They say history repeats and never has this been truer than in the Back to the Future trilogy. No matter how many years separate these characters, no matter how many changes they make to the space time continuum, no matter what alternate reality they end up in; some things will just always continue to happen. Is this destiny? Deja vu ? Coincidence? Though ripe for the opportunity, the series never does give any of those credence but it is definitely food for thought here at Novastream. All three movies are chock full of parallels and references to past events in the series which is why, now that we have firmly descended on Hill Valley, California 4:29 PM on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 we submit to you: The Best “Back to the Future” Callbacks.
Bullies: If there’s three constants in life its death, taxes and bullies and Thomas F. Wilson played three of the best. In each movie he walks in to the same location calling out a McFly and each time there’s a case of mistaken identity.
In Part I the establishment in 1955 is known as Lou’s cafe and Biff Tannen bursts in yelling “Hey, McFly, I thought I told you never to come in here” causing Marty to turn around thinking he’s talking to him but it’s actually his teenage Father George McFly sitting beside him. In Part II the establishment in 2015 is now known as the Cafe 80’s and Biff’s grandson Griff Tannen comes in yelling “Hey, McFly, I thought I told you to stay in here!” mistaking Marty for his son Marty McFly Junior. In Part III the establishment known back in 1885 as the Palace Saloon has Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen waltzes in yelling “Hey McFly, I thought I done told you never to come in here” mistaking him for Marty’s Great-Great-Grandfather Seamus McFly. Same location, same conflict with the butting of heads between an ego tripping Tannen and the never back down attitude of Marty McFly separated by 130 years but always resulting in..
A Chase: All three movies feature Marty McFly chased through the Hill Valley town square by a Tannen.
In Part I he borrows a little boys soap box scooter, tearing the box off and turning it in to a makeshift skateboard while being pursued by Biff and his gang in his Ford Super De Luxe. In Part II he he borrows a little girls’ Hoverboard tearing off the handle and again turns it in to a makeshift skateboard while being pursued by Griff and his gang on Hoverboards and a rocket powered Pitbull. In Part III he is chased out on to the street and pursued on foot until Tannen’s gang, this time mounted on Horses pull him along by rope. The last being least ideal of the three modes of transport and the only time Tannen manages to actually catch Marty, before he is saved by Doc Brown when they attempt to hang him from the clock tower. Which brings us to …
The Clock Tower: Though the Deloreon can travel through the time it cannot travel through space. Now I don’t mean outer space amongst stars and planets, I mean you can’t end up in Japan or Italy you can only travel in time from the place you left, which is why Hill Valley is an intricate part of the mythology. As much as its appearance changes over the decades there is one constant, the Hill Valley clock tower.
In Part I it’s used to conduct enough electricity to give the Deloroen 1.21 Gigawatt’s to get home through a lightning strike. In Part II it’s the courthouse that Griff and his goons crash into and in the process free Marty’s son from a sentence in prison and in Part III it is only just being built and the place where Marty and Doc take a special photo for dexterity. In real life the clock tower is part of the Universal Studios back lot known as “Courthouse Square” and has been used in many other famous movies across the years including To Kill a Mockingbird, Gremlins and Bruce Almighty.
Manure: For all the shit that Biff dishes out he sure gets in to a lot of shit himself, literally. Each movie results in Tannen covered in manure, twice for Biff personally.
Part I sees Marty leap over the top of Biff’s car, as he and his gang pull sharply to stop the car from running directly in to the back of a manure the truck they instead knock open the tail gate tipping the contents directly in to the convertible car. Part II sees him again careen his car only just having it cleaned from the first incident the day before after Marty plays chicken with him down on a long tunnel and his hoisted out of the way at the last minute by Doc in the flying Deloreon again running in to a manure truck and filling his convertible car. Part III sees him knocked out by Marty with a steel furnace cover hidden under his poncho and he falls directly in to the back of a manure cart face first, copping a mouth full. Speaking of which…
See My Vest: Everybody knows the name Clint Eastwood nowadays but in 1885 not so much, when Marty proudly declares himself as “Eastwood, Clint Eastwood” it’s met with blank stares. In Part III Marty McFly defeats Buford Tannen in a shoot out by wearing a metal plate underneath his poncho and using it as a makeshift bullet proof vest.
In a very subtle moment of foreshadowing that took me years of re-watching to notice, in Back to the Future Part II Biff is watching “A Fistful of Dollars” where Clint Eastwood’s man with no name is facing off against the towns bully and uses a metal plate hidden under his poncho as a bullet proof vest. Biff even specifically comments on the scene “bullet proof vest, classic”.
Good Old: In each movie Marty is knocked out and slowly regains consciousness while being tended to by Lea Thompson, quickly followed by reassurance that he’s safe and sound.
In Part I it’s after he’s hit by a car and wakes to be assured “you’re safe and sound now, back in good old 1955”. In Part II it’s after being knocked out by Biff’s goons out the front of the alternate 1985 clock tower casino and wakes to be assured “you’re safe and sound now, back on the good old 27th floor” and in Part III falls down a hill after being chased by a bear and knocks his head on a wooden fence waking to be assured ‘you’re safe and sound here now, at the McFly Farm”.
Pine Trees: Not all callbacks span the entire trilogy though, in fact one of the best is saved just for the 1985 original. When Marty meets Doc at the mall to see the Deloroen for the first time the mall is known as the Twin Pines Mall. Doc reminisces about when the parking lot used to be farm land as far as the eye could see and was tended to by Old man Peabody who had a wild idea about breeding pine trees. When Marty abruptly arrives back in 1985 a farmer and his family mistake him for an invader from outer space firing their shotgun at the Deloreon. Marty races away and accidentally knocks down one of two pine trees on the farmer’s property. On returning to 1985 Marty arrives at the same mall but with one very subtle difference, the sign now reads Lone Pine Mall, the tiniest hint that the timeline Marty has returned to is an alternate one.
Posters: Last but not least, the references aren’t only limited to screen time, the iconic poster of Marty standing one foot in the Deloreon checking his digital watch is actually an artwork by the famous movie poster artist Drew Struzan who is most notably known for his work on the Star Wars posters and whose work continues to influence right up to this months new Force Awakens poster.
Each sequels’ poster is a slight variant on the first. Part II adds Doc Brown, the Deloreon has it’s wheels upturned incorporating it’s new hover conversion and Marty is dressed in his future attire. Part III adds Clara, the Deloreon is on railway tracks, the three are all dressed in their western attire and instead of checking their watches are looking at pocket watches. Those are just a few of the references that make the Back to the Future movies such classics and why the series still has a firm hold in the public consciousness today. Everyone knows about Hoverboards and Deloreons, dig a little deeper some may be able to tell you about power-laces and flux capacitors.
But if I told you one of your favourite movies of all time was about a young teenage boy whose only friend, a creepy old man, lures him to a car park at 1:00 am in the morning to film him testing out his new car you’d look at me confused. If I told you that it was also about Libyan terrorists shooting that old man down for stealing nuclear material and the boy is left no choice but to travel back in time and do his best to stop his Mother from having sex with him you’d think I was weird. But if I told you I was talking about Back to the Future, well… you’d probably still think I was weird for describing it that way, but think about it, essentially that is the plot and all those odd things do indeed happen albeit taken out of context. But it’s the way it’s told that keeps audiences talking about it to this day.
Transcending genre the Back to the Future trilogy is part science fiction, part comedy, part romance, part adventure and even part western, what other series can you say manages that feat. The fact that it has such iconic characters, perfect performances, memorable score, great soundtrack, is thoroughly fun, heartfelt, funny and (for a time travel movie) coherent and yet still manages to have so many layers to it that rewards repeat viewings boggles my mind to this day. If it were made to today it would be scrutinised in depth, torn apart for its inaccuracies, TV actor casting choices and troubled production but Back to the Future is as timeless now as it was back in 1985, to celebrate it’s 30 year anniversary do yourself a favour and go back to the future at least once again in 2015.
Written by Dylan Boaden.