Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back to the Future

Back to the Future
#74 at time of writing.

"Where we're going, we don't need roads."

There are a few films that create their own mythology. A mythology so complete it's as if it's always existed. Back to the Future is one of them. H G Wells might lay claim to the time travel book, but there's no doubt Robert Zemeckis created the time travel film.

Doc Emmett Brown, the quintessential mad scientist, invents a time machine and Marty McFly inadvertently gets stranded thirty years in the past. Watching this is like a journey through time in itself - it's so wonderfully Eighties. The script is very clever and layered, executed with a rich dose of slapstick humour.

Some good music too, including The Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News not Frankie Goes to Hollywood, nor Jennifer Rush). Huey Lewis himself is in the film, playing a High School band audition judge. And there's a suitably stirring and catchy score by Alan Silvestri.

But for me the highlight is the over-the-top dramatic tension of the climax, with Doc Brown hanging from the minute hand of the clock tower (which I went to see as a child as part of the Universal Studios backlot tour a couple of years after the film was released). By the end of the film, you will be grinning from ear to ear.

Michael J. Fox was working on the sitcom "Family Ties" during the filming. Apparently, every day during production he drove straight to the movie set after taping of Family Ties was finished, allowing very little time for sleep. The bulk of the production was filmed from 6pm to 6am, with the daylight scenes filmed on weekends. The whole thing was wrapped in less than ten weeks.

Using a DeLorean seems like the perfect choice now, but the device originally considered for use as the time travel machine was a refrigerator. Robert Zemeckis said in an interview that the idea was scrapped because he and Steven Spielberg did not want children to start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside.

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