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Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to the Future

I am so pumped about this week's edition of the Monday Matinee. In fact, I am so excited about it that I'm spreading the joy over the next three weeks! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, this feature is going to be a three-parter beginning Monday, May 13, and ending Monday, May 27.

I bet you know what that means. For the rest of the month of May, I'm featuring a movie trilogy. For this week's edition, we're going to go back to where it all began.

But first of all, I want to ask all of you a question.

Have you ever considered traveling back in time to a different era? Seriously, have you?

Think about it. Wouldn't you like to travel back to the year 1969 so that you could experience the Woodstock music festival? I know I would have loved to have had the opportunity. I wouldn't have cared about the mud and the hot sun. The opportunity to hear great bands and feel the spirit of the festival...that would have been absolutely amazing.

Or, have you thought about going back in time to the Roaring Twenties, where you could dance along with the flappers and jazz artists?

Or maybe you would go back in time sixty five million years to the time in which dinosaurs ruled the land? I always wondered what a living, breathing dinosaur looked like, and I think it would have been cool to have come into close contact with one.

(Well...a plant-eating dinosaur, anyway.)

At the same time, take heed in this warning. If there ever comes a time in which technology allows one to warp the very fabric of time and space and we can actually go back into the past (which in our lifetimes at least is an impossibility), you have to be very, very careful. Even the slightest disturbance in the past can create irreversible happenings in the future. Even if you do something as innocent as killing an insect in the past, it could mean all the difference in the future.

That's definitely the lesson that one young teenager discovered way back in 1985.

The teenager's name was Marty McFly, life-long resident of Hill Valley, California...and his encounter with an eccentric scientist sends him back in time thirty years with Marty trying to find a way...


(You like how I set that up, huh? Not really? Well, I thought it was clever.)

Bad introduction aside, today's topic is the wildly popular 1985 film “Back to the Future”. It was a film that cemented Michael J. Fox as a future Hollywood legend, it was a film that was so successful that Ronald Reagan referenced it in a presidential speech, and it was a film that spawned this #1 single by Huey Lewis and the News!

ARTIST: Huey Lewis and the News
SONG: The Power of Love
ALBUM: Back to the Future: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
DATE RELEASED: June 29, 1985

The movie was released just a few days after “The Power of Love” began climbing the pop charts, debuting in theatres on July 3, 1985. The film was one of 1985's biggest blockbusters (although to be fair, 1985 was an excellent year for film in my honest opinion). It made almost $400 million at the box office, and was the film that helped establish the credibility of director Robert Zemeckis.

The film also boasted a really talented cast, which in addition to Michael J. Fox included Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, and Claudia Wells.

But, what was interesting about the cast was that with the exception of Fox, most of the other cast members were NOT the first choices of the production staff...and even securing Fox as part of the cast was a challenge. But, I'll tell you more about that headache in the trivia portion of this blog entry.

For now, let's talk plot development.

Marty McFly (Fox) is your basic 17-year-old protagonist who lives in the community of Hill Valley. And, to say that Marty is frustrated with his family would be a complete understatement. In the first few minutes of the film, we are introduced to Marty's father George (Glover), a man who is completely pushed around by his supervisor Biff Tannen (Wilson), while Marty's mother Lorraine (Thompson) is wasting away in Margaritaville.

Seriously, Lorraine is a down-on-her-luck, physically unfit alcoholic.

Marty's two siblings are no prizes either. Linda (Wendie Jo Sperber) is unemployed and also undateable, as she has absolutely no idea how to attract the guys, while his slacker brother Dave is a slacker who pulls in shifts at Burger King in order to make a less-than-perfect living.

At least you can say that Marty is trying to make something of himself. He's gotten himself a nice girlfriend named Jennifer (Wells) and he's assembled a band to play at the high school dance. Unfortunately, his band is promptly rejected by the dance committee, but Jennifer keeps encouraging him to keep his dreams alive.

(Mainly because in 1985, Marty is really the only one in his family to HAVE dreams.)

After having dinner with his family (in which Lorraine tells the family how she met George after her father accidentally hit him with his car), Marty takes off to the local mall, where he happens meet Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Lloyd). Apparently it isn't the first time that the two have met, as it appears as though the two have crossed paths before. Anyway, Doc Brown is a rather eccentric inventor, and his latest project is a time machine that is made from a 1981 DeLorean.

(Confession: I always thought that DeLoreans were awesome cars.)

Anyway, Doc explains to Marty that the time machine was powered up via plutonium, and whenever the time machine reaches a speed of 88 miles per hour, the car will send whoever is inside to the date that is programmed into the computer. The problem is that before Doc could show Marty a demonstration on how to use the time machine, Libyan terrorists arrive at the mall to confront Doc, who apparently swiped his plutonium supply from them. The terrorists shoot at Doc, and Marty, fearful for his life drives off in the DeLorean as fast as he can, not realizing that the dial on the car is set to November 5, 1955.

Well, you can guess what happens next. The car surpasses 88 miles per hour, and within a matter of seconds, Marty finds himself warping back in time thirty years.

And, of course, Marty screws up his potential future right from the start. He finds HIMSELF as the person that Lorraine's father knocks down with his car, not George. And, it is Marty who is brought back to Lorraine's house to be nursed back to health. And, in a rather incestuous kind of twist, Lorraine ends up falling head over heels in love with Marty, not realizing that she will be giving birth to him just thirteen years later!

Of course, to Lorraine, Marty is known as Calvin Klein. It was written all over his underpants, after all.

But this poses a huge problem. Because Marty accidentally caused George and Lorraine to miss crossing paths, there's a possibility that Marty may cease to be born in the near future. In fact, the family photograph that Marty happens to be carrying with him at the time begins to fade into nothing. The positive side to all of this is that Marty does meet the 1955 Doc Brown, and he and Doc try to come up with a way to get Marty back home to 1985...but before he can do that, he has to find a way to get George and Lorraine back together again.

Now, as you've figured out already, the fact that two more Back to the Future films were made should tell you that the ending of the original film was more or less happy. Let's just say that if there were any irreversible changes that took place within the McFly household, the vast majority of them were positive ones.

And, now for the trivia portion of this blog.

01 – You'd think that a hugely successful movie like Back to the Future would have a decent video game adaptation. Unfortunately, the Back to the Future video game for the Nintendo was listed as one of the worst video games every made. I even said that it was horrible in a previous blog entry! Awful!

02 – According to the production staff, they reportedly wanted Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly from the very beginning. Unfortunately, Fox was heavily committed to “Family Ties” at the time, and because Meredith Baxter-Birney was pregnant, Fox was unable to make the commitment as creator Gary David Goldberg couldn't spare him. As a result, Eric Stoltz was initially cast in the role. However, after a few weeks, Zemeckis and Bob Gale (the screenplay author of the film) realized that Stoltz just wasn't right for the part. At that time, Meredith Baxter-Birney had come back from maternity leave, and Fox was then able to sign on to the movie. The rest as we say is history.

03 – Michael J. Fox did not sing one note in the film. His part was dubbed by Mark Campbell.

04 – Contrary to rumour, Michael J. Fox did not learn how to skateboard for the film. He already had the skills. That said, he did also have a stunt double for the really complex skateboarding scenes. That stunt double was Per Welinder.

05 – Because the same actors were used to play the 17-year-old and 47-year-old versions of George and Lorraine McFly, there were some rather interesting age differences. There's only ten days difference between Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson, and Michael J. Fox was actually three years older than Crispin Glover!

06 – Crispin Glover and Claudia Wells did not return for the two sequels. Their parts were recast.

07 – The Twin Pines Mall is a real-life mall. It's actually the Puente Hills Mall in Whittier, California. It's more or less looking the same, minus the fact that JC Penney no longer exists there.

08 – The first draft of the screenplay for the film began in 1981.

09 – Believe it or not, a Canadian rock singer screen-tested for the role of Marty McFly. Corey Hart!

10 – C. Thomas Howell was also briefly considered for the role of Marty.

11 – Christopher Lloyd was not the first choice for the role of Doc Brown. Initially, John Lithgow was on the production team's radar for the role, but as Lithgow had a previous engagement at the time, he could not accept the part.

12 – The film marks the first film appearance of actor Billy Zane. He plays one of Biff's thugs in the 1955 scenes.

13 – Claudia Wells almost left the project due to scheduling conflicts. In fact, he role was almost recast with Melora Hardin. But Wells came back after Hardin was let go...for being taller than Michael J. Fox!

14 – Bob Gale came up with the story for the film after looking through his father's yearbooks and wondering what it would be like if he could befriend his teenaged father.

15 – Three DeLoreans were used in the making of the film.

16 – Lea Thompson spent three hours in the make-up chair each filming day she had to portray the 47-year-old version of Lorraine McFly.

17 – One of the judges at the audition that Marty and his band perform at is Huey Lewis, who performed two songs on the soundtrack.

18 – The Hill Valley clock tower set was almost destroyed in a fire in June 2008.

19 – The date of November 5, 1955 really did occur on a Saturday! Check it out for yourselves!

20 – Tim Robbins was considered for the role of Biff Tannen.

21 – The original script was rejected over 40 times!

22 – Back in the days in which Eric Stoltz was cast as Marty, he didn't exactly have a great working relationship with some of his castmates. In particular with Thomas F. Wilson, who played Biff. Apparently, Eric almost broke Thomas' collarbone in the scene in which Biff and Marty were to fight in the cafeteria. Thomas reportedly asked Eric to tone down the aggression, but he didn't really heed that advice. Eric was let go from the project shortly after that, though not because of that confrontation.

23 – Eric also insisted that the crew members and cast refer to him as Marty imn between takes.

24 – Apparently Crispin Glover had to redub some of his lines as nerves had caused him to come down with laryngitis in some key scenes.

25 – While Crispin Glover has claimed to only seen the film once, Christopher Lloyd has said that if he stumbles upon the film while channel surfing, he will sit down and watch the whole thing!

Coming up next Monday...Back to the Future, Part Deux!

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