Listen to our *batteries not included episode on:
As ostensible family movies go, Matthew Robbins’ 1987 sci-fi *batteries not included features some surprisingly adult themes. From the depiction of an elderly couple battling the onset of dementia to a higher incidence of (mild) sex and violence than you probably remember, it’s little surprise to learn that future Pixar director Brad Bird was heavily involved in the screenwriting.
Released in 1987, *batteries not included stars Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn as an elderly couple running a dilapidated restaurant and apartment building in a run-down corner of Manhattan under threat from aggressive property developers. Tandy’s character is also in the apparent grip of senile dementia, and the characters are frequently threatened by violent thugs hired by classic eighties business villain Mr Lacey (Michael Greene).
Unusually for a family movie, there are no children in *batteries not included, and it takes almost a third of the film’s runtime for the sentient spaceships/robots/aliens who give the movie its title to make their appearance. Viewed through a 2018 lens, the film is a strikingly gentle and melancholy fable that compensates for a slightly slow-moving plot with visual invention and a pair of genuinely affecting performances from Tandy and Cronyn – aided by memorable supporting turns from Michael Carmine, Dennis Boutsikaris and particularly from Frank McRae as a slogan-quoting gentle giant who forms a bond with the extraterrestrial ‘Fix-Its’.
This week’s movie was chosen by Phil Hepworth, our good friend and the very talented musician who wrote and recorded our theme tune. He joins us to discuss – among other things – the movie’s surprising hints of darkness, the unusual side-plot featuring a nude-painting ‘hipster Michael Douglas’, and of course the memorable eighties fashions sported by short-fused gang leader Carlos.
Our sequel ideas this week inject the movie with a distinctly 21st century dose of cynicism, featuring an unplanned trio of corporate conspiracy stories – although none of us had the heart to totally ruin the spirit of the original, so you can listen without fear of your childhood memories being shattered. Phil also closes the show by treating us to a live performance of our aforementioned theme tune, which is definitely worth sticking around for…
You can find our *batteries not included episode on all good podcasting platforms by following the links at the top of this blog. If you’re a fan of the show, please consider subscribing and/or leaving us a review, as it really helps us to grow our audience. You can also now support us on Patreon, where for as little as $2 per month you can access a whole raft of exclusive bonus content including access to our weekly movie review show Beyond BTBS, a 30 second ad-slot on the main show and the chance to become a character in one of our sequels.
Next week, we’re guest-free again and discussing a quirky post-apocalyptic action movie featuring a truly memorable turn by the always entertaining Tilda Swinton – in what is bizarrely her first appearance in a Beyond The Box Set movie. Thanks for listening!