Release Date(s)1985 (July 23, 2019)
Studio(s)Silver Pictures/Hughes Entertainment/Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
After the runaway success of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, John Hughes was sitting on top of a pop culture zeitgeist, reaching a teenage audience and understanding them without ever talking down to them. Their plights as young people were explored through a myriad of characters, especially through young women, and spoke to them in a way that few films had. Taking a total left turn and doing something less about the human condition and more about a couple of geeky teens with a computer who create a sexy woman out of thin air, his next film Weird Science proved that John Hughes was not one note. Although the initial reaction to the film was not altogether as positive as his previous efforts, it’s now seen as a cult classic.
Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are two teens desperate for the touch of a woman, but between their geeky personas and their school bullies Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.), they have no chance. Luckily, Wyatt happens to own a rather large computer that he received for his birthday, and after a late night of watching Frankenstein, Gary gets the idea of using the computer to create their own woman. Using everything from magazine clippings, wearing bras on their heads, and hooking the computer up to a Barbie doll, they make it happen. The result is the beautiful and sexy Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), who comes into their lives and shakes everything up, including embarrassing them in front of their parents, taking them out for a good time, finding them girlfriends, and putting Wyatt’s older brother Chet (Bill Paxton), a crew-cut sporting, gun-toting bully to both of them, in his place.
Wacky is the best way to describe Weird Science. The movie has a heart of gold, but it could only have ever been made in the 1980s and not turned into softcore pornography. While there is occasional T&A, it’s fairly tame than what one might expect. Everybody seems to be having a good time and Hughes in particular seems to be finding an outlet for his appreciation of science fiction and horror. This was also the third John Hughes-related project for Anthony Michael Hall (the other three being National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club), and he, along with Molly Ringwald, had become the permanent faces of the Shermer, Illinois canon. The humor is crude and the special effects are dated, but Weird Science survives as an unorthodox but enjoyable anomaly in the John Hughes catalogue.
Arrow Video brings the film to Blu-ray for a second time with a new restoration taken from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. Not only that, but two versions of the film are included: the 94-minute theatrical version, and a 97-minute extended version which reincorporates two additional scenes via seamless branching. For those who own the previous Blu-ray incarnation, this is remarkable improvement in nearly every way. Grain levels aren’t entirely even, but the strong encode handles them well. Detail is much richer and sharper now, revealing previously-hidden detail in facial textures and clothing. The color palette is rich with saturation, including the creation sequence and the late night trip to the bar. Skin tones are quite natural as well. Contrast and brightness levels are satisfying without ever appearing overblown or cloudy, and everything appears stable and clean aside from minor speckling.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 LPCM for both versions and English 5.1 DTS-HD for the theatrical version only. Optional subtitles are also included in English SDH. For purists, the stereo track is the way to go as it’s a more natural experience, not to mention that the film was originally released in stereo, but for 5.1 enthusiasts, it offers only a mild upgrade. All of the elements are the same, but many sound effects and the score have been pushed to the back to widen things out. Dialogue on both tracks is clear, though more discernable on the stereo track. Oingo Boingo’s title song comes blistering through the speakers with potency, and only mild subwoofer activity can be felt. Both tracks are also clean and free of distortion, hiss, and crackle.
Extras for this release include the 95-minute edited-for-TV version of the film, presented in standard definition; an 18-minute comparison video highlighting the censored and alternate lines from the TV version; the two additional scenes from the extended version, presented separately; Casting Weird Science, a new 6-minute interview with casting director Jackie Burch; Dino the Greek, a new 7-minute interview with actor John Kapelos; Chet Happens, a new 20-minute interview with special makeup creator Craig Reardon; Fantasy and Microchips, a new 11-minute interview with editor Chris Lebenzon; Ira Newborn Makes the Score, a new 14-minute interview with the film’s composer; It’s Alive: Resurrecting Weird Science, a 17-minute multi-part documentary from 2008 featuring interviews with Anthony Michael Hall, Diablo Cody, John Kapelos, Jeffrey Sconce, Marilyn Vance, Hank Stuever, Amy Heckerling, Owen Gleiberman, Michael Lehmann, Justin Henry, and Ally Sheedy; the theatrical teaser and trailer; 2 TV spots; 9 radio spots; 3 image galleries featuring the film’s 133-page shooting script, 119 production, publicity, and behind-the-scenes stills, and 22 images of posters, soundtracks, and home video artwork; and a 44-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, Electric Venus: or, How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love Weird Science by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Pictures from a Magazine: Reflecting on E.C. Comics’ Influence on Weird Science by Amanda Reyes, and restoration details. All that’s missing from previous releases is the pilot episode of the TV series incarnation, but that’s easy to leave behind. In addition, there’s also a Steelbook option available.
While Criterion may have given The Breakfast Club plenty of love and respect on Blu-ray, Arrow Video has given the mostly unsung Weird Science the four star service it has long-deserved on home video, presenting us with an excellent presentation, multiple versions of the film, and a mountain of great extras. It’s an electrifying package, one that fans will be more than pleased with. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons