Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some Details in "Back to the Future"...

Everyone has been celebrating the 25th anniversary since the debut of the movie "Back to the Future" and I'm no different. After all, I love the movie and watched it many times when I was a kid.

I watched it again a couple of nights ago and paid attention to some of the details in the film. You know, stuff I missed the first hundred times I watched it.

The first detail is the comic book the kid shows his dad in 1955, that proves that the DeLorean is a space ship and Marty in the radiation suit is an alien. "Shoot it, shoot it, it's already taken human form." I figured maybe it was a real comic, but it's just a creation. It really does capture the feel of the EC comics of the 50's doesn't it?

The next thing I wondered about was the movies that are featured on the marquee at the movie theater in 1955. The first one is "The Cattle Queen of Montana" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Regan which was obviously picked just because Regan was in it. "Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who's Vice-President? Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady! And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury."

The movie on the marquee on the night Marty goes back to the future is "The Atomic Kid," a 1954 movie starring Mikey Ronney. The theatrical poster has the tagline "It's a laugh explosion" and a woman telling Mikey to "control your neutrons." That sounds kind of like a lost Doc line.

The next details are in the scene where Marty uses George's love of science fiction to convince him to ask Lorraine out. "I am Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan." George had fallen asleep while reading the fall 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine, this time the robot kind of like Marty in the radiation suit. The difference this time is that it's actually a real magazine!

However, the music Marty tortures his dad with may or may not be real. As the tape Marty puts in says it is definitely Eddie Van Halen on the tape, but I'm not sure whether the clips are from. Some websites say "Eruption"others "Donut City" from the movie "The Wild Life" which stars none other then the original Marty, Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson. Still other websites claim that the music is just some original riffs Eddie played just for the movie as a favor to record producer Quincy Jones. Since the last claim was said to be from the commentary track with Bob Gale and Neil Canton it just might be the true one.

Finally, when Marty goes back to 1985 and it turns out his whole family is happier and more successful because George learned to stand up for himself when he decked Biff. George gets a copy of his book in the mail.

The joke being that it looks like a retelling of how Darth Vader told him he had to date Lorraine.

But the book is proof that, "if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything."


  1. Hey Chimeradave,
    Having watched the movie a dozen times myself when it was still in the theaters, (and several dozen times since) one of the odd things I noticed that the cassette tape Marty puts into his Walkman to play for his sleeping dad actually reads "Edward Van Halen." I always thought this was odd, since I was a guitar player then and subscribed to all the electric guitar mags, yet I never read or heard of Eddie being referred to as "Edward." Is there a story there?

    Secondly, I want to add that back then, my friends and I were convinced that when Marty introduces himself as "Darth Vader", the planet he says he's from sounds less like "Vulcan" and more like, well, it starts with an "F" and rhymes with "truckin'". Listen close next time and let us know what you think!

  2. Hey Jon, according to the commentary track that said it was original music, it also said that Eddie didn't want his name or the band name included, so they changed it to Edward Van Halen. I wonder if that would have stood up in a court of law? Probably not.

    Anyway here's the website where I got this info:

    Like I said in the post, I'm really still not sure where the sound clips are from.

  3. Very interesting fact! Wow, that's bothered me ever since I first saw the movie! Thanks for clearing that up for me! (And I agree, if Eddie had wanted to sue, he probably would have prevailed on that one).

    Neither do I know where the sound clips are from, but anyone familiar with Eddie's style can tell: it's definitely him.

  4. That was a fun movie, John, but I only saw it a couple of times, I think (and never in the theater). They made the George McFly character so ridiculously dumb - or timid, I guess - that it interfered with my enjoyment of the movie.

    I always wondered, too, when Marty came back to the present and met his new family (same names, but different personalities and life experiences), if he ever missed his old family. Because they really wouldn't be the same people, would they? Would you trade in your current family for an improved model?

    But the movie was lots of fun, and it's a comedy, so I know we're not supposed to think about it so critically. Besides, there were plenty of clever parts to it. It deserves to be remembered 25 years later.

  5. Nice collection of SF references, John. Love the movie anyways and as an SF fan, these tongue-in-chhek references make it even better. Thanks again.