Book Review | Back To The Future: The Ultimate Visual History – Revised And Expanded Edition

“This book is in the top three percent of the greatest movie books of all time. Yes, it really is that good!!”

Has it really been 35 years ever since the original ‘Back To The Future‘ was released? The time has flown by so fast, it’s hard to believe that the film is celebrating such a monumental birthday. I can still remember going to the cinema to see ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II‘ and watching the music video for Huey Lewis & The News’ brilliant ‘The Power Of Love‘ which featured Christopher Lloyd in it alongside clips from the film. I thought to myself that it was a film that I had to go and see when it was released (The film was released in the United States in July of 1985 but we in the UK had to wait until December for it to open!).

Back To The Future 001

Sadly though, due to circumstances, I couldn’t control, I never got the chance to go and see it and had to rely on the film hitting VHS before I got to experience it. But when I did watch it, I was hooked. It was an amazing and highly enjoyable film and one that rightly was voted the best film of the 1980s in a recent UK poll. I now own the entire trilogy several times over, on all formats and I have collected books and merchandise from the film over the years. I have yet to get the new NECA figures but I’ve been a good boy this year and so I’m hoping Santa will bring them to me!

Titan Books has already released The Ultimate Visual History book before and it was a terrific volume to have in a collection. But, as this year marks the original film’s 35th anniversary. The book has been re-released and revised and updated. It was good before but now it is something that has to been seen and read to be believed. It has to be one of the best books around and on the market at present and is something that must sit on any film fan’s shelf.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History – Updated Edition | By Michael Klastorin & Randal Atamaniuk

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Written by Michael Klastorin who served as the production publicist on the second and third films in the trilogy in conjunction with ‘Back To The Future‘ expert Randal Atamaniuk, this version does exactly what it claims to be. It certainly is the ultimate edition of the book and one that amazes and brings joy to the reader from the very start. The front cover displays the film’s title in glorious colors, nice and large, front and center. Surrounding the title are various background photos from the trilogy. Of course, the largest of these comes in the form of Marty McFly himself, Michael J. Fox, one of two pictures of the star to feature on the front cover. Christopher Lloyd doesn’t miss out as he is pictured next to the star of the trilogy. Other pictures are of Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines, Crispin Glover as George McFly, and Thomas F Wilson as Biff Tannen. But the center stage of them all is the Delorean, the classic car that will take Marty and Doc backward and forward in time at various points during the trilogy. The film’s title is displayed along the spine as we turn the volume over to look at the back cover. It is here that we will discover what awaits inside the pages of the book. Along the left-hand side, we find seven images which again we will discover inside the pages. The cover of George Mcfly’s novel ‘A Match Made In Space’ is here alongside the poster for ‘Jaws 19‘, directed by Max Spielberg (I still love that in-joke) among others. After reading what the book will contain, we break the seal and enter the pages contained within.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

As we turn the pages, we are greeted by a glorious production photograph of Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Einstein the dog posing with the Delorean in front of the Hill Valley Courthouse Mall from ‘Back To The Future Part II‘. As we come to the contents page, we are greeted by a terrific piece of concept art from the esteemed Drew Struzan and concept art drawings of the Delorean by Ron Cobb which give the book a wonderfully informative look. We turn the page and discover the foreword from none other than Michael J Fox himself. Accompanied by a full-page photo of the actor in his younger days, he recounts how he is forever grateful to Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and Steven Spielberg for giving the chance to star alongside Christopher Lloyd in the trilogy. He also reveals that the fans know more about the film and its contents than he does but how he never fails to be thrilled by fans who speak to him about the film, how much it meant to them, how he doesn’t mind being associated with Marty throughout his career and how, although the flying cars from 2015 didn’t appear, Marty’s receding hairline did make an appearance! If that wasn’t enough, we turn the page and get a preface from Fox’s partner in crime, Christopher Lloyd. He reveals that after he received the script for the original film and read through it, he threw it into the trash! Later in the book, Lloyd reveals what led him to retrieve it from the bin but here, he speaks of the eternal question of What If? What if he hadn’t taken the script back out and gone ahead and agreed to make the film? Would his film career, that he was already considering ending, be over? Lloyd covers these questions and others in his entertaining preface piece.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

We now turn to the introduction from Bob Gale. In it, he describes how back in 1990, he and Robert Zemeckis decided that a rather large and heavy coffee table book regarding the trilogy should be produced with almost everything including the kitchen sink being thrown into it. Sadly though, no one thought it would be worth the effort or that the franchise warranted such a book. Thankfully, Michael Klastorin never gave up on the dream and the book was finally compiled and released. Gale describes how he and Zemeckis wanted this book to be THE book, the definitive volume on the franchise, and describes how both he and Zemeckis gave Klastorin complete and unequivocal access to everything regarding Back To The Future with the instruction to leave nothing out, no stone unturned. We now come to part one and are introduced to it by another glorious photograph of Fox and Lloyd in their respective roles in a still from the original film. Throughout this informative first section, we are informed of the idea from its very conception alongside pages from the script and storyboard drawings of various scenes. Also, on page 18, we are given a foldout drawing of the flux capacitor. Page 22 hands us a representation of the photo seen during the film of Marty and his siblings with his brother and his sister faded from the picture. More production storyboards again adorn the pages alongside behind the scenes of the trio of Zemeckis, Gale, and Spielberg on the set of the 1977 film ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Page 38 shows us a memo from the casting department with a list of actor suggestions for the role of Doc Brown. It is here where your eyebrows will raise considerably with the names on the list. Christopher Lloyd does feature on the list but could you see Eddie Murphy as ‘Doc’? Or James Woods? Michael Keaton? Gene Hackman? Or even Mickey Rourke? These are but a few of the names that were considered for the role. Another shock for you comes in the casting for George McFly. Did you know that Johnny Depp read for the role? It is a shock to see some of the names considered for the various roles. Throughout this first section, devoted to the original film, we get everything we ever wanted to know about the production, the up’s and downs, the cast changes (or the main one) alongside stunning production photographs, storyboard drawings, various designs for the entire film, from the look of Hill Valley, the clock tower, the costume design, everything. Also included are several fold-out reproductions of things seen during the film. We end the section with a memory from Sid Sheinberg, the chief executive of the film of how he admitted that the hiring of Eric Stoltz for Marty was a mistake and how after the film hit it big, he knew right away he wanted a sequel.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Part two is dedicated to ‘Back To The Future Part II‘. Thousands of fan letters flooded into Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment asking for a sequel to the film. Sid Sheinberg approached Zemeckis and Gale with a request for a sequel to the film. Both men were completely uninterested in doing a sequel as both believed that sequels didn’t work. However, Sheinberg made it clear that Universal Studios held the rights to the property and that they would be making a sequel, either with the pair or without. Taking Sheinberg at his word, the pairing set to work on devising and developing a sequel to the film. Both Fox and Lloyd didn’t have contracts for any sequel, however. But once they were informed Zemeckis and Gale were onboard the sequel once more, they both signed up to reappear, not in one sequel but two. Lea Thompson and Thomas F Wilson also quickly joined up once again. But Crispin Glover came back with a list of demands so extensive and demanded a fee so high, that he was given a two-week deadline to reconsider. When the deadline expired, Glover stood fast with his demands and as such, his character was written out of the sequel completely.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

We know now that George did indeed make a truncated appearance during the film in the form of Jeffrey Weissman, with the actor covered heavily in prosthetic make-up to make him appear to look like Glover. Throughout the section, we are again presented with in-depth production drawings, storyboards, promotional material and the in-depth story regarding a sequel that no one knew would be heading their way, despite the ‘To Be Continued…’ legend at the end of the first film. Again, we are given representations of various things seen on screen in the film alongside some completely amazing production photographs including a nice one of Fox posing with his stunt doubles for the hoverboard sequence. And the section ends with a marvelous full-color photograph of Fox and Lloyd posing in what would eventually be adapted for the film’s theatrical poster.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Part Three concerns ‘Back To The Future Part III‘. During this section, we will discover that the crew reassembled in the Californian town of Sonora after a brief respite from filming. I have visited Sonora many years ago and it was fun to actually visit the town and see the various shooting locations for the third and final part of the trilogy. Production Designer Rick Carter reveals that the filmmakers decided to film in the town as it was completely impractical to shoot on the Universal Studios backlot. Many unknown facts regarding the film and its ties to the original are revealed here including a revelation regarding the locomotive seen in the film. Production photographs adorn the pages in stunning color and clarity including one of Fox alongside western movie veterans Pat Buttram, Dub Taylor, Matt Clark, and Harry Carey Jr who make cameo appearances during the film.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Burton Gilliam also gets a look in as the Colt Peacemaker hawker during the film. Many of the crew behind the scenes were granted their wish to appear as extras in the film and they are pictured throughout the pages. Last-minute additions to the cast, the band ZZ Top are pictured alongside Michael J Fox. Production drawings of the costumes featured throughout the movie are also here to be seen, admired, and picked over. A copy of Doc’s letter to Marty that made its first appearance at the climax to the second film is made available to us. Once more, nothing is left out here. Everything we ever wanted to know is on the written pages in stunning clarity and in-depth text.

Back To The Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Revised And Expanded Edition

We come now to our final sections. The first is entitled ‘And Beyond‘. Here we will discover the origins of the ride at the Universal Theme parks. We will discover that although Zemeckis and Gale were not involved in the development of the ride, Gale recounts his horror at seeing the first footage for the ride, about how appalled he was upon viewing it for the first time. The section also goes into detail about Universals behind the scenes worries regarding the ride which they had promised would be opening soon. But thankfully, the ride did indeed open on May 2nd, 1991 in Florida with Michael J Fox, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Zemeckis, and Thomas F Wilson in attendance and Christopher Lloyd joining in via satellite to launch what would become one of the most successful rides in history. Having ridden it around thirty times in two days myself, I can attest to its brilliance and sheer enjoyment levels. We also discover the ‘Back To The Future‘ animated series here. The show ran for two seasons before being canceled due to low ratings, despite Christopher Lloyd appearing in live-action wraparound segments.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

The final section is entitled ‘Into The Future‘. It is in this final section where we will discover the legacy the trilogy has left behind and how to this day, the films remain in our minds and hearts, and how the world continues to produce new merchandise and content to honor the legacy. It is also here where we get the final word on whether there will be a fourth film in the franchise. Bob Gale tells the world that when they put ‘The End‘ at the climax to the third film, they completely meant it, dashing anyone’s hopes that a fourth movie may be in the offing. The section details the Back To The Future: The Fan Club which has now turned into Backtothefuture.com. The various merchandise that has been designed and released including the Transformers toys that were released. The appearances of replicas of the Delorean at festivals, conventions, and charity events over the years. The cast reunion and autograph show that the cast put on which has seen Michael J Fox and Thomas F Wilson join in at various points in surprise appearances. The Videogame which was released on all formats which again, gave the fans a surprise when it was discovered that Fox was contributing to the game by lending his voice as Future Marty as well as William McFly, the characters forefather, alongside Christopher Lloyd and the returning Claudia Wells, who played Jennifer in the original film. The 2011 Nike produced self-lacing shoes from ‘Back To The Future Part II‘ which were limited to 1,500 pairs. The sneakers were auctioned off on eBay with the estimated proceeds of $4.7million being donated to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Others are also featured here but thankfully, the book does indeed feature what has to be one of the best cameo appearances of all time when Christopher Lloyd appeared as Doc Brown one final time in Seth McFarlane’s comedy ‘A Million Ways To Die In The West‘.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

But the book has one final gift for us, in the shape of an afterword by Robert Zemeckis himself. Here, he describes how this edition of the book should be coming out in 2020. He describes how he and Bob Gale didn’t set out to predict the future and that most of what they put into their version of 2015 was only supposed to be jokes. But he admits being surprised to learn that companies have been actively trying to make and produce a lot of what he and Gale created for real. And he can’t get over the fact that there exists a working version of the hoverboard. After his final words and the gift of a poster for the aforementioned ‘Jaws 19‘, our time in the past comes to a completely satisfying end.

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History - Updated Edition

Verdict:

Phew! Did you want EVERYTHING about the trilogy? You got it! This book is in the top three percent of the greatest movie books of all time. Yes, it really is that good. Informative, entertaining, in-depth, and what can only be described as an exhaustive look at the trilogy from its conception to its final delivery. Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk have to be given every bit of praise and credit that comes their way for this incredible volume they have created. Believe me, when I say, it isn’t enough to hold the book in your hands (it is quite weighty or should I say, HEAVY!), it isn’t enough just glancing through the pages while you ponder taking it to the register and buying it. It isn’t good enough to have a copy of the book in your collection and never open and read it (although I admit, It pained me to remove the plastic wrapping on it). It is something that has to be read and concentrated on. To be enjoyed in its entirety. There is so much to enjoy here that it cannot be consumed in a single sitting, it must be studied and devoured in stages. To attempt to read through it quickly will mean the reader will miss vital information and facts that they probably never knew. And that would be a true shame as the book deserves every bit of attention it can get. A labour of love from the authors, it is deserving of the respect it gets.

Doc Brown once said the future is not set. I can predict a part of mine when I say I will be sitting down and rereading this incredible volume time and again.

 

Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History – Updated Edition by Michael Klastorin & Randal Atamaniuk is published by Titan Books and is available to buy NOW!

 

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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!

 

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Editors Note | A big thank you to our friends at Titan Books for sending over our advance review copy.

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