If you were around in the 80’s, it was common knowledge that movies about time travel reigned supreme. Such was the case for the 1989 release, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. For you young ins, it was a sci-fi comedy about two teenage slackers that travel back in time to assemble a collection of historical figures to use in their presentation for their history class. The individuals that were yanked from history were: Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln.
When all of these figures of history arrive in 1989 “present day” San Dimas, CA, they seem obviously confused. What bothers me though is that, besides non-verbal communication, there is barely any conversing between them. From my observation, the closest camaraderie between all of them was Billy the Kid and Socrates. That relationship bears the “odd couple” dynamic, making it comical for the movie, but I would now like to recognize some other potential friendships and/or conflicts that would’ve erupted from the group.
The role of Napoleon was the biggest role of Terry Camilleri’s career, following his 1974 debut in The Cars That Ate Paris. Napoleon was the first figure from history to be pulled by Bill & Ted and, for the most part, was separated from the group prior to the history presentation. Keeping this in mind, assuming that they all shared the same backstage area at the auditorium, Napoleon could have made some encounters with the others in the group while Bill & Ted waddled through their history presentation. One possible encounter that I’d like to point out is a conversation with Joan of Arc. For fuck’s sake, they’re both from France! I understand that they didn’t exist at the same time in history but Joan of Arc was a national heroine of France and her memory has been invoked by French politicians, including Napoleon. I think he should have at least warned her about her death. By the way, Joan of Arc was played by The Go-Go’s guitarist, Jane Wiedlin.
Tron veteran, Dan Shor, rounded out the 80’s decade with his role as “Billy the Kid.” As I mentioned earlier, his character was one of the first to get yanked from history, which explained his Wizard of Oz type of friendship with Socrates, played by Babylon 5‘s Tony Steedman (RIP). However what would have made more sense is a conversation or two with Abraham Lincoln, played by Robert V. Barron (RIP) from Robotech. Billy the Kid lived from 1859-1881. Abraham Lincoln lived from 1809-1865. Despite the brief overlap in existence, Billy the Kid would be sure to know the 16th President of his own country was sharing a phone booth with him. Right? Plus just like the situation with Joan of Arc, a warning about Abe’s death wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. That is, unless you’re into slaves. Reader… are YOU into slaves?
The final pair that I’d like to bring to light is Ludwig van Beethoven, played by Broadway-famed Clifford David, and Sigmund Freud, played by Rod Loomis from 1982’s The Beastmaster. This one’s a little tricky. First off, there’s no existence overlap. Beethoven is from Germany and Freud is from Austria. German is the primary language of Austria. However hopefully most of you know that Beethoven was deaf. Again hopefully you know that Beethoven was not born deaf and began losing his hearing in his 20’s. In the film, Beethoven’s age at the time of abduction is not mentioned so we don’t know what stage of hearing loss can be determined. But with all that aside, while crammed in the phone booth, Beethoven should have picked up that Freud spoke German if he had any hearing left and at least tried to communicate later on with a pad and paper. However, another twist is that in the film Freud was bilingual so it is possible that he only spoke English whenever Beethoven was around. But then again, Freud would know about Beethoven’s existence and at least make an effort to communicate with Beethoven, hoping that he could still read lips if he was totally deaf. Like I said… this one is tricky.
If you ever have one of those days when you’re just starting at the tube and this comedy graces your screen, I’d be honored if you remember this blog. Plus who knows, you might come up with your own questions about the film or find another probable pairing with these historical figures. The most important thing is, Bill & Ted passed their history class and San Dimas High School Football rules! Long live the Wyld Stallyns.