Back to the Future (1985)

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Released 7-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Making Of-14:29
Featurette-Making The Trilogy: Chapter 1 (15:30)
Audio Commentary-Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Outtakes-2:45
Deleted Scenes-8:50
Informational Subtitles
Featurette-Make-Up Tests (2:18)
Storyboard Comparisons-2
Gallery-4
Theatrical Trailer
dts Trailer-Piano
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 111:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Zemeckis
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Michael J. Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Lea Thompson
Crispin Glover
Thomas F. Wilson
Case Gatefold
RPI $59.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Pepsi and JVC
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Well, here it is - the first of the Big Three, the Big Three naturally being Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars (the real ones!). Actually, this is the first of the first of the Big Three - the first movie of this trilogy.

    I suspect that they weren't sure when they made this movie if they'd get funding to make the others, so this film was made able to stand by itself, or as the first of the trilogy. That's cool.

    Watching this film brought back memories - I remember seeing it in a cinema on its first run. A cinema that doesn't exist any more. Well, it was 17 years ago. I was quite impressed with the movie then. I was wondering (a few hours ago) how well it would hold up today. Now I know - it still works. A couple of the jokes don't work as well - how many people today remember the diet cola called Tab? For that matter, the Pepsi Corporation has never sold Pepsi Free (sugar free and caffeine free) here in Australia, so that joke never really worked here, but that's about it.

    There's a certain energy about this film that's lacking from the two sequels. This film starts a little slowly, but starts to pick up pace once we arrive at the shopping mall (watch closely - the shopping mall is Twin Pines the first time we see it, but changes to Lone Pine the second time - subtle). It's going full-out by the time we arrive in 1955, and never slows down again.

    If you haven't seen this movie (what planet were you on?), and don't want to know anything about the plot, then I recommend skipping to the Transfer Quality section now.

    Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) is a fairly ordinary teenager - he has something of a liking for playing guitar loud (very loud in the opening scene), he's fond of his girlfriend, he rides a skateboard, and he keeps things from his rather staid mom (Lea Thompson) - when she was a girl, one didn't behave like that. His dad (Crispin Glover) is a wimp - he is forever being picked on by Biff Tanner (Thomas F. Wilson). Marty's life isn't awful - his big tragedies are things like his band not being picked to play at the school dance, and his dad's car getting wrecked so he can't borrow it to take his girlfriend up to the lake.

    The one unusual thing in Marty's life is Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, playing one of the best eccentric scientists ever committed to celluloid). Doc Brown is an inventor. Some of his inventions work, but not all of them. He has something of an obsession with time - witness all the clocks in his house, and the wide variety of timer-controlled gadgets he has pieced together. Doc Brown has been trying to build a time machine for thirty years, ever since he was struck by the idea of the basic principle. And now he's succeeded. Of course, there's always a drawback - in this case it's the need to provide a powerful jolt of energy to initiate the time travel, and the, um, means he has chosen to get that energy.

    There are some well-thought out ideas in this film. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The absence of re-runs on 1950's TV. Lorraine thinking Marty's name is Calvin Klein, because that's what's written on his underwear. The mayoral campaigns running in 1955 and 1985 using exactly the same wording, but for different candidates. Even the reaction of a person in 1955 to the idea of a black mayor. Oh, and Marty's reaction to discovering what his mother was really like when she was his age...

    The best part about watching this movie on DVD is that once it's over you can watch it again, or go on to the second film in the trilogy. Yes, now you, too, can go Back to the Feature... (Ed. Ouch)

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD has a superb transfer that is very pleasant to watch (and to review!).

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. Would you expect anything less? Universal have been very good about sticking the the original aspect ratios on their DVDs, and this disc is no exception.

    The picture is sharp and clear and is very pleasant to watch. Close-ups are incredibly detailed - have a look at the skin texture on Christopher Lloyd's neck, for example. Shadow detail is excellent. There is virtually no low-level noise, other than some trivial noise in some of the darker shots of the clock tower, and that is probably minor film grain as a result of filming in dark lighting conditions.

    Colour is very good. It's a tiny bit dull compared to a film of today, but the difference is small, and attributable to the age of the source material. I cannot imagine it ever being better than this. The colours at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, for example, are rendered beautifully.

    There are no film artefacts - incredible for a movie of this age! There is next to no aliasing. One of the amazing things is the DeLorean - a shiny stainless steel car, and not a trace of aliasing - that's extraordinary. There are a few moments of moire on some of the 1955 fashions (see 54:24, for example), but that's pretty much unavoidable, and it's quite minor. There is also some trivial aliasing on the 1950's microphone at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance, but you have to be really picky to notice this. This is close to a perfect transfer.

    There are three subtitles tracks on this DVD. The first subtitle track is labelled as English, but the subtitles are actually captions - they subtitle sound effects as well. I have yet to watch them all the way through, so I can't report on their accuracy, but they look easy to read. The second subtitle track is subtitling for the Audio Commentary track and the third is a Trivia Track.

    The disc is single sided (with a nice picture label), and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is at 71:24, and it is superb. It is pretty much imperceptible, being hidden in a black scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on this DVD, all in English. The audio commentary is provided in English Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded. The other two are the soundtrack to the movie, provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts 5.1. The credits at the end of the film say the film was originally released in Dolby Stereo (indicating that the transfer was probably from a 35mm print, because the 70mm prints were released with a 4.1 or 5.1 soundtrack), so there may have been some minor remixing to separate the rear channels at least.

    I have listened to both the dts and the Dolby Digital soundtracks. I'd like to be able to say that I could tell the difference, but I can't. Oh, maybe the Dolby Digital sounds a squidgin (this is a technical term, meaning an amount too small to be measured easily) "thinner" - a little lacking in very fine detail - but I could be imagining it. If you have a dts decoder, I recommend you use it (after all, there aren't that many DVDs you can use it on), but if you only have Dolby Digital, be comforted in the thought that you are not missing much, if anything.

    The dialogue is always clear and easily understood. There are no audio sync problems. (I must admit that I hate it every time Doc Brown says "jiggawatt" - the word is "gigawatt", with two hard Gs - but that hardly qualifies as an audio problem.) One correspondent has pointed out that there is a fraction of a second where Lea Thompson manages to deliver a line with her mouth closed, but that's clearly an issue in the source material, rather than a mastering flaw.

    The full, lush orchestral score is from Alan Silvestri, and a nice job it is. The score also features a number of songs including "The Power of Love" performed by Huey Lewis and the News (the anecdote track points out that Huey Lewis gets a cameo in the movie), and a distinctive version of "Johnny B Goode" (you know what I mean...). Not sure if it counts as music, but the use of Eddie Van Halen as an instrument of persuasion is entertaining...

    There is not a heap for your surround speakers to do, some decent ambient sound, a bit of score, some nicely placed directional sounds, but there's an absolutely classic circling helicopter near the end of the movie (my THX EX matrix decoder picked up on it, and it circled through the rear centre channel - nice). There's not much in the LFE channel, either, so your sub won't get a whole lot to do unless you've routed bass management to it, but it does give a satisfying bottom to a few moments of the soundtrack, without drawing attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A nicely themed main menu introduction greets us upon insertion of this DVD, beautifully setting the tone for what is to follow. The main menu itself is also well-themed around the clock tower, again heightening the anticipation for what is to follow. Most menu selections lead to brief transitions and most submenus have audio underscoring although there is no additional animation. All-in-all, Universal have done a very nice job on these menus.

The Making Of Back To The Future (14:29)

    This is a historical featurette and as such has a somewhat dated appearance colour-wise. Artefact-wise however, it looks remarkably good. It is somewhat along the lines of current-day promotional featurettes except that there is considerably more meaty content here than is the norm for most of these featurettes. It is made up of the typical intercut footage of movie, cast and crew and behind the scenes footage, although the proportion of movie footage is much less than that seen nowadays and the proportion of worthwhile behind-the-scenes footage is much higher. There is a considerable amount of interesting info presented about Alan Silvestri's scoring of the film, and I certainly learnt a number of worthwhile  things about Back To The Future that I didn't know before. Definitely well worth the time spent watching it, despite the 1.33:1 framing and tinny, wow-affected Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio. The featurette is subtitled in English.

Making The Trilogy: Chapter 1 (15:30)

    This is a more modern featurette, written and directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Some material from the aforementioned featurette is reused and there is considerably more footage from the movie included, but bear with this featurette - the second half is far superior to the first half, offering some fascinating insights into the way Christopher Lloyd approached his character and some info about the aborted casting of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and offers Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio.

Audio Commentary - Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale

    This is not a screen-specific commentary. This is an audio track recorded at a uni campus in California fairly recently, with the "two Bobs" responding to questions from the audience that are put by Laurent Bouzereau (the maker of many of the extras on this disc). It sounds as though LB is interviewing them, because we hear nothing from the audience until their applause at the end of the commentary. I started out disappointed, because I was expecting a screen-specific commentary, but in the end I'm quite happy with this - it contains much the same sort of content, and having them respond to specific questions means that we get less wandering about. They do cover a lot of ground, so there's quite a bit of content, even though the commentary does not last for the entire movie (it ends around the 95 minutes mark). Amongst the interesting revelations are the alternate title that was pushed very hard by the head of the company, and Steven Spielberg's creative way of dealing with that suggestion. It was fascinating to hear how Michael J Fox managed to film this and do Family Ties at the same time. And the discussion of product placement was interesting - they were insistent on using products whose logos had changed between the 1950s and the 1980s - that's why Pepsi got the nod over Coke (the Coke bottle hadn't changed), and why the petrol station was Texaco rather than Shell (apparently Shell offered more money, but they stuck to their guns).

    Oh, and we get the official word from the Two Bobs - the version on the DVD is the version that was shown theatrically. On the video there were changes (most notably, a "to be continued" at the end), but this version is unchanged. That's good to know.

Outtakes (2:45)

    Outtakes tend to be variably funny and these are no exception - there are some very funny outtakes here, but there are also some less-than-funny ones. The Cheech & Chong send-up is funny, but makes little sense since it is an outtake of a deleted scene which appears in the next extra. The video is presented at 1.85:1 non-16x9 enhanced and its quality, as well as that of the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio, is variable.

Deleted Scenes (8:50)

    As with the outtakes, these deleted scenes are variable in their interest and quality of presentation, with the Extended Darth Vader scene being of most interest. Several of the deleted scenes take the characters in different morality arcs to those they portray in the final cut, and are definitely better left deleted. These scenes are presented as a single featurette with cue cards separating and naming deleted scenes. The video is offered at 1.85:1, non 16x9 enhanced and audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Did You Know That? Universal Animated Anecdotes

    The trivia track is a subtitle tracks that pops up bits of trivia about the movie and the people and things in it. Not all of the trivia is isolated to the trivia track - some of it is repeated in the commentary, for example. It's quite interesting, but it does contain a few spoilers, so don't turn it on until you've seen the movie.

    One bit of trivia it pointed out is why the mall changes from Twin Pines to Lone Pine - (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Marty runs over a pine tree on the way out of the farm.

    It eased my mind on one point - Lea Thompson (Marty's mother) looked annoyingly familiar, and I could not pick where else I'd seen her - the trivia track mentions that she plays the lead in Caroline In The City.

    It's kinda fun to watch this - give it a try on perhaps the second or third time you watch the movie, and see what you think.

Original Makeup Tests (2:18)

    Test footage of Doc, Biff and Lorraine. Presented at 1.33:1.

Storyboards To Final Feature Comparisons (2)

    Personally, I am not a big fan of storyboard-to-screen comparisons, but these ones are at least presented respectably with the storyboard at the top of a 1.33:1 frame and the final footage at the bottom.

Production Archives

    Again, I am not a fan of photo galleries, but the Delorean Designs gallery is definitely worth a look-see.

Theatrical Trailer (1:20)

    Presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, this is more of a teaser than a true theatrical trailer. The music is very much rooted in its time.

dts Trailer - Piano

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version of this DVD is not due out until November. Concrete information as to what will be on the R1 version is difficult to come by, but speculation is rampant. It is reasonable to state that the R1 version will have some additional extras over the R4 version. At this time, these additional extras would seem to be some brief picture-in-picture comments from Michael J. Fox and an additional making-of featurette, nothing that sounds overly compelling. Until reliable reviews of this title start appearing in R1, we cannot be more specific than this, other than to say that the small number of additional extras would not seem to warrant the additional wait and the inherent advantages of the PAL transfer would appear to override the possible benefits of the additional extras. Your opinion may, of course, vary.

Summary

    Back To The Future is one of the movies we've all been waiting for. The wait has been worth it. This is an excellent DVD.

    The video transfer is of reference quality.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    There are plenty of extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, July 27, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
DVD Net - Amy F
DVDownUnder - Matt G

Comments (Add)
What More Could We Ask? - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!) REPLY POSTED
This DVD set Sounds Awesome so far :) -
Specific spoilers -
what did you do? get back to the future? - DVD_Freak REPLY POSTED
R1 will have more extra's -
Thanks for the review! -
*Excited* - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
What about the "other" Marty? - Sean B (There is no bio.) REPLY POSTED
I though Michael J. Fox was going to be in the commentary -
Michael J Fox Commentary - Explained.. -
Audio unsynchronised... - REPLY POSTED
Fine Review :o) - REPLY POSTED
Fine Review :o) -
menu screenshots?!?!?! -
Menu screen shots here -
Menus here - other bloke has limited viewing space -
You can get it from here -
Not much dynamic range - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
re not much dynamic range - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Region 1 gets more! -
hmm Discrete - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
audio dropouts -
Framing errors -
RE: BTTF II & III Framing Errors, R1 affected also - Christopher
Framing errors - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
Framing Errors - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
From April???? -
RE: From April??? - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)