Weird Science (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Aug 03, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Weird Science (4K UHD Review)

Director

John Hughes

Release Date(s)

1985 (August 22, 2023)

Studio(s)

Silver Pictures/Hughes Entertainment/Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Weird Science (4K UHD)

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Review

After the runaway success of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, John Hughes was sitting on top of the 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. It has a heart of gold, but it could only have ever been made in the 1980s and not turned into softcore pornography. While there’s 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.

Weird Science was shot by cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti on 35 mm film with Ultracam 35 cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video debuts both versions of the film on Ultra HD, both sourced from new 4K restorations of the original camera negative and 35 mm intermediary elements for sections unique to the extended version, which reincorporates two additional scenes via seamless branching. Everything has been graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). Arrow’s previous Blu-ray remaster was a much-needed improvement over the original Universal Blu-ray, but the jump to UHD isn’t nearly as dramatic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since a lot of the leg work was already done. What this presentation gains is a much higher bitrate that frequently sits between 80 and 100Mbps, though the variable grain that’s quite thick at times and mostly absent at others is more noticeable. A lot of it is chalked up to the visual effects and opticals, but the unevenness stands out more. However, it still appears organic to its source. Detail is tighter and sharper with good texturing and the image is stable and clean, outside of minor speckling and scratches. The color palette ranges from drab grays and browns to rich primaries and neons, which the new HDR grades enhance with deeper contrast and boosted hues. It’s about the best the film is ever going to look on home video.

The audio is presented in English 2.0 LPCM for both versions and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 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 all been pushed to the back to widen things out. Dialogue on both tracks is clear, though more discernible 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.

Weird Science on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case with a double-sided insert and poster, both featuring artwork by Tracie Ching on the front and the original theatrical artwork on the reverse. Also included is 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, restoration details, and production credits. Everything is housed in a slipcover with the same Tracie Ching artwork. The following extras are included:

  • Edited-for-TV Version (Upscaled SD – 94:06)
  • Split Screen Comparison (HD – 18:16)
  • Casting Weird Science with Jackie Burch (HD – 6:01)
  • Dino the Greek with John Kapelos (HD – 6:55)
  • Chet Happens with Craig Reardon (HD – 19:38)
  • Fantasy and Microchips with Chris Lebenzon (HD – 10:44)
  • Ira Newborn Makes the Score (HD – 13:43)
  • It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science (Upscaled SD – 16:38)
  • Theatrical Teaser (Upscaled SD – 2:37)
  • Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled SD – 1:34)
  • TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 2 in all – 1:01)
  • Radio Spots (HD – 9 in all – 4:50)
  • Shooting Script Image Gallery (HD – 133 in all)
  • Production Stills Image Gallery (HD – 119 in all)
  • Poster & Video Art Image Gallery (HD – 22 in all)

Nearly all of the previous extras from Arrow’s Blu-ray release have carried over, including the 95-minute edited-for-TV version of the film, as well as an optional split screen comparison. The two deleted scenes included in the extended version that were presented separately on the previous Blu-ray aren’t included here. The rest of the carried-over material includes Casting Weird Science, an interview with casting director Jackie Burch; Dino the Greek, an interview with actor John Kapelos; Chet Happens, an interview with special makeup creator Craig Reardon; Fantasy and Microchips, an interview with editor Chris Lebenzon; and Ira Newborn Makes the Score, an interview with the film’s composer. It’s Alive: Resurrecting Weird Science is an archival multi-part documentary 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. Last are a pair of trailers, two TV spots, nine radio spots, and three image galleries featuring a total of 274 stills from the film’s 133-page shooting script, production photos, publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photos, posters, soundtracks, and home video artwork. Missing from previous releases is the pilot episode of the TV series, and not included at all is Oingo Boingo’s music video for Weird Science.

Arrow Video’s second helping of Weird Science on 4K Ultra HD offers an excellent presentation, multiple versions of the film, and a mountain of great extras. It’s an electrifying package, one that fans will be pleased with. Highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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