Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Book Corner: Back To The Future -
The Ultimate Visual History

As we are all no doubt painfully aware, Back To The Future is the joint-best film ever made of all time ever, and so when the sexual tyrannosaurs at Titan Books offered me a copy of their new book Back To The Future: The Ultimate Visual History to review, I bit their hand off at the shoulder. Having once, long ago, owned and read to within an inch of its papery life Michael Klastorin and Sally Hibbin's Back To The Future: The Official Book Of The Complete Movie Trilogy but flogged it on eBay in a moment of foolish desperation, I welcomed this new volume with open cheeks. It gives me unbridled joy to say that it is everything I could have hoped for and more, and when I say "and more" I mean "with added Eric Stoltz".

Put in its simplest, most pullquote-friendly terms, you cannot not be a person who doesn't not own this book. Co-written by Klastorin from his extensive and enviably deep connection with the trilogy, it's an exhaustive detailing of the genesis, production and legacy of Marty McFly's adventures dicking about in the space-time continuum. But more - so much more - than that, it is, as you might expect from a "visual history", full of lovely, lovely pictures. So when you get bored of the words, which you won't, the pictures will be there for you. Pictures like the reference photo of Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd that Drew Struzan took before turning it into a work of airbrushed genius for the BTTF Part II poster; pictures of concept art for Hill Valley across three time periods (plus a Biffhorrific version); pictures of Eric Stoltz as Marty - about FIFTEEN PAGES of them: every page reveals a new eye-arousing wonder.

What's more, many of the pictures are replica props: "a wealth of special removable items", as the book's press release describes them. Sure enough, you too can wave a 'SAVE THE CLOCK TOWER' flyer in your spouse's face, boggle at the amazing lenticular photo of the McFly family (complete with disappearing Dave and Linda) for hours on end, or frame the sepia snap of Marty and Doc either side of the Hill Valley clock in 1885 and proudly display it on your bedside table, as I may or may not have.

Of course, pictures are all well and good, but one thing many books have in the past included in order to deepen their potential is a shitload of words. And Back To The Future: The Ultimate Visual History has precisely one shitload of words. I'm not going to pretend I've read them all (some of them are quite long, plus the book only arrived the other day and it comes out on Friday, JESUS give me a break), but I can tell you that those I have read are the pictures' equal in terms of fun things to look at. Christopher Lloyd's preface, for example, asks you to imagine a world in which you were reading Jeff Goldblum's or John Lithgow's preface to the same book. This set my mind wandering for about half an hour, and upon its return I was uncertain that neither option would be a bad thing at all.

Alternate timelines aside, this book approaches its subject in a pleasingly linear fashion, describing the making of each film in order of production. So after all the idea-having and draft-writing and title-wrangling (MCA president Sid Sheinberg's hilarious memo pushing for Space Man From Pluto gets a full page to itself) is dealt with, the Stoltz era is given meaty coverage before the "real" Marty McFly arrives, complete with Fox's own battered (and discontinued) sneakers, 25 pairs of which had to be made specially by Nike because costume designer Deborah L Scott forgot Marty's "proper" shoes and preferred those the actor turned up in on day one.

Further memories, anecdotes and revelations from pretty much everyone involved in the trilogy's successive five years follow, and the briefest flick-through while standing in Waterstones will provide as convincing an ad for the book as I can give here (I just opened it at random looking for an example and accidentally spent ten minutes reading about the painstaking attempts to recreate scenes from the first film for the second). An appropriately tiddly section is given over to the Universal Studios ride and the animated series, and as you discover the final treat - a fold-out poster for Jaws 19 - you'll immediately want to stick the films on for the bazillionth time and re-indulge in their wondrousness once more. Or, like me, you can just keep playing with that lenticular photo. It really is quite clever.
Yeah, 'bye Dave

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