Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to snarkymoviereviews.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.
Today’s movie is Back to the Future (1985) and why is it episode 88? Well, when this baby hits 88 MPH you’re going to see some serious stuff. Three of the four main actors in this movie have serious television creds and Michael J. Fox really was a great actor when you look at his total body of work.
Michael J. Fox was cast in the lead role of Marty McFly, a boy with problems. Fox was born in Canada in 1961. Fox began acting in Vancouver and by 15 was on Canadian television shows and films. At the age of 18 he moved to Hollywood.
In 1982, he began working on one of his most iconic roles. This role was as Alex P. Keaton on the family sitcom Family Ties “1982-1989.” The young Alex was a staunch conservative in the era of Regan.
Most people typed into a sitcom role like Fox was would never make the transition to films. Fox did. He starred in the teen comedy Teen Wolf (1985) and was smart enough not to take Teen Wolf Two (1987) a film that almost ended Justin Batemans’ career. Fox’s next major manifestation came when he starred in Back to the Future (1985). He continued in the series making Back to the Future Part II (1989), and Back to the Future Part III (1990). He played multiple roles in these last two films.
He turned in solid performances in other movies as well, most of which were comedies. He played a savvy schemer in The Secret of My Succe$s (1987), a soldier trying to stop a war crime in Vietnam in Casualties of War (1989), a money hungry doctor in Doc Hollywood (1991), a serious advisor to the president in The American President (1995) opposite Michael Douglas, and an out of touch newsman in Mars Attacks! (1996).
Fox’s career was slowed by Parkinson’s disease in 1991 but he continued to work including another series Spin City “1996-2002.”
Christopher Lloyd played the role of oddball scientist Dr. Emmett Brown. Lloyd was born in 1938. Lloyd like Fox is known mainly for one television show and one movie series. The television show is Taxi “1978-1983” where he played the rather strange Reverend Jim Ignatowski. Theese films of course, are Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990) as the scatter-brained genius Dr. Brown. I wanted to mention a couple of other roles as well. His first film was a mental patient Taber in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Another great role was as Judge Doom in the semi-animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
Lea Thompson played the role of Lorraine Baines, mother of Marty McFly. Thompson was born in 1961. Thompson started out as a dancer and by the time she was 14 she had been in over 45 ballets.
After her, ballet career ended Thompson began acting. Her first role was in Jaws 3-D (1983). This was followed by a high school football film, All the Right Moves (1983) opposite Tom Cruise. Then she fought her way through one of the greatest 80s movies, Red Dawn (1984). However, it was Back to the Future (1985) that made her a star. For some reason, she chose to be in the terrible Howard the Duck (1986). Thompson returned for Back to the Future II (1989).
She took breaks when her children were born and continued to make films in between. There was nothing really earth shaking. She had a pretty big sitcom, Caroline in the City “1995-1999”
Crispin Glover played George McFly, Marty’s father. Glover was born in New York City. His father was Bruce Glover, who we covered in Episode 17 – Hard Time (1975). Crispin began acting at an early age and was soon doing sitcoms. His first role was My Tutor (1983). He followed this with many supporting roles in films like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) but he struck it big with Back to the Future (1985). Not returning for II Crispin continued with supporting roles and some of them were quite good like his role as Cousin Dell in Wild at Heart (1990) and as Andy Warhol in The Doors (1991).
Crispin worked on many of his own projects but hit the 2000s with several big film roles like Charlie’s Angels (2000), Willard (2003), Beowulf (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).
Thomas F. Wilson played the bad guy Biff Tannen. He has been in over 50 films but outside of the Back to the Future series, I can’t recall a single one.
James Tolkan played the school principal, Mr. Strickland. Tolkan always plays the same character – a mean, no-nonsense, intimidator. He began acting in the late 1960s and some of his earlier standout performances are in Serpico (1973) and Prince of the City (1981). Other roles include the principal in the Back to the Future series, Napoleon in Love and Death (1975), an army officer in WarGames (1983), a wisecracking assistant mayor in Turk 182! (1985), Stinger in Top Gun (1986) – “Son your bodies writing a check your ass can’t cash”, and a meek accountant for the mob called Numbers in Dick Tracy (1990).
Huey Lewis played the High School Band Audition Judge and was uncredited. Of course, Huey Lewis is the lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News.
This time traveling movie begins in a house with a lot of clocks. One of the clocks caught my attention right off. The clock has a model of silent film actor Harold Lloyd hanging from the minute hand of the clock. I am not here to fight about whether Harold Lloyd was better that Buster Keating, or Charlie Chaplin. But this will be important to the movie later on and I will bring it back up. Automated equipment is brewing coffee and opening canned dog food. Since the dog bowl is overfull you can see that the owner and the dog have been away for some time.
The tv news comes on and talks about a case of missing plutonium and that Libyan terrorists have taken credit. A young man with a skateboard comes in looking for Doc and the dog Einstein. Under the bed is a box for plutonium. The boy cranks an amp to 11 and plugs a guitar in before blowing himself across the room. The phone rings and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) asks the boy, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to meet him at the Twin Pines Mall at 1:15AM because he has made a major breakthrough.
Realizing he is late Marty skates across town, catching tows on cars. When Marty gets to school he meets his girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells) who tells him that the principal, Mr. Strickland (James Tolkan) is trying to find him. Strickland catches Marty and tells him it is dangerous to hang around Doc. He also tells Marty that he is a slacker and that his father was a slacker and no McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of their town, Hill Valley.
After school Marty and his band begin auditioning with the song “Power of Love.” Four judges are watching when one stands up after about 30 seconds and says the band is just too darn loud. The man speaking is Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News, who actually wrote and performed the “Power of Love.”
After the audition, Marty and Jennifer go for a walk as a speaker van advertises to reelect Mayor Goldie Wilson. Marty laments his life as he sees a brand new Toyota pickup truck being delivered to the lot. He wishes he could take Jennifer to the lake for the weekend in a truck like that. Jennifer asks Marty if his mother knows they are going camping and he says no because his mother is too much of a prude. The lean in for a kiss a lady sticks a can in their face shouting save the clock tower. It has been frozen at 10:04 every since it was struck by lighting on November 12, 1955. They almost kiss again and Jennifer’s father shows up. She gives him the number to where she will be that night written on the back of a “save the clock tower” flyer.
Marty grabs the back of a police car and gets towed to Lyon Estates, where he lives. When he gets to his house, a tow truck is delivering a wrecked BMW to the garage. Inside, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) is yelling at George McFly (Crispin Glover) because Biff wrecked the car that he borrowed. Biff taps George on the head demanding that he finish Biff’s work. The wrecked car ruins Marty’s plans to go to the lake with Jennifer.
The McFly family sits down for dinner and they are a sad lot. Marty’s brother Dave (Marc McClure) is a fast food worker, his father is interested in “The Honeymooner” reruns, his mother Lorraine (Lea Thompson) is a chain-smoking drunk that is distraught that her brother Joey did make parole again, and his sister Linda (Wendie Jo Sperber) is a loser. Linda tells Marty that Jennifer called. His mother goes on a tirade about how she never called or chased boys when she was young. She also says she met her husband when her father hit him with a car. After he was brought in she invited him to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Lorraine mentions it was the night of the terrible storm and that George kissed her the first time that night.
After midnight, Doc calls Marty and wakes him. He tells him to pick up the video camera at his lab on the way. When Marty gets to the Twin Pines Mall, Doc’s van is parked and Einstein, the dog is waiting outside. The ramp folds down and a DeLorean DMC-12 car is rolled out. It is extremely modified with electrical equipment. Marty starts taping and explains that it’s temporal experiment 1. They put Einstein in the car and Doc controls it with a model aircraft controller. During part of the scene, a man in a dog suit was used to drive the car because they figured it was easier to put a man in a dog suit than train a dog to drive. The Doc utters the famous line – when this baby hits 88 MPH your going to see some serious stuff or a word to that effect. The car races towards Marty and the Doc. At 88 MPH the car begins to spark and disappears leaving only two flaming tire tracks. Marty yells Doc, you disintegrated Einstein. One minute later the machine and dog reappear as Doc and Marty catch up in time.
The dog is fine and his clock is one minute different from Doc’s. Doc shows Marty how to set the time machine. Doc types in November 5, 1955, the day he invented the flux capacitor when he fell off a toilet and hit his head. Doc is planning on heading 25 years into the future. Marty ask what the machine runs on and Doc says plutonium is needed to generate the 1.21 gigawatts to power the flux capacitor. Marty is shocked and asks Doc where he got plutonium, the Doc calmly explains that Libyan terrorist gave it to him to build a bomb but he gave them a fake bomb instead.
Doc and Marty suit up in yellow radiation suits and begin loading plutonium into the car. Doc remembers that he needs to load spare plutonium into the car for the return trip.But before he can do that a VW microbus speeds into the parking lot full of Libyans. The one leaning out of the sunroof has an AK-47 and begins shooting. Doc is shot down by the Libyans but Marty escapes because of a gun jam.
Marty jumps into the DeLorean and begins racing away as the terrorist give chase. The man in the top pulls out and RPG and when Marty hits 88 MPH and he is sent back in time to November 5, 1955. He crosses a farmers field and crashes into the barn.
Otis Peabody and his family come out to investigate the noise. When they see the stainless steel car and Marty’s yellow radiation suit they think it is a UFO. The kid shows a comic book with a story title Space Zombies from Pluto. In relativity the head of the studio wanted to call this movie “Spacemen from Pluto.”
When Mr. Peabody returns with a shotgun and starts shooting, Marty jumps back in the DeLorean and drives away killing one of the two pine trees Mr. Peabody was trying to grow on the land that would become the mall in the future.
When Marty gets to Lyon Estates, which is just under construction, he realizes that this is not a dream. The DeLorean goes dead because it is out of gas he hides it behind the sign. Marty leaves the suit, a walkman, and the camera in the car and heads to Hill Valley. The town is like a Leave it to Beaver episode where four Texaco men are waiting to tend your car way before they tricked us into doing it ourselves. Did you get any of that money they save? I didn’t.
Marty is wearing a nylon sleeveless vest and looks a little out of place. The clock in the tower is working. After seeing the date on a newspaper, Marty goes into a dinner to find a phone book. The dinner owner Lou thinks Marty’s vest is a life preserver. Marty tears Doc’s page out of the phone book. A rude and disgusting habit. They have a little fun when Marty asks for a Tab soda. Lou says I can’t give you a Tab unless you order something. Marty then asks for a Pepsi Free and Lou says if you want a Pepsi you’re going to pay for it. Marty then asks for something without sugar and Lou gives him a cup of coffee.
Marty is shown to be sitting next to his father who in now Marty’s age. About this time Biff and his cronies come in and yell for McFy, the father George. Biff raps on George’s head and demands that he do his homework for him. When George agrees to do the work, Biff and company leave.
Marty states at George and Goldie Wilson, a young African-American worker comes over and tells George to have some pride and stand up for himself. Goldie says he is going to be someone and Marty says yeah mayor first putting the idea in Goldie’s head. George slips out while Goldie is talking. Marty follows and finds George in a tree spying on a young Lorraine with a pair of binoculars. George falls out of the tree and Mary pushes him to safety causing his maternal grandfather to hit him with a car changing the timeline.
When Marty comes to he is in the bedroom with a younger version of his mother Loraine who has a crush on him like she should have for George. She keeps calling him Calvin and says it was written on his underwear. She tries to kiss Marty but is stopped when her mother calls supper.
At dinner, Marty meets younger versions of his aunts and uncles. Uncle Joey, the jailbird, cries when he is taken out of his crib, preferring the bars. Marty uses some anti-chrons at supper like rerun and referring to a street as JFK Drive. After supper, he heads to Doc’s house and his grandfather says he is an idiot and if Lorraine ever had any kids like that he will disown her.
When Marty gets to Doc’s house, the Doc does not recognize him. He immediately slaps a mind reading machine on Marty’s head that doesn’t do anything. Doc has a bandage on his head from when his discovered the flux capacitor. Marty tries to tell Doc the true story but the Doc does not believe him. Marty shows the Doc a picture of himself with his brother and sister. Doc says it’s a poor fake because they cut off his brother’s hair. Finally, Marty talks about the wound and the flux capacitor. The two drive out to the hidden time machine. Doc is amazed by his own work.
They take the DeLorean back to Doc’s lab and Marty hooks up the video camera to a TV. Doc is really happy until he hears about the 1.21 gigawatts because it is impossible to get plutonium in 1955 and only lighting generates that much power. But you can never tell where lighting will strike. Marty shows Doc the save the clock tower flyer and they have until next Saturday to get it read. Doc utters the line that he is sending Marty back to the future.
Doc is concerned that Marty may change the future in a week. Marty tells Doc that he prevented the first meeting of his parents. Doc looks at Marty’s photo and more of his brother is gone. Marty and the Doc know they have to fix the future.
Doc and Marty go to the high school and George is getting kicked in the butt because he is wearing a “kick me” sign. Principal Strickland takes the sign off and calls George a slacker. George is such a loser that he believes Lorraine can only fall in love with him through the Florence Nightingale effect when patient and caregivers fall for each other.
Marty tries to befriend George and introduces him to Lorraine. She is only interested in Marty. Marty plans to make sure that his parents go the Enchantment Under the Sea dance together. When he talks to George, he finds out that his father writes science fiction stories. George has a fear of rejection over his stories and asking Lorraine out. Biff comes over and starts grabbing on Lorraine. Marty stands up to Biff but the fight never starts because Strickland shows up.
George keeps refusing to ask Lorraine out and his brother is almost gone. George says no one on the planet could make him change his mind. That night Marty puts on the radiation suit, goes to George’s room, and attaches the Walkman Headphones to George’s ears. Marty blasts Van Halen music into George’s ears. He says he is Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan.
The next morning George is ready to ask Lorraine out as he has been instructed by the alien, or have his brain melted . Marty gives him the lines to use but once they get to Lou’s Dinner he messes them up. Lorraine is starting to warm up to George when Biff and company come in and demands money from George to be at the dinner. Marty trips Biff and hits home before he escapes. Marty takes a kids push scooter and turns it into a skateboard. Biff and company follow in a car but Marty gets away as they crash into a manure truck and the car is filled with dung. After watching Lorraine is more in love with Marty.
When he gets back to the lab, Doc is watching the part of himself being killed. Doc is adamant that he does not want to know the future. Doc shows the plan on a scale model and the car burst into flames.
Lorraine has found out where Marty is staying and she shows up. She invites him to the dance and he tries to push George but he finally accepts. Lorraine says she wants a man who can protect her. The come up with a plan to make Lorraine made and have George come to the rescue.
Saturday night arrives and he and Doc are down at the clock getting ready to charge the car with the lighting bold. Marty tries to talk to Doc about the future again but the Doc refuses. Marty rights him a note warning him about being shot. He slips the note into Doc coat pocket.
George goes to the dance where Marvin Berry and the Starlighters are playing. Marty and Lorraine show up and park. Lorraine is drinking and smoking. Marty’s is shocked at how wild his mother is. George goes outside to execute the plan. Lorraine kisses Marty but says it’s like kissing her brother.
Just then the door to the car opens, but it’s not George, it’s Biff. Biff jumps in the car and starts raping Lorraine. The lock Marty in the band’s trunk. All the members are inside smoking a J just like good jazz musicians. They chase Biff’s gang away and Marty says the keys are in the trunk.
Meanwhile, George goes to save Lorraine but when he see Biff he freezes. Lorraine is begging for help. Biff gets the advantage on George. Marvin Berry cuts his guitar hand with a screw drive trying to get Marty out of the trunk. Biff slams Lorraine to the ground and George is filled with rage. He knocks Biff out with a single punch. Lorraine and George go to the dance together but Marty’s picture is still erasing. However, since the band can’t play so the kiss can’t happen. Mary agrees to fill in and they begin with “Earth Angel.”
Lorraine asks George to kiss her but he is too shy. Marty begins missing notes on the guitar as he is slowly vanishing from the picture. A guy cuts in on the dance and separates George and Lorraine. Lorraine calls fro George and he finally comes to her rescue and kisses her. Marty pops back up and can play again as the figures return to the picture.
With the future restored, Marty has time for one more song. He picks a blues riff in B, “Johnny Be Goode” by Chuck Berry. During the driving solo, Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck Berry to give him the musical sound he has been looking for. The dancers and the band are shocked as Marty uses moves from Chuck Berry and other guitar greats.
Marty heads downtown to meet with Doc. Doc discovers the note and tears it up. As time is running out a branch falls on the electrical line. Doc is trying to re-hook the cable by climbing on the clock tower. This is where we come back to Harold Lloyd. The whole scene with Doc hanging on the clock is an homage to the clock scene in Safety Last (1923) where Harold Lloyd goes through the same struggles. The fact that Christopher and Harold had the same last name makes it even funnier.
Marty heads to the DeLoran and sets the timer 10 minutes earlier to save Doc. However, the car conks out. He gets it going and hits the hanging wire just as the lighting strikes. The car vanishes into the future and Doc dances a gig in the street. Back in modern time, the car breaks again. Marty sees the Libyan VW pass by. He has to run to the mall which is now named the Lone Pine Mall as Marty killed the other in the past.
He arrives in time to see Doc shoot down and himself travel into the future. When Marty travels to the future the Libyan crash into a photo booth. Marty runs to Doc who is wearing a bulletproof vest having read Marty’s letter.
Doc takes Marty home and says he is going 30 years into the future. They say their goodbyes and Doc heads off into the future with a flash.
In the morning he wakes up and his sister has many boyfriends, his brother is an executive, and the parents come in looking healthy after playing tennis. Lorraine like Jennifer now. Biff is an auto detail guy now and George clearly is the alpha. Biff comes running in with a box of George’s new novel, “A Match Made in Space.” Biff gives Marty a set of keys and he goes to the garage to find that he owns the Toyota truck. Jennifer shows up for the camping trip and they kiss. Just then Doc flies back in with the DeLorean. This time he uses recycled garbage to boxer the machine using a Mr. Fusion that looks like a Mr. Coffee machine.
Doc says Marty and Jennifer have to come to the future with him because there is a problem with their kids. Doc has converted the DeLorean into a flying machine and they fly into the future. To be continued shows on the screen.
I just have one thing that I can’t seem to shake. Did Marty just help black people, such as Goldie Wilson and Chuck Berry, in the past accomplish their goals? But he brought what they arleady did from the future and showed it to them in thge past so he could learn int in the future… I can’t figure it all out now. Seem a little like the Tarzan syndrome.
World-Famous Short Summary – Couple has problems going to a camping trip
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Beware the moors
Back to the Future (1985)
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