WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV, English subtitles on
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: This is it. I may have hit the wall. Let the record show that I had a very hard time starting up Back to the Future tonight. I intended to begin at midnight. It took an hour and forty-five minutes of dicking around and constantly telling myself to get it done to eventually hit the play button. Has watching BTTF every week of 2013 finally gotten to me after just twelve weeks?
We’re at the “whips and chains” part of the experiment. Already. I’ve become used to Back to the Future and now I need to spice it up. My kink of choice this week: English subtitles.
Hopefully they’re more reliable than the subtitles on Il Mare.
Last year, when I was stuck watching Top Gun every week, I turned on the subtitles just to see if I’d been mishearing any of the terrible macho dialogue. But this year, since Back to the Future is one of my childhood favorites, I know every line. However, this wasn’t always the case. Much like when you mishear a song and can’t unhear a lyric the way you first heard it, I spent a large portion of my youth thinking the residents of Hill Valley were spouting complete gibberish. So, here are some lines from the movie’s subtitles and what I thought they were when I was but a lad, with half-assed explanations provided. Fun?
I WAS A DUMB KID:
Actual line: “Let me give you a nickel’s worth of free advice.”
I thought: “Let me give you nickels with the free advice.”
Justification: I’d never heard the phrase before. I always wondered why Strickland never handed Marty any nickels.
Actual line: “It’s cold. Damn cold.”
I thought: “It’s cold. Air pole.”
Justification: Doc is referring to the frozen DeLorean after its first trip through time. “Air pole” sounded like some science word. Like maybe its temperature switched… polarities? I dunno. Fuck you. This is embarrassing.
Oh, wow, you must have hit six or seven air poles.
Actual line: “It’s safe now. Everything’s lead-lined.”
I thought: “It’s safe now. Everything’s flat-lined.”
Justification: I thought that was just another term for “safe.” You know, like the danger is dead? “All the danger of this situation has flat-lined.” I blame my parents. They’re supposed to explain movies.
Actual line: “I’ll draw their fire!”
I thought: “I’ll rule their fire!”
Justification: Oh, my version’s way better. A bunch of Libyans with guns roll up and you won’t just distract them; you will rule their fire. No bullets today, terrorists. I am king of your guns. Nope, still stupid.
Actual line: “Damn Soviet gun!”
I thought: “Damn sonny gun!”
Justification: Okay, I was kidding on the last one, but my line is way funnier this time. This is the scene when the Libyan’s AK-47 won’t fire. In my mind, it was supposed to be a joke that he didn’t speak English very well and was trying to say “son of a gun.” It’s funny because I was a racist child!
Whoa, whoa, stand down, soldier. Some of my best friends are Hollywood stereotypes.
Actual line: “Something without sugar.”
I thought: “Some o’ that shit.”
Justification: This is the scene where Marty orders a diet soda. I figured Lou was mocking him for being the kind of sissy boy who’d go on a diet. I remember feeling robbed when I learned that he was just repeating Marty. Swearing is cool! Yeah! Damn yeah!
Actual line: “That’s a big bruise you have there.”
I thought: “That’s a hot big bruise you have there.”
Justification: I don’t even– look, Lorraine kind of stammers, she’s horny as hell… maybe she was turned on by bruises. Chicks dig scars, right? Hey, I’m not the first to theorize that Lorraine is into pain.
Actual line: “There’s something wrong with the starter, so I hid it.”
I thought: “There’s something wrong with the starter, so I hit it.”
Justification: I assumed Marty just whacked the starter with a wrench. That’s how you fix things, right? My dad had a lot of anger issues.
Actual line: “You bet your ass it works.”
I thought: “Your ass works.”
Justification: Okay, no, hold on, don’t make fun of me for this one– I thought Marty just dropped a sick burn on Doc. Like, “The only thing of yours that actually works is your butthole.” Right? Slam!
“Your most successful invention is your poops!”
Actual line: “Look, I don’t want to mess with no reefer addicts, okay?”
I thought: “Look, I don’t want to mess with no reed for attics / reforatics / read ferratics, okay?”
Justification: No fucking clue what the guy was saying. Until about high school. It was a big “OHHH…” moment.
Actual line: “Do you think I’m going back in that zoot suit?”
I thought: “Do you think I’m going back in that suit– suit?”
Justification: I was under the impression that Marty had a terrible stutter until the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies came along.
WAIT, I’M ALSO A DUMB ADULT:
Bewilderingly, there were some lines that I had been mishearing up until this exact viewing. My whole world is shattered.
Actual line: “You killed our pine!”
I thought: “You killed my pine!”
Justification: Wait… Old Man Peabody considers those pines as belonging to his whole family? Does he think of them as pets? Family members themselves? This brings a new level of intimacy to pine breeding. Peabody’s a tree fucker, ain’t he?
“Tell my wife about us and I’ll make you a table!”
Actual line: “My density has popped me to you.”
I thought: “My density has bought me to you.”
Justification: Nope. I flat-out reject that. The whole joke is supposed to be that George is misreading his handwriting because he’s nervous, right? “Destiny” becomes “density.” “Brought” becomes “bought.” How the fuck does “brought” become “popped”? I don’t even care what the script says, my version is the way it should be. Fuck, I got cranky.
Actual line: “You’re instilling me with a lot of confidence, Doc.”
I thought: “You’re really filling me with a lot of confidence, Doc.”
Justification: This doesn’t change much unless you’re one of those people who watch movies looking for gay subtext. You’re really filling me. With semen. Ha.
“Your ass works.” I guess that qualifies as well.
NOPE, THE SUBTITLES ABSOLUTELY 100% FUCKED UP HERE:
Hey, remember Red the bum, the guy sleeping on the bench that Marty jumps over? You know, the character played by George “Buck” Flower, who I’m trying to prove was in a porno movie? First of all, I haven’t heard back from any porn curators yet, so please help solve the mystery by submitting that urban legend en masse to Snopes for clarification. Second, his name is in the subtitles as “Fred.” Now, he’s listed in the credits simply as “Bum,” but we all know his name is Red, which you can clearly hear Marty say in both the first and second movies. And he’s listed on IMDb as Red Thomas, so– wait, the fucking mayor? Red the bum is Red the mayor?
So this guy…
…is also this guy?
I call bullshit on this so hard. I remember Bob Gale stating in the commentary that Michael J. Fox improvised the name “Red” on the spot. Unless Michael was trying to force that connection himself, then there’s not a lot of evidence… wait, maybe he was. Clever Michael. Futurepedia also mentions the commentary and points out that the bum and the man in the campaign poster are two different actors. Though George McFly and Jennifer Parker change actors all the time… oh, fuck it. What was my point here? Right. This guy’s name isn’t Fred.
Crazy drunk subtitler.
LET’S CALM THE NERD RAGE WITH SOME SOUND EFFECTS:
Okay, sorry about that. When watching a movie with subtitles, you have to keep in mind that these are for the hearing impaired, so the sound effects must also be described. Bless the heart of anyone whose job it is to flesh out the wonderful audibles in Back to the Future for those who need the assistance, but really, some of them are pretty damn hilarious. Be they overly descriptive, underwhelming, oddly specific, or just plain bizarre, here are some of my favorite subtitles in regards to the sound effects.
[ELECTRIC GUITAR NOTE PLAYS]
[MACHINE BEEPING INSISTENTLY]
[EXCLAIMS IN DISGUST]
[WIND-UP MECHANISM TWISTING]
[DISSONANT NOTES PLAYING]