88 miles per hour?!

This is more than just a trilogy.  This is a superb cure for all known ills, and quite possibly the most robust comic science fiction trilogy it has been my good fortune to come across.   I first saw Back to the Future on a hot balmy day in July 1987 and it is unblemished by time.  The second part of the trilogy I saw at the now defunct Cannon Cinema in Watford (before someone had the good idea of demolishing it) and for the third one I returned to the same, now demolished, cinema with my parents and got told off by the man who owned the Italian restaurant next door, because I selfishly dumped my empty popcorn box into his pot plants.  Halcyon days. 

The cinema now languishing in the distorted memories of those in West Watford and which was demolished in the mid-1990s is here, in all it’s glory:

Christ, it’s beautiful.  It looked a lot like that when it was open (but with more protective metal sheeting).  but it took nothing away from the sheer glamour of Back to the Future II.  Very little could.

The beauty of The Back to the Future trilogy was that it gamely cashed in not only teenagers, but their parents too.  The original film, released in 1985, glanced back to the 1950s with a particular 1980s slant, much as Peggy Sue Got Married tried to do in 1986, but Peggy Sue failed miserably in a nonsensical closing section involving in the following order: Freemasonry, sex in greenhouses, a man in a scary cloak and Nicholas Cage in an even scarier beard.  Back to the Future excelled because it had more charm, was superbly funny and briskly confused us with bizarre 1980s teen-flick science. 

Oh, how we chuckled at the Oedipal nastiness of Marty McFly being sexually harassed by his own mother. And how we nodded sagely when we noted the son teaching the father life skills, or when the mad scientist turned out to be the sanest one of all.  What we didn’t nod sagely at, however, was that Marty McFly’s girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, changed heads between movie No 1 and movie No 2.  in the first film she was played by an actress with a background in opera called Claudia Wells, who was seamlessly replaced by Elisabeth Shue, amidst rumours that the first actress had had some kind of nervous seizure.   For those who wish to time travel back to 1985 in order to time travel to 1955 : here are some sights for sore eyes: 

Here is Marty trying not to be seduced by his mother in 1955 Hill Valley.

Imitation Marty
Now, this is not a real Marty.  This is a Marty suit.  Which you can actually buy for $29.99.  Price does not include quizzical question of Californian teen bamboozled by notion of time travel.


This is a confused looking Biff Tannen – high school bully, and Lorraine Baines-chasing lunatic who George McFly quite sensibly smashed the jaw of during the high school dance.  Here he is in all his green tracksuited glory in 1985 Hill Valley looking like an old lady.  He is pretending to wax a BMW in his servile role as George McFly’s slavey. 

Doc Brown.  He’s gorgeous with a capital “G” , isn’t he? Oh, hang on – I meant him:

Michael J Fox – blessed by shortness of stature and prettiness of face, he was able to spend most of the 1980s playing 17 year olds, and no one seemed to mind that he was rapidly approaching thirty.  A small chap with a very large pay packet.  Oh, think of the horror had the initial casting director’s desire of Eric Stolz actually happened – Jesus, ladies – think of it! Thank goodness they saw the light, and realised the future was M J Fox.  Eric Stolz, on the other hand, appeared to have fallen through a space time continuum all of his own since Memphis Belle.


Lady on the left is Jennifer No 1 from the first film.  Lady on the right in appalling “Jennifer 1” wig is Jennifer No 2 from the second and third films.  Marty McFly certainly didn’t seem able to tell them apart.  Both of them struggled with a vastly underwritten role and an unfortunate propensity to wear body warmers.


Here is Marty McFly, the hip hepcat, teaching those square kids of the 1950s what la Rock and Roll was really all about. What it was about was ruining the palpable tension of an excellent plot by indulging the young star by letting him do his 50s rocker impression.  It did, however, provide relief from the bizarre oedipal complexes that ran riot through the movie.  At the moment Marty sings this his parents have – mercifully – decided to only fancy each other.  This is Marty’s “Phew, I’m off the hook” song.  God, he’s hip.  Nice shoes.

And if you thought those shoes were cool, check out these self-lacing 2015 power sneakers.  You better. We’re all going to be wearing them in about four years (apparently).  These are the real size.  MJ Fox is rather small:

Here is Marty buzzing around the Twin Pines Mall in 1985 California, presumably the only place in a Southern Californian town where there is enough space to get up to 88 miles per hour.  And he gets to be chased by Libyans, another hugely unlikely scenario for Hill Valley, where the most exciting thing that happened to date was George McFly getting his tie caught in his typewriter.

It wasn’t meant to be a trilogy at all.  The last scene of the first movie, in which Doc, Marty and Jennifer take to the skies in a bid to go to the future to save their children, was a joke.  Robert Zemeckis must have broken out in a cold sweat when he had to try to make sense of that final scene from the first movie as the opening one of the second.  Subsequently, early on in the second film, Jennifer, being surplus to the plot, is mercilessly dumped in an alley and drugged so that the Doc and Marty can continue their adventures through time.  Nice.  In addition, you needed A Level knowledge of Back to the Future Part I to even know part of what was going on in Back to the Future Part 2 because the plot was so convoluted.  It’s the weakest of the bunch.  Thank goodness Back to the Future Part 3 returned to class form with a formulaic Western, and tied up the loosening plot points quite nearly.  It’s amazing what you can do with 1.21 gigawatts, kids.

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2 responses to “88 miles per hour?!

  1. Wow, I’ve been watching the BTTF trilogy films practically on a constant loop since 1985, and I’m not sure that I ever actually knew there were 2 Jennifers! There was always something strange about Jennifer 2 that I could never quite put my finger on. Now all is clear… Can’t WAIT for the hoverboards to go into production! Also looking forward to cellphones falling into disuse in the next four years. Bring it on!

  2. Pingback: 2010 – the view from here… « THE LONDON BLUEBIRD

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