Cinemas Greatest Scenes

Cinemas Greatest Scenes: “Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine…out of a De Lorean?”

The inventor John DeLorean founded the original DeLorean Motor Company on October 24th 1975, but as hard as he tried to find a market for his new automotive creation, production of the DMC-12 came to an abrupt halt in 1982. In short, the company went into liquidation due to a lack of demand, high overheads and a serious downturn in the US car market, a slump not seen since the 1930’s. It’s safe to say, the DMC-12 was destined for obscurity never to be seen again after failing to capture the hearts and minds of Americans. But something amazing happened in 1985 that forever altered our perception of its gangly ‘gull-wing’ doors, unpainted stainless steel body and the rear mounted engine, when it catapulted to fame in the Back To The Future trilogy as the vehicle Doc. Emmett Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, made famous (well at least onscreen) into a time machine.

When the DeLorean first appears in the film it is reversed out of Doc. Brown’s vehicle transport in the middle of the night at the Twin Pines Mall carpark. Witnessing the big reveal is Doc. Brown’s young protege, the naive Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, who is somewhat stunned to see that Doc Brown’s latest experiment involved a DeLorean. (In truth, I think most audiences were stunned to see such an unsightly vehicle.) But the best moment involving the DeLorean comes soon after when Doc. Brown magically sends it into the future. The sight of flaming tread marks between the legs of Marty and Doc. Brown is priceless, especially when we see the DeLorean’s number plate spinning on itself. When Marty picks it up he believes that the number plate is all that is left of the ‘disintegrated’ time machine and Doc. Brown’s dog Einstein. As soon as the deliriously excited Doc. Brown eventually calms down, he goes on to explain to Marty that he sent Einstein into the future. It is here that one of the most memorable lines in film history is uttered by an absolutely dumbfounded Marty, “Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine…out of a De Lorean?” Interestingly, what makes this line great is Doc. Brown’s equally humorous reply to Marty, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” 

It’s almost sacrosanct nowadays to imagine Back To The Future without the DeLorean time machine, but there was a time during development when director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter Bole Gale considered other options as their time machine device for the film, which included amongst other things a time traveling refrigerator! It almost sounds silly, but the fridge idea was apparently well advanced during the writing process before Zemeckis and Gale eventually settled on the idea of a vehicle instead. Interestingly, the Ford Motor Company offered up the idea of a Mustang to use as the time machine, but Zemeckis and the studio outright turned down the offer. Screenwriter Bob Gale once said in an interview “Does Doc Brown look like the kind of guy who would drive a Ford Mustang? I’m sorry, no.” More to the point Bob Gale is basically telling us that Doc. Brown is the kind of guy who would be happy at home driving a car that is eccentric as himself. So when Zemeckis eventually settled on the DMC-12 it was because its qualities as a vehicle suited his grand vision for the film.

Photo credit: The header image is a scene from the film Back To The Future (1985) which is courtesy of Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures. I make use of the image under the rational of fair use. It enables me to makes an important contribution to the readers understanding of the article, which could not practically be communicated by words alone by placing the key characters of the film, played by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd into the frame. I am not the uploader of the YouTube clip embedded here.

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