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*batteries not included
Batteries not included. poster
Original movie poster by Drew Struzan

Directed

Matthew Robbins {{#if: Produced|

Produced

Kathleen Kennedy
Frank Marshall
Steven Spielberg
Ronald L. Schwary {{#if: Screenplay|

Screenplay

Brad Bird
Matthew Robbins
Brent Maddock
S.S. Wilson {{#if: Story|

Story

Mick Garris {{#if: Starring|

Starring

Hume Cronyn
Jessica Tandy
Frank McRae
Elizabeth Peña
Michael Carmine
Dennis Boutsikaris {{#if: Music|

Music

James Horner

Studio

Amblin Entertainment

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Release date(s)

December 18, 1987

Running time

106 minutes

United States

English

Batteries Not Included (styled *batteries not included) is a 1987 family-science fiction film directed by Matthew Robbins about small extraterrestrial living machines that save an apartment block under threat from property development. The story was originally intended to be featured in the TV series Amazing Stories, but Steven Spielberg liked the idea so much that he decided to make it a theatrical release.

Many of the film's foreign releases (including at least Swedish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Latin American Spanish) used the title Miracle on 8th Street.

PlotEdit

The film is set in contemporary New York City. Frank and Faye Riley (respectively Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy), an elderly couple who run an apartment building and café in the run-down East Village neighborhood, come under threat by a nearby property development. The development manager, Mr. Lacey, under pressure from his corporate bosses to evict the tenants and start construction, sends a hoodlum named Carlos and his gang of thugs to bribe the couple and their tenants to move out. When the tenants resist, they punch through artist Mason Baylor's (Dennis Boutsikaris) door, intimidate pregnant single mother Marisa Esteval (Elizabeth Peña) and break retired boxer Harry Knoble's (Frank McRae) jar of tiles. After Frank Riley refuses to move, Carlos vandalizes the café, breaking a sentimental photo frame in the process. With this assault and Faye's dementia growing (her now believing Carlos to be their long-dead son "Bobby"), Frank contemplates giving in.

Things look bleak until the appearance of a pair of flying, living machines (later nicknamed "The Fix-Its" by Faye), descend into the Rileys' apartment that evening, repairing many of the items that were broken and restoring the café. The two extraterrestrials name, male, Kilowatt and female, Carmen take up residence in the shed at the top of the apartment building, where Faye (and soon the other tenants) supplies them with metal objects to eat. The boarders debate the creatures origins, but Frank puts an end to the discussion by stating "the quickest way to end a miracle is to ask it why it is". Carlos comes back to threaten the tenants once again, the Fix-Its then lure him to the top of the building and into the shed where they scare him away by giving him an electric shock.

Faye and Marisa learn that Carmen is actually pregnant. After consuming plenty of metal and electrical objects, it gives birth to three baby Fix-Its name, Wheems, Flotsam and Jetsam, although Wheems is stillborn. Faye buries the stillborn in a flowerpot the next day, but then Harry digs it back up takes it back to his apartment and succeeds in reviving it. Frank and Faye see a boost of business in the café from the demolition crew, while the Fix-Its help in the kitchen. Harry succeeds in resurrecting the dead machine, which returns to its family just as the other children are taught to fly.

With Carlos unable to prove the existence of the Fix-Its that had been foiling their plans, Lacey is furious with the delays in evicting the tenants and moves to replace him. Desperate to see the job done and growing more unstable, Carlos breaks into the building's basement under cover of darkness to sabotage the building's pipework and electricity, and badly damages Kilowatt with a fire axe in the process. After Harry throws him out, the tenants discover the children are missing and go searching for them in the city while Faye stays behind with Carmen as she fixes Kilowatt. At first they don't have any luck but then Harry manages to summon the children with a dog whistle and megaphone, after which he laughs and comments "don't leave home without it". When Kilowatt is been repaired, the now-wary Fix-It parents leave to seek out their offspring, and after finding them with Harry, the machine family departs from the planet.

Tired of the delays, Lacey sends a professional arsonist to burn down the building in a staged "accidental fire". Carlos discovers the plan and in a rage sabotages the arson to make the entire building explode, only to then discover that Faye is still in the building. While the arsonist flees, Carlos unsuccessfully attempts to pose as her late son Bobby to get her to leave, but ends up rescuing her as the fire spreads. The tenants then return to find the blazing apartment block collapsing, and Faye being loaded into an ambulance.

By the next morning, the apartment block has been reduced to a smouldering wreck. To Lacey's fury, construction is still unable to continue as Harry, sitting dejected on the steps, refuses to leave. Harry is then greeted by the mechanical family later that night, who have recruited countless other Fix-Its for repairs. By the next morning the entire building has been seamlessly restored to brand new condition, forever ending Lacey's demolition plans and resulting in his termination by his employers. Mason and Marisa settle into a relationship, while Carlos has ironically started a friendship with the Rileys, with Faye finally having come to accept her real son's passing. The movie then ends with a view of the restored and saved building in an unspecified future, flanked by towering post-modern skyscrapers.

CastEdit

  • Hume Cronyn as Frank Riley: The owner of Riley's Café, as well as the apparent landlord of the attached apartment building. In contrast with his wife, he is a down-to-earth man who seems to be crumbling under the pressure of upholding both his businesses and the delusions of his wife when the story opens. He did not get along well with his deceased son Bobby, contrary to his wife. As the story progresses, he becomes increasingly optimistic, and is the first to call the arrival of the "Fix-Its" a miracle.
  • Jessica Tandy as Faye Riley: Frank's wife, who appears to be somewhat senile and living in her own world, in which the car accident that killed her beloved son Bobby never occurred (even going so far as to mistake Carlos for Bobby). However, she lets on in several places that she is not as helpless as her loved ones would believe, as she is the first one to realize the unique ability of the "Fix-Its" and demonstrating for everyone (by breaking her husband's pocket watch, which is immediately repaired by the "Fix-Its"). She seems to serve as a matchmaker for Mason and Marisa.
  • Frank McRae as Harry Noble: A handyman, one of the boarders in the building. Formerly known as "The Human Locomotive", Harry was once a professional boxer with a wonderful right hook. When the story opens, he is retired and appears to have suffered brain damage. Since retiring from boxing, Harry appears to accepted a nonviolent philosophy, choosing to hide behind his shower curtain when thugs are after him rather than fight them. The few lines of dialogue he speaks in the movie are jingles from various commercials (because of which, he is notable for phrasing the title of the movie; 'batteries not included'). He appears to have a love of machinery, which comes in handy late in the film as he uses his talent for tinkering to revive a stillborn "Fix-It". Another example of Harry's quips comes when the "Fix-Its" briefly depart the tenement to explore the city, but Harry manages to summon their return.
  • Elizabeth Peña as Marisa Esteval: A pregnant woman who patiently waits for the return of her boyfriend Hector, the father of her child. As the story progresses, she falls in love with artist and fellow boarder Mason (eventually choosing him over the negligent Hector), and appears to identify with both Faye and the female "Fix-It" on a mother-to-mother basis. She is a native Spanish speaker; when Frank fails to communicate with the "Fix-Its" in English, he suggests to Marisa why not see if they understand Spanish.
  • Dennis Boutsikaris as Mason Baylor: A model of the starving artist. Mason at the beginning of the film is left by his girlfriend, who has grown tired of his appreciation of the decaying apartment. As the story progresses, he falls in love with Marisa, who appreciates his art, and he eventually gets the building noticed by a restoration society after a previous attempt failed (ironically, after the entire tenement had burned to the ground and was rebuilt by the "Fix-Its"). Mason appears to be a problem drinker, and is prone to mood swings.
  • Michael Carmine as Carlos: The leader of Lacey's thugs. Carlos is an ambitious young man who believes he will move on to bigger and better things if he succeeds in getting Frank and his boarders to move out. When he attempts to attack the "Fix-Its", he gets shown they have a self-defense system by using his aluminum bat as a conductor, resulting in him being fried and retreating from the tenement with an electrically shocked hairdo. Though a thug, Carlos has serious compunctions against arson and murder, and shows his nobler side by rescuing Faye as the apartment building burns near the end of the movie. Ironically, Carlos' attempt to get Faye out of the burning building by feeding into Faye's delusions that he is her son and wants to take her and "good old Dad" to dinner, snaps Faye out of her delusion and she realizes he is not Bobby. He is no longer working for Lacey by the end of the film, and makes an effort to send a bouquet of flowers and a box of doughnuts to Faye.

The Fix-ItsEdit

BatteriesNotIncludedRobotsB-1-

Flotsam (Left), Wheems (middle), Jetsam (right), Kilowatt (upper left) and Carmen (upper right)

The "Fix-Its" were created for the film by the visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic.

Though within the film their origins remain a mystery, they share some features of von Neumann probes; they are apparently independent of external control, and they have the ability to assimilate scrap metal from various sources to replicate and repair themselves. Early in the movie, Frank insists they are spaceships "from a very small planet." The machines sometimes appear to display emotional reactions. When Mason examines a "Fix-It" with a magnifying glass, he sees what appear to be micromachines flying through or scuttling across it. Two different scenes also show the babies thrown in soup and water respectively, without any apparent harm.

The baby "Fix-Its" are called Wheems, Jetsam and Flotsam. The two adults, although they are never named onscreen, are called Kilowatt and Carmen.

ProductionEdit

Principal photography started in New York in August 1986, but location scouting began almost a year before. "Since the story called for a solitary building amidst rubble," explained producer Ronald Schwary, "we had to find a vacant lot with burned-out buildings all around it. We finally settled on an actual building on 8th Street between Avenues C and D on New York's Lower East Side (the building no longer stands, and was probably located on the site of the current Housing Bureau substation, or the building to the east, approx Template:Coord).[1] Production designer Ted Haworth designed a three-sided, four-story tenement facade and oversaw its construction on a location that covered most of a city block. In the name of authenticity, he brought 50 to 60 truckloads of rubble to cover the once vacant lot. It was so remarkably realistic that the Sanitation Department came by and took away prop garbage one morning, potential customers stopped by to eat in the diner, and the business agent for the Plumber's Local of New York visited, demanding to know why there wasn't a permit down at City Hall for the construction." [info from DVD Production Notes]

The final scene before the end credits has an understanding of construction progress that happens around Riley's Café, without it being affected as tall skyscrapers appear, one at a time, around the tiny building. The new buildings used in the shot near the café are from the World Trade Center even though they had already existed for some time by 1987. Street traffic is seen moving as well as people walking on a foot bridge, indicating a filmed shot at the Trade Center area but the pointed black skyscrapers appear to be duplicated optically to contrast with the tiny café. What looks to be the U.S. Steel Building at 1 Liberty Plaza, seems to be the first to appear in the final shot. The scene itself is a non-existent location but the shot appears to be on Trinity Place, facing North with Zuccotti Park, {formerly Liberty Plaza Park} and the U.S. Steel Building both on the lower right.

A gazebo was donated to the Green Oasis and Gilbert's Garden community garden after production was completed.

TriviaEdit

  • During the opening credits, pictures of young Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are shown.
  • Originally intended to be a story featured in the TV series Amazing Stories. Steven Spielberg liked the idea so much he decided to make it a theatrical release.
  • The building that housed Hume Cronyn's lunch counter was a unique old building that was the only one on the block. Twenty-five years earlier it was used for the Judy Holliday musical Bells Are Ringing with the block in the same condition.
  • The opening montage shows pictures of Frank Riley in a Navy uniform circa World War 2. Later in the movie when his wife pulls out his pocket watch it has a leather fob attached with a gold anchor with a silver "USN" on it, signifying Frank achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer during his time in the service.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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