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Short Circuit (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 8, 2009 by  



Sure its an 80’s campy film and may not have the greatest HD transfer on Blu-ray but for those who grew up with the film and are fans of director John Badham, Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, for a Blu-ray that retails under $10, it’s worth giving a try.

TITLE: Short Circuit

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (Widescreen 2:40:1), 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: PG

COMPANY: Tri Star Pictures/Image Entertainment

Directed by John Badham

Written by S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock

Executive Producer: Mark Damon, John W. Hyde

Producer: Gregg Champion, David Foster, Lawrence Turman

Associate Producer: Gary Foster, Dana Satler  Hankins

Music by David Shire

Cinematography by Nick McLean

Edited by Frank Morriss

Casting by Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton, Judy Taylor

Production Design by Dianne Wager

Art Direction by Dianne Wager

Set Decoration by Garrett Lewis

Starring:

Ally Sheedy as Stephanie Speck

Steve Guttenberg as Newton Crosby

Fisher Stevens as Ben Jabituya

Austin PEndleton as Howard Marner

G.W. Bailey as Skroeder

Brain McNamara as Frank

Tim Blane as the voice of Number 5

Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy co-star in this high-tech comedy adventure about Number Five, a robot who escapes into the real world after he short-circuits in an electrical storm and decides that he’s human.  Because he’s carrying destructive weapons, the Defense Department and his designer (Guttenberg) are desperate to find him.  But Number Five is being protected by a young woman (Sheedy) who is teaching him gentler way of life.

Number 5 is alive.

In 1986, the film “Short Circuit” was released in theaters and made over $40 million domestically.  The film about a US military robot gone awol after an electrical surge and eventually developing a conscience attracted moviegoers.

The film is directed by John Badham (“WarGames”, “Blue Thunder”, “Point of No Return”) and a screenplay written by S.S. Wilson (“Wild Wild West”, “Ghost Dad”, “Tremors”) and Brent Maddock (“Wild Wild West”, “Heart and Souls”, “Ghost Dad”).

The film kicks off with a military testing as NOVA Robotics is showcasing five robots developed for the Department of Defense.  The military looks to use these robots against Moscow (note: This film was released during the Cold War between the US and U.S.S.R.) and we see the robots taking out tanks and vehicles with their laser beams.

Due to weather, everyone is brought inside of the laboratory to celebrate the robots and a Senator requests for the PR director of NOVA Robotics Howard Marner (played by Austin Pendleton, “Glass Houses”, “Dirty Work”, “Christmas with the Cranks”) to meet the designer Graham Crosby, Ph.D. (played by Steve Guttenberg, “Police Academy” films, “Veronica Mars”, “Three Men and a Baby” films) and his partner Ben Jabituya (played by Fisher Stevens, “Lost”, “Awake”, “Undiscovered”).

While the NOVA staff, military and politicians are admiring the robots, the five military robots are being prepared for the Department of Defense but while the robot No. 5 is still hooked up to a generator, a lightning bolt hits the generator which produces a surge affecting the robot.

Next thing you know, No. 5’s programming has been affected and he undergoes a malfunction and as he strays around inside various rooms, he is ushered into a garbage truck and taken out of the facility and is on the loose.

Because the robots are literally military weapons, NOVA Robots officer Skroeder (played by G.W. Bailey, “Mannequin”, “Police Academy” films) and other soldiers go after the robot.  Skroeder has a hatred towards the robots and feels it must be destroyed but Marner and Crosby feel that the robot should be brought back in one piece.

Meanwhile, No. 5 manages to sneak into a food truck driven by Stephanie Speck (played by Ally Sheedy, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, “The Breakfast Club”, “WarGames”).  Stephanie is an animal lover and when she discovers No. 5, she automatically assumes that he is an alien from outerspace.  She eventually communicates with No. 5 and tries to help him understand the world around him. Providing him books and access to television.

She eventually finds out through a mishap that No. 5 belongs to Nova Robotics and contacts them to pick up their robot but while she is with him, No. 5 accidentally jumps on a grasshopper and asks for Stephanie to reassemble it and she tells him that the insect is dead.  When No. 5 figures out that disassemble means “dead”, he panics and he takes Stephanie in a joyride to escape from Nova Robotics.

Meanwhile, Crosby and Jabituya managed to find Stephanie and No. 5 and Stephanie tries to explain to Crosby that the robot has a conscience but Crosby who developed the robot doesn’t believe its possible since robots run via software.  Skroeder and Nova Robotics manage to reclaim No. 5.

While in captivity, No. 5 (who’s body is shut down) which is still awake (the head portion) manages to find a way to activate the whole body and commandeer the van and kicking out the passengers.  No. 5 returns to Stephanie’s home but now Stephanie must find a way to protect him.  But can she trust Crosby into helping protect No. 5 from Nova Robotics?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Surprisingly “Short Circuit” is presented in 1080i High-Definition Widescreen (2:40:1) instead of 1080p.  The film has scenes that are quite vibrant and look great for a film that is 23 years old but then some parts seem a bit off at times.  The good news is that there is grain present in the film but there is also dust present as well (although not that bad).  The bad news is that certain indoor scenes look a bit darker.  Even certain outdoor scenes seem to be dark (as if there was an overcast of clouds that came and disappeared). But overall, picture quality is a bit inconsistent at times.

As for the audio quality, the film is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (and also Dolby Digital 5.1).  The film is primarily front and center channel driven.  Dialogue is clear and for the most part, El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny” theme song seems to be the only scene where hear a lot of bass.  But there is surround channel usage during the actions sequences and the thunderstorm but I was hoping for a more immersive lossless soundtrack but overall, the soundtrack was satisfactory.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Short Circuit” special features are in 480i Standard Definition and in Dolby Digital 2.0.  Included are:

  • Audio Commentary by Director John Badham and writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock – The three discuss the making of the film and the storyline.  Badham is very detailed in his commentary about certain scenes and bringing the script to life.
  • The Creation of Number 5 – (6:46) An old school featurette featuring director John Badham and the effects crew and the making of Number 5.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews – Featuring interviews from 1986 with Ally Sheedy (2:18), Steve Guttenberg (2:24), John Badham (2:06), Syd Mead – Talking about the production end and going to Japan to look at robots and how to make No. 5 a genuine character for the film (17:36) and Eric Allard – Discussing the special effects for the film (35:02).
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (3:48) Behind-the-scenes clips of the making of the film and Director John Badham and crew recording certain scenes from the film.
  • Isolated Music and Effects Track – Watch the film with only the music and special effects.
  • Biographies – Text based biographies that you can view via your remote.
  • Production Notes – Production Notes from the original 1986 press kit.  You can view and turn pages of the production notes via your remote.
  • Robot and Production Design Still Gallery – View the robot and production design gallery via your remote.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (1:50) The original theatrical trailer in its old school glory.

I grew up watching “Short Circuit” and watched it in the theaters and watched it countless times on cable but part of the reason why I wanted to watch this film was that it was directed by John Badham, which I loved his movies “WarGames” and “Blue Thunder” and the fact that he is reunited with Ally Sheedy who was also on “WarGames” and one of my favorite actresses from the 80’s.

And the fact that she and Steve Guttenberg (another favorite from the 80’s) were together, let’s say I was feeling nostalgic and I wanted to see “Short Circuit” again.  The first thing my toddler asks me if this is a new “Wall-E” film and to tell you the truth, I never thought for once that the two look similar (but looking on Google, it seems that many have).

Overall, the film is campy but “Short Circuit” has that 80’s charm. Yeah, it’s campy but it’s “fun campy”.  A robot developing a conscience and next thing you know he’s dancing to El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny” and John Travolta on “Saturday Night Fever” and repeating things he sees on television.  But it has its share of action as well with soldiers and an ex-boyfriend wanting to take on No. 5.

Sure, for today’s audience it may not attract them but having grown up with this film, I enjoyed the film when it came out and watched it again and still enjoyed it today.

Granted, I wish I could tell parents that you can show this film to your young “Wall-E” loving toddlers but the film has its share of profanity.  I actually made the mistake in thinking this was a children’s film and had my son watching the film along with me. (note: Although it says PG, there is no description of why it’s PG.  I figured it was for the more action-based sequences).

As for the Blu-ray, it’s one of the cheaper Blu-rays available to find online (usually under $10) and it’s a release that is not in 1080p but 1080i.  There are a good number of special features but nothing new added and for the most part, picture quality is not spectacular and the lossless soundtrack is average at best.

Overall, “Short Circuit” is fun, campy 80’s film.  Granted, with today’s audience, “Wall-E” seems to have won the hearts of many viewers and No. 5 has been forgotten.  But with a remake of “Short Circuit” being developed, for those who want to go down that nostalgic road like I did (and the fact that you can find it for under $10 which is not bad), then you may want to give this Blu-ray a try.






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