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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Short Circuit


Starring: Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, Fisher Stevens, Austin Pendleton and G. W. Bailey
Second Sight
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: PG
Available 19 November 2012

Built as a weapon of war, the SAINT No 5 robot suffers a traumatic shock during an electrical storm which scrambles its programming. Confused, the robot leaves the base and finds himself at the home of animal loving Stephanie Speck, who initially mistakes him for an alien. When she realises that he was built by a nearby scientific research base she sets about teaching No 5 about life and the world, finally realising that No 5 has become sentient. With a mind of his own he rejects the militaristic role assigned to him, but the base and the military have other ideas and come looking for him...

Short Circuit (1986 - 1 hr, 38 min, 32 sec) is the type of science fiction family comedy which was, for a time, very popular in the '80s. The film was directed by John Badham (Blue Thunder [1983], War Games [1983]) from a script by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock. The film was nominated for a number of awards and won one from the BMI for the score.

The movie, like the haircuts, has to be approached from the perspective of the time when it was made. For science fiction, this was a post Star Wars, family friendly film, whose attitude was generally positive. In such an era, the natural charms of the film’s star, Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon 1985) made for a naturally fitting match. Such sentiment was not to last and it was not long before science fiction was back in the business of destroying the world and giving us Jar Jar Binks, personally I’m not sure which is worse.

To complement the charming Guttenberg, who plays the robot's creator, Newton Crosby, the female lead had to be spunky but have the looks of an attractive girl that the teenage boy might have a chance with, in 1986 that could only mean Ally Sheedy (War Games 1983), who plays No 5’s rescuer and eventual love interest for Crosby, Stephanie Speck. In truth they make a cute couple, which was probably a good reason to cast them together. The main villain of the piece was that stalwart eighties comedy villain, Howard Marner, played by Austin Pendleton.

The movie has finally found its way to Blu-ray and although the film has some grain, the overall picture has benefited from a Blu-ray release, with the benefit two audio options for either English 2.0 LPCM or DTS 5.1 with optional subtitles.

Given the age of the film the extras are pretty good and include a full length commentary with director John Badham and writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock. The filmed sequences kick off with an Ally Sheedy Interview (2 min, 17 sec) which is really a promo for the film, so it tells you little about the actress and acts more like an advert; the same can be said about the Steve Guttenberg Interview (2 min, 23 sec).

The John Badham Interview (2 min, 06) is another advert and a missed opportunity, for Badham’s insights you will need to listen to the commentary. The Syd Mead Interview (17 min, 34 sec) is a much meatier piece looking at the film from the designer of the robots. Next up Eric Allard gets his own interview (35 min, 01 sec). Allard worked on the special effects, together these last two give you a good insight into the technical side of the film.

Creation of No 5 (6 min, 46) has a look at the robot, even showing you No 5 being made, in the age before CGI, when real physical effects were needed. It was interesting to see the physicality of the robot come together. Apart from the theatrical trailer the disk closes with Behind the Scenes (3 min, 51 sec) which has shots of the film being made.

Taken on its own merits, this is a good, but certainly not great, film which is very much of its era. So much so that Fisher Stevens's portrayal of an Indian scientist boarders on the racist. It wasn’t enough that they couldn’t be bothered to find a real Indian actor, but they seem to have gone even further and imbued him with every racial stereotype.


Charles Packer

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