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Movies you missed: Back to the Future


Now it's time for Movies You Missed.


HUMPHREY BOGART: (As Rick Blaine) Here's looking at you, kid.

CLARK GABLE: (As Rhett Butler) Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

MARLON BRANDO: (As Terry Malloy) I could have been a contender.

BETTE DAVIS: (As Margo Channing) Fasten your seatbelts.

CUBA GOODING JR: (As Rod Tidwell) Show me the money.

ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Travis Bickle) You talking to me?

ESTELLE REINER: (As Older Woman Customer) I'll have what she's having.

OPRAH WINFREY: (As Sofia) I ain't never thought I had to fight in my own house.

BRANDO: (As Stanley Kowalski) Stella.

SIMON: What were our parents like, in their early, rowdy teen years?


MICHAEL J FOX: (As Marty McFly) Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?

CHRISTOPHER LLOYD: (As "Doc" Brown) The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

SIMON: "Back To The Future" - the 1985 film directed by Robert Zemeckis, with Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Michael J. Fox as the kid who accidentally gets sent back to 1955 and has to keep his parents together so he can come into being. The movie led to two sequels, a theme park ride, a London musical. But Marc Rivers, a producer on NPR's Morning Edition, has managed to never see it. So we asked him to watch it this week. Marc, thanks so much for being with us.

MARC RIVERS, BYLINE: Thank you for having me, Scott. Appreciate it.

SIMON: Out of curiosity, how did you manage to miss it in all its incarnations?

RIVERS: So, you know, on one level, I think I didn't miss it. You know, it's become so much a part of the culture, I feel like I just experienced it through some kind of osmosis. But yeah, I mean, a lot of these movies from the '80s were about kids just, you know, having a good time or going on some adventure. And I just noticed that many of these movies just didn't have Black people in them. You know, it was "E.T." or "Animal House," "The Goonies," "Ferris Bueller," whatever. It just kind of, like, irked me, and I thought, well, if they're not going to acknowledge my existence, let me just not acknowledge them. And it was kind of only later on, as I started to appreciate movies as not only entertainment but also kind of interesting time capsules, that I started to catch up on a few of them, but "Back To The Future" just kind of fell through the cracks.

SIMON: You saw it this week, at our request. What did you think?

RIVERS: I thought it was fun. It's funny - it was the highest-grossing movie of its year, but, like, the DeLorean special effects probably couldn't pay for the catering at a Marvel movie, so I kind of appreciated how low stakes it was. You know, this kid, Marty McFly - he just wants to save his parents' marriage and, you know, keep himself existing. It's not like millions of lives are at stake. It's just his own, you know? So I thought it was cute. It was funny. The soundtrack is, like, very '80s, and the score is really lovely. Crispin Glover is really adorable as this feeble old man that his son has to turn him into this better man.

SIMON: Yes, that's very '50s sitcom culture.

RIVERS: Yeah, for sure. And yeah, I mean, I kind of heard before watching it about the ickiness where his - he would go back in time, and his mother kind of had the hots for him.

SIMON: Yeah.


FOX: (As Marty McFly) Where are my pants?

LEA THOMPSON: (As Lorraine Baines) Over there, on my hope chest. I've never seen purple underwear before, Calvin.

FOX: (As Marty McFly) Calvin. Why do you keep calling me Calvin?

THOMPSON: (As Lorraine Baines) Well, that is your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear.

SIMON: Let me ask you about Michael J. Fox's performance. He was a well-known TV star, but he was not the first choice. Eric Stoltz was. They even did a few shots with Eric Stoltz, which I think you can find on YouTube now. This was the film that confirmed a future in movies for Michael J. Fox. What did you think of his performance?

RIVERS: I thought his character was really cool 'cause he has a kind of nerdy voice, so you think he's kind of nerdy, and, you know, he's palling around with this weird mad scientist, played by Christopher Lloyd. But he's also really cool. He has this really, like, hot girlfriend, and, you know, he plays the guitar, you know? And obviously a sign of any cool teenager is that the principal hates him, you know? And I feel like a lot of kids probably growing up watching him probably thought, well, yeah, like, you know, maybe I sound like a nerd, but maybe I can get the hot girl like Marty McFly.

SIMON: Is the essential comic character Christopher Lloyd as "Doc" Brown?

RIVERS: Yes. I'd seen Lloyd previously in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." And honestly, he's kind of - this role isn't, like, too far off from that role, as far as playing this guy who definitely feels a little bit unhinged. But he's just so watchable - like, just his energy. You know, he's kind of, like, vibrating on the screen. I was kind of shocked when they just, like, killed him off in the first act with - it was Libyan terrorists. I did not see that coming. Scott, you might know the history, but, like, I did not expect Libyan terrorists to show up in this movie.


LLOYD: (As "Doc" Brown) Oh, my God. They found me. I don't know how, but they found me. Run for it, Marty.

FOX: (As Marty McFly) Who? Who?

LLOYD: (As "Doc" Brown) Who do you think? The Libyans.

SIMON: But there was a history there, yes.

RIVERS: OK, yeah. So, yeah, that was really kind of like, oh. But yeah, Lloyd was hilarious. And yeah, he was definitely one of the highlights for me.

SIMON: When I first saw the film, you know, I thought it was prolonged nostalgia. Growing up and becoming a parent has helped me realize it's also about the fact that it would really be neat to be able to know our parents when they were our age.

RIVERS: Yeah, I do think that's definitely probably the sweetest, most poignant part of it. You know, I look at old photographs of my parents, and I think about how cool it would be to kind of know them at that age. They look so cool. They look so in command and - you know, and their fashion. And that's definitely one of the draws for this movie, is connecting to those feelings. One way that the movie showed that it was interested in that is that they have Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson - they use makeup to make them look older. And it kind of just reminded me of how I would imagine some parents still feel at heart how - maybe how they were in college or in high school, even though in reality they're not that age anymore. What kid wouldn't want to see what their parents were like when they were their own age? As long as that parent doesn't then have the hots for them, I feel like it would be a cool thing to experience.

SIMON: I was glad you added that. Marc Rivers is a producer on NPR's Morning Edition. Marc, thank you so much for your reflections.

RIVERS: Thank you, Scott. It's a pleasure.

SIMON: If there's a movie you've missed, tell us about it at n.pr/moviesyoumissed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Marc Rivers
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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