Best Decade for Films – The 80s – It’s your kids Marty! – Part II

When I saw Back to the Future I didn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to make a sequel, but they did.

It took a relatively short number of years to take the sequel to the massive time travelling hit Back to the Future and to save money and time Back to the Future Part II and Part III were made back to back.  The production could continue and the rapidly aging cast particularly the youthful Michael J Fox was 27 when BTTF2 was being made. If they waited he’d be in his 30 another four years later. So we got two new BTTF movies within a year. The only other films that I know made like that at the time were Superman and Superman 2 and later in 2003, the Matrix sequels.

Worldwide BTTF had made over $210 million at the box office based on a $19 million budget at that time. If you compare that number to The Empire Strikes Back with a box office of over $220 million on a budget of $18 million in ’79.

The end of BTTF teased a possible sequel, but director Robert Zemeckis said that this was never planned until they discovered how popular it had become and how much money they’d made. I guess he figured…. What the hell! 🙂

The “To Be Continued” is remembered by all, but this wasn’t actually added to the film until the Home Video release in 1986 whilst the sequels were being planned.

Speaking of VHS copies of BTTF I do remember owning the CIC VHS copy of the Back the the Future films and colleting them as they came out. When the trilogy was completed I got the trilogy box set which included an extra VHS containing a cheesy made for TV documentary “The Secrets of the Back the the Future Trilogy” in a flinzy cardboard box.

Since then I now own two DVD box sets, one steelbook and lots of fun extras. I still have to get a Bluray or 4K version. Call myself a fan?! Sheesh!

This documentary just so happens to have thrown on to Youtube, through nefarious means. That’s nice.

Where they were going they didn’t need roads, but they did need to make some changed to make everything work.

Marty’s girlfriend played by Claudia Wells in the original film, had put he acting career on hold when her mother was diagnosed with cancer so Elisabeth Shue was cast in the role. At the time I did recognise her from her previous acting roles in The Karate Kid (1984) and one of my all time favourite Chris Columbus directed Adventures in Babysitting (1987). This meant that some of the shots from the end of BTTF had to be reshot and integrated for the beginning of BTTF2.

Another possible actor issue was Crispin Glover. Bob Gale had had some problems during the making of BTTF with Crispin, but due to the success of the character they did actually decide to invite him back for a second outing. Unfortunately due to some extensive demands and an extortionate fee and the fact that according to a 1990 George McFly lawsuit, he didn’t like the script. Ultimately it came down it being totally impractical and they decided to recast. An actor who previously worked with Crispin, Jeffrey Weissman ultimately took the part.

It was discovered during the George Mcfly lawsuits that a mold of Crispin’s face from BTTF 1, was used to recreate Crispin’s face on the replacement actor. This became part of the lawsuit to protect an actors image.

BTTF 2 Family portrait

Even the newspaper article about the death of George, featured a rather convincing Jeffrey Weissman.

They did settle on a fee and Crispin is proud to have changed the Screen Actors Guild rules of the use and control of their own image. If you see a long dead actors image used in a film or advert their estate need to approve and money will change hands.

Between 1988 and 1989, I had just finished my second year of my HND in Computer Studies at Newcastle Polytechnic. During that time, I had been on placement at the now vanished Dunlop tyres in Washington, Tyne and Wear, programming in Pascal and working on the main factory floor fixing computers. There was also some statistical fun with the thicknesses of tyre tread, I loved it, I got paid.

Down in the bottom right was the factory shop where you could buy tennis balls and cheap trainers.

In about September 1989 I returned to my studies at the Poly, which is now in the 21st Century known as the “University of Northumbria at Newcastle”. A bit of a mouthful for something that back in the day was simply known as Newcastle Poly.

In the UK, Back to the Future 2 was released on the 24th of November 1989, by that time I’d returned to my desk and computer studies and was also the perfect opportunity to spend any spare time outside of studies going to the cinema. In my first year of studies at Newcastle Poly I spent my year watching classic films like RoboCop, Innerspace, Fatal Attraction, Predator and Spaceballs at the local Newcastle Cannon and Odeon cinemas.

At the end of the 80s, began the boom for multiscreen cinemas after a mid decade lull is cinema audiences. Probably due to the fact that you could pop down to the local news agent, grabs snacks, rent a movie and watch it at home.

In 1989 Warner Bros decided to open a brand new cinema in Newcastle, during the summer, near Manors Metro station.

This was my first proper encounter with a multi screen cinema. Most of the other cinemas at that time, were retrofitted for additional screens, either by removing or modifying balconies or sectioning off larger screens. This was all brand new.

Opening early December by Phillip Schofield, Caron Keating and the Byker Grove cast, this was a magnificent brand new building with tiled floors and lots of shiny surfaces. The following night Kylie Minogue also attended a premiere opening. This was the same year Kylie was breaking into film with her fondly remembered film “The Delinquents”. Which we all fondly remember… right? This just happened to be distributed by Village Roadshow Pictures with co productions with Warner Brothers Studios.

Some of the other cinemas in Newcastle at the time were a little outdated and the seating was rather uncomfortable and worn so having a pop superstar on hand to open it was great. I still remember that worn seating rather fondly.

This was a brand new Back to the Future film and I fully intended to see this film on the best quality screen in the best seats possible. That included the comfy seats with plenty of padding and the popcorn and drink available in the foyer. With it’s nine screens, 3,384 seats and parking for 800 vehicles, it’s sad to remember that some films I did see, there had very few attendees in the mid-afternoon showings.

Unfortunately it only lasted until 2004 where was bulldozed and replaced by New University buildings.

With BBTF2 released in 1989, the year 2015 seemed a long way away. By the time I’d hit 2015, I would be 47 years old. That’s really, really old from the perspective of a 1989 kid.

At this moment, at the time of writing, 2015 was 6 years ago, and now I am really, really old or at least feel it.

Everything in the film from 2015, seemed to feel like it could be in the future. We would have flying cars and hover boards by then, I’m sure of it, super cool. The only thing missing are the personal rocket packs, that had already been invented by Howard Hughes in the 40s. Well, that was according to the Rocketeer. Another of my favourite films at the time, an amazing character inspired by classic Saturday morning serials like King of the Rocketmen, and created by the late, great Dave Stevens.

It was great fun to see the actors playing alternative older, younger and female versions of themselves.

In one particular favourite scene, they managed to create a unique visual effect shot with three different versions of MJ Fox eating pizza at the dinner table. I won’t going into too much detail but they used outdated and repurposed vista vision cameras, a carefully built and dressed set, and a well choreographed sequence combined with a motion control camera rig. One of my favourite scenes from the film. They even managed to create it during an earthquake.

Check out Captain Disillusion that explains some of the motion control

BTTF 2 was a fun mix future tech, hoverboards, flying cars, self lacing shoes, a jacket that would dry itself.

I always found the landing Delorean scene in the back alley to be amusing when you notice that the trash in the background are wrapped up laser disks.

This was done practically with a large crane hidden by a black slot in the wall next the the car slowly lowering it to the ground.

I love that Delorean. I wanted a full size one of my very own. The flying version is my favourite of them all. The folding wheels, Mr Fusion, the lights on the underside of the chassis. That was why when I got the opportunity I managed to build the Delorean part works produced by Eaglemoss. Well, I spent two years building the wife a Millenium Falcon, now it was my turn.

Did I tell you that the stainless steel construction makes the flux dispersal….? never mind.

She’s not letting me start an Ecto-1 and they’ve just announced a Galaxy Class Enterprise… so many things, so little money.

I did make myself a cardboard Hoverboard back at one event…. I’ll have to find that photo.

Back to the story.

It also contained some dark turns and all because Marty McFly broke some rules about time travel. Coming back from future with future knowledge and the ability to change future events is a really bad thing. Did I overuse the word future just then?

You’d think he’d learn that from the first film. If they had just kept the Sports Almanac with them, none of it would have occurred. But you had to put some blame on Dr Brown for flying out of town outside Marty’s house at the end of Back to the Future. If Biff hadn’t spotted the flying DeLorean in 1985, he wouldn’t have got the idea in his head to change the past and make his life better from 2015. That’s the fun of the film. We could discuss this for ages.

With a larger budget it was possible to show various different versions of characters and places. Biff takes on a Trump-like persona with his own version of Trump tower, Biff Tannen’s Pleasure Paradise. Possession of the Almanac has meant that George McFly is dead and Biff has made his millions from gambling. The plot of the film takes Doc and Marty back to 1955 to find the time when future 2015 Biff gives 1955 Biff the book so that they can recover and destroy it before 50s Biff gets chance to make any money, thus fixing the timeline.

In the 50s setting, we get to see amazing alternate scenes based around the sequences from the first film interweaving with familiar settings like the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance with two Marty’s, two Docs, and two Biffs. Thankfully they had the idea to leave Jennifer in the alternate ’85 timeline accidentally and luckily she would wake up with the world around her corrected. What about alternate Jennifer, Marty and Doc in 1985? How come they didn’t disappear when Biff changed the timeline? I’m not going to argue with that idea, but it would make the film even more complicated if they took Jennifer to the 50s and make her think that her visit to the future was a bad dream.

At the time I do remember thinking about how Back to the Future 2 was unique. Being able to go back into the first film and weave familiar and new sequences together fairly seamlessly. I loved it. A slightly old Marty was a little bit of distraction when they had to go back to the 50s Marty, but no matter.

Following the twists and Turns of the movie’s past, present and future, the Almanac had been burned in a bucket, 50s Biff Tannen stuck in a manure truck again, the film finished on a cliffhanger.

THE lightening storm sends our Dr Emmett Brown and the time machine back to the Old West in 1885, unbeknownst to Marty. That’s one storm that sends two Delorean time machines back and forward in time, 100 years apart.

In the pouring rain with what looked like all was lost, Marty received a hand written letter telling him not to go and find him, but he was safe in 1885.

This was exciting stuff. I was on the edge of my comfy Warner Brothers seat.

Problem was that our Marty McFly was stuck in 1955 with no time machine and the ’50s Dr Emmett Brown for help.

We only hear the first part of the letter with Marty finding out that the Doc is in the old west. It’s not until Part 3 when we discover the Doc left instructions on the location of the Delorean he buried and how to fix it. He would need the help of 1955 Doc to be able to get back to the future or so we thought at that point. Again we don’t find out until part 3 that Doc was gunned down by old west Biff Tannen.

Marty returns to Doc after the BTTF Part 1 Delorean returns to 1985. We see Doc celebrating the lightning strike return and then we see Marty run down the street towards Doc who doesn’t believe it, and faints. Roll credits.

Thankfully we had a preview about the next film, as a short sequence/trailer was shown, Western themed Back to the Future music by Alan Silvestri, blazing a trail. Great to see a preview of Marty and Doc playing cowboys in the Old West and thankfully we didn’t have that long to wait as the film was due to be released in the following summer of 1990.

I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack, who wouldn’t. Though I do wish now I bought it on LP instead of cassette. Cassette at that time was my music medium of choice. At that time I tended to walk around with a Walkman on my belt, listening to anything from The Art of Noise, Rocketeer soundtrack, Blues Brothers and some old 50s tunes I’d discovered. 50s you say? Yeah. it’s like someone today suddenly discovering the likes of Wham and Culture Club… let that sink in.

We would all discuss amongst our friends our predictions for the third film. You know, before the internet. These were times where we would see something, read something and then have face to face discussions in our Sci-fi fan clubs and conventions. We would present our ideas and listen to considered opposing arguments for and against. From this we would accept discussions and either changed our own thinking or disagreed and still parted on good terms. I miss those times.

I do remember one convention event between films at the Herriott Watt University. I picked up a few pieces of BTTF2 merchandise which I’ve got tucked away somewhere including film posters of some of the cars, a miniature Texaco gas station.

I did go prepared with my cardboard hover board, trilby, leather jacket and jeans. I also put together a Doc Brown outfit. For some reason we made the wig out of wool. Very bizarre, but fun.

Returning to normal home life, I spent my days making music withe Soundtracker and playing games on my Amiga 500. So I had the chance of playing BTTF2 on my Amiga in 1990.

It was a seemingly long wait until next summer but eventually we got there. See you in the next blog.

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