955 and, after narrowly escaping Old Man Peabody's shotgun and realizing there was only enough plutonium for a one way trip, he hikes into the 1955 version of his own town. During Marty's efforts to find younger Doc in order to help him get back to 1985, he runs into his young parents and interrupts their first meeting. Much excitement and hilarity ensue as Marty tries to get back while preserving his own existence.

As a 7yr old boy, this movie was a treasure trove of insights. Love, foreign terrorists, creative swearing, deadbeat families (who knew?!), and time paradoxes. Did you know before you saw this movie that if you prevent your parents from meeting, you'll start to go all transparent and eventually disappear? Yeah well I didn't, so this was some mind bending *%#! to a kid my age.

To tell you the truth, I don't really remember the actual content of the movie during my first viewing. I've watched it so many times now, I could probably recite it line by line. What I DO remember is the fallout after the viewing. Movie night was also pizza and soda and some kind of additional sugar dessert night. I don't know if it was the suspense or the mountain of sugar I no doubt ingested, but I was pumped and screeching out lines from BTTF as I bounded off to get ready for bed. Now, I knew full well about bad words, my parents made their execution an art form. But as I climbed into my little twin size sleeper, I pretended it was the glorious DeLorean... With my feet on the pedals, my left hand on the steering wheel, and my right hand shifting into fourth gear, I yelled, "Let's see if you bastards can do 90!" Yeah... she was angry. "What did you say!?", asked my mom in her most surprised voice. I was quickly informed that this was not a word to be used, ever. But I knew right then that this movie held secrets to the adult world of which I heretofore had no knowledge. And for the next 21 years, I plumbed the depths of its complexity and sophistication to bring you the article you see before you. Ok, maybe that's setting the bar a bit too high... but I love this movie ok? I LOVE IT, and the sequels too. So that's the beginning of BTTF for me, an intense and scandalous sugar fueled introduction to science fiction.

As I watched BTTF over and over during the coming years, I came to notice its many quirks and overall demonstrations of awesome-ness. Here are some of my favorites. Some have become well known as BTTF trivia, but I think they're well worth mentioning!

1. In the beginning, where we see all those clocks, there's one with a guy hanging off of the minute hand of large clock tower. Later, Doc hangs from the Hill Valley Clock Tower in his attempt to get Marty back to the future!

2. In Marty's audition for the school dance, the teacher who dismisses his band, "The Pinheads", with a bullhorn is none other than the man himself - Huey Lewis! Mr Lewis and the News provide songs throughout the movie.

3. Notice downtown Hill Valley in the beginning of the movie. It's a nice fall day in California but the buildings are dilapidated and all changed from their original uses. The theaters serve as churches or show nudie flicks; the old courthouse is now the Department of Social Services. Doc shows off the time machine in a mall parking lot that used to be farmland. This was a pretty good insight for the writers in the early 80s. It parallels other cleverly disguised commentary in the movies concerning suburban sprawl and the toll it takes on communities.

4. Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center, the place where Marty waves to all the girls, is Lou's Diner when he goes back to 1955.

5. The Toyota Marty drools over is being promoted by Statler Bros Toyota. In 1955, we see a Statler Motors, and in 1885, Honest Joe Statler is selling horses.

6. The toffee chips George McFly is eating at the dinner table came from a cut scene in which he is bullied into buying them from a girl selling it door to door. I think this was meant to highlight George's tendency to be a pushover.

7. Ironic that next to the TV in the same scene is what looks like an unused game of LIFE.

8. Notice the gratuitous placement of Pepsi and Miller products throughout the film. In Marty's room, as he wakes up at 12:28 am, there is a can of diet Pepsi Free (now with no saccharin, 100% NutraSweet!). Later in Lou's Diner 1955, Marty asks for a Tab without ordering anything, and after being ridiculed for the absurdity, asks for something without sugar, a Pepsi Free.

9. Marty wears an awesome 80's calculator watch. It gets him into trouble when it beeps loudly and Lou notices the suspiscious electronic sound.

10. No real DeLorean ever sounded like it did in the BTTF movies. In the movie, it's a big throaty V8, the real cars came with dog slow V6s. BTW, DeLoreans had stainless steel bodies. Doc mentions this as one reason he chose it as a platform on which to build a time vehicle.

11. In the beginning, the mall is called Twin Pines Mall. After Marty goes back to 1955 and runs over one of Old Man Peabody's prize pines, it becomes Lone Pine Mall in 1985 when he returns to the mall to try and save Doc.

12. In 1955, Marty hides the DeLorean behind an advertisement for the new suburb Marty lives in. It shows a house much like his with an ideal family. This is again contrasting the idealism of the 50s with the social disintegration of the 80s.

13. The term "jig-o-watt" isn't made up. It refers to a gigawatt, but at the time, the writers couldn't find out what the proper pronunciation was.

14. In the scene where Doc is working on the "weather experiment", a man who looks very much like Doc from BTTF 2 rides by on his bike. Although it couldn't have been planned, I wonder if they modeled Doc in that part of #2 on that guy.

15. One thing that escaped me for years, but should be obvious, is that Marty does end up getting to rock the school dance in 1955, after getting rejected in 1985 for being too loud.

16. The weird looking character on the front of the book George publishes in the new happy 1985 future looks just like the suit Marty wore in the Darth Vader from planVulcan scene in 1955

More Articles From HiroProtagonist
An unhandled error has occurred. Reload Dismiss