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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis & writer Bob Gale
  • 2 Featurette
  • 4 Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Awards/Nominations
  • 2 Storyboards
  • Outtakes
  • DTS trailer

Back to the Future

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 111 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

How on earth do you introduce a title such as Back to the Future? It’s been one of THE most awaited releases since DVD was first unleashed upon a world of eagerly slavering movie nuts, and even those who don’t fall within that category surely at least know of it, even if they’ve somehow managed to avoid actually seeing it. For the 11.7839 recurring (measured) of you in the latter category, here’s a very brief insight into just what you’ve been missing out on...

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is a typical 1985 teenager from the town of Hill Valley – a nice place to live. He’s into the typical 1985 teenager stuff - his guitar, his girl, his dream of owning a funky black pickup truck, wearing his life-preserver–like jacket whenever possible and hanging out with his friend, a mad scientist-type in Doctor Emmett Brown (an utterly delightfully manic Christopher Lloyd). Well OK, so the last one isn't that typical...

Asked to meet up with the Doc at the Twin Pines Mall at the rather bleary hour of 1:15am on the morning of October 26, Marty rocks up to find a rather more excited than usual Doc, his dog Einstein, and a rather sizeable truck. It is within this truck that the instigator of some “serious shit” is hidden – a DeLorean, an Irish-built car with gull wing doors and a stainless steel body – forget the chamois and pass the Steelo – but one with a difference, as it’s also, apparently, a time machine...

"The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

It’s testing time for the invention, however little does the Doc count on being found by a group of rather well-armed, Kombied up Libyan nationalists, more than a little ticked off over a small matter of some stolen plutonium that has somehow managed to have ended up in his possession. Not surprisingly all does not go too well, and a disbelieving Marty somehow finds himself back in time 30 years, well and truly entrenched in 1955. Hey, accentuate the positives - at least it gives him a chance to find out a bit more about his parents! But when he discovers that the slightest move he makes can cause havoc with history (or the future from where he is currently, if you wish to get all technical on me), it seems prudent that he both tread incredibly carefully, and track down the ‘50s Doc Brown in hopes of getting... back to the future.

Whilst most any ‘80s film you could name would wear its vintage prominently on its sleeve (quite possibly in badge form), without meaning to be pun-some (just for a change), Back to the Future well and truly holds up as being quite timeless – in fact quite remarkably so. A bona fide modern day classic, it isn’t the over the top effects and action film many consider it to be, rather a fabulous adventure with a decent touch of comedy, thriller and twisted romance elements thrown in for very good measure. There are so many reasons why it works as well as it does – including the strong writing, great direction, the nods to other time travel flicks, the knowing references to pop culture and not least the brilliant star turns from both Fox and, in particular, Lloyd. Add to this some memorable performances from smaller part players such as Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson and Thomas F. Wilson and you’re left with a film that everybody should see and all but the surliest of annoying grumble bums is sure to relish each and every minute of.

  Video
Contract

So, you’re sceptical about the possibilities of all this time travel malarkey, huh? Well repent ye naysayers, for the fact that this transfer is so utterly magnificent – a transfer of a film from 1985 – really makes one wonder if the people behind this jumped in the old De Lorean, hopped back 17 years, snaffled a freshly struck and absolutely pristine print, carefully wrapped it in cotton wool and brought it back to work from. Yes, it really is that good, and it proves the oft recurring adage within the film - if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Certain reviewers that could be named (i.e. me) have been accused of being the Queen Bitch of Speckle Spotting in the past, yet no matter how high and low I searched, not a single one was spotted – amazing! How many films on DVD, even incredibly recent ones, can that be said about? Virtually any part of the transfer you could name comes up looking like it was made yesterday. Colour? Pretty darned snazzy. Sharpness and general detail? Here in spades. Black levels and shadow detail? Not a single complaint – they’re spot on. If desperate, possibly the only whines that could be gleaned from this transfer are a few almost unnoticeable instances of grain in some of the dark scenes, and some absolutely trivial aliasing on a couple of occasions. Taking into consideration the vintage of this film, these are the types of quibbles that only the most annoyingly death of a party anally retentive could ever bemoan.

Yes, this anamorphically enhanced, 1.85:1 transfer is superb. Even the layer change is pretty well placed, coming in a scene change and virtually imperceptible. Cheers all ‘round to those responsible, you’ve well and truly done Back to the Future proud.

  Audio
Contract

Back in 1985, the fact that Back to the Future hit the cinemas armed with a Dolby Stereo soundtrack was pretty impressive. Needless to say, in 2002 when we have been sonically spoiled by home six channel systems such a specification raises nothing but a bored yawn. So what have we here, then? Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks? Great Scott!

Yes, everything has been lovingly and seemingly painstakingly remixed to take as much advantage as possible of the latest sonic formats with what they had to work with – and once again a fabulous job has been done. Come into this expecting latter day cinematic audio mayhem and you may be disappointed – subwoofwoof action is fairly minimal and surround activity is limited – however it is easiest to sum things up by saying that it is extremely unlikely that you’ve EVER heard the film sounding this good, regardless of which of the two remarkably similar sounding options you select. The spread across the front channels is wonderful, with some very stereo effects at times, and regardless of the minimal surround use, there are a couple of absolute demo-worthy moments. All is synched superbly and dialogue levels are perfectly balanced with the sound effects and score.

Speaking of the score, it comes from Alan Silvestri, and can best be described as meeting its requirements from the producers, to make it ‘big’. When you have a 98 piece orchestra at your disposal it will always help, of course, however Silvestri’s composition truly adds to the whole cinematic experience, so much so that it would be hard to imagine the film without it. A few songs punctuate proceedings, that catchy one which we all know every word to – even if we’re loathe to admit it - The Power of Love from Huey Lewis and the News as well as the rather pedestrian Back in Time from same, plus some escapees from Jurassic Park in the shape of Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsay Buckingham. Oh, and there’s always Johnny B. Goode as well...

  Extras
Contract

So far, so brilliant, so now we’re let down in the extras department, right? Nuh-uh! If a criticism had to be made then it could be said that the menus are a tad boring, just some brief film clips as an introduction and as transitions, and a subtly animated shot of the clock tower as the main screen backdrop, but who cares when there’s good stuff aplenty within for us to play with? Hold on to your hats folks, here we go...

Documentary - The Making of Back to the Future: From back when the film was first released, this doco comes full frame, with mono sound and in glorious seemingly-taken-from-a-dodgy-old-VHS-tape’o’vision. Running for 14:29, it manages to cram quite a bit into its running time – including the obligatory film clips, interviews with many of the cast and crew, looks at the special effects, locations, sets and, in what is a pleasant change for these types of presentations, a glimpse into the process of the musical scoring.

Documentary - Making the Trilogy – Chapter I: And so it’s out with old and in with the new... This marvellous doco comes from director Laurent Bouzereau – the very same man responsible for some absolutely sublime Hitchcock DVD documentaries – and was made early in 2002. Zemeckis, Gale and Michael J. Fox all show up to voice their feelings on their baby 17 years after the fact, and there are even some stills of that much talked about original Marty McFly, as played by a probably still bitter and twisted Eric Stoltz.

Audio Commentary – director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale: Hmm, well it’s kind of a commentary. In actual fact this audio presentation is taken from a recent question and answer session presented by the two writers, and held together by the above-mentioned Bouzereau. Running for just over an hour and a half of the film’s length, as much as this isn’t scene specific, it does prove to be very engaging and, importantly, interesting, with many fascinating BTTF facts there for the absorption.

Outtakes: The good old goof reel, running for just 2:45, and like all such beasties of somewhat variable quality. If you’re wading through the extras one by one, you may wish to skippety hop to the deleted scenes before partaking of this little number, as it will leave things making a little more sense.

Deleted Scenes: Seven in all, these deleted/extended scenes are all in un-enhanced 1.85:1 with mono sound, and play as one big 8:50 chunk, separated by title screens. There’s some interest value here, but no utterly classic footage appears to have been omitted from the final cut of the film.

Animated Anecdotes: Subtitled Did You Know That?, this is one of those features rarely used on DVDs, but always incredibly welcome. The ‘animated’ of the title is a bit rich, for in actual fact what we get is a trivia track using subtitles, simply with very brief cartoon-ish DeLoreans, skateboards and the like scooting across the screen before one appears. Putting that rather pointless gripe aside, as much as a lot of what’s presented is already well covered in the commentary, there’s plenty more general history and useless useful information to be gleaned, so it’s definitely recommended to give the film a run through with this feature turned on.

Original Makeup Tests: Simply 2:18 of rather murky full frame-ness, with Biff, old Lorraine and a very hammy Doc Brown – making it good for a quick chuckle.

Storyboards: For those into the whole conceptual stage to final product thing, two storyboard comparisons are presented, with sketches taking up a proportion of the top half of the screen and the relevant segment of film playing in the bottom half. The two we get here are Skateboard Chase (1:42) and Clock Tower Sequence (5:03).

Production Archives: Despite the impressive title, this is actually a set of four photo galleries. Marty McFly Photo Album contains a selection of 76 shots, including stills and specially posed promotional photos; Behind the Scenes includes 23 snaps; The DeLorean Designs serves up 34 sketches and blueprints of the rather funky time machine and Time Travel Designs presents us with a series of 18 production design stills.

Theatrical Trailer: This is actually a very of-its-time teaser, running for 1:20, presented in full frame and with mono sound.

  Overall  
Contract

With simply gobsmacking video quality, audio that’s almost as good and a vast swag of extras, you can forget your silly old Harolds and Frodos, this is THE must-have DVD release of the year. To own it is your density. Heavy, huh? But in the end SO worth the weight... erm, wait.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1779
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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Forget your silly old Harolds and Frodos, this is THE must-have DVD release of the year..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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