Short Circuit was released at a time when the world was fearful of a potential US/Russia nuclear war.
As the film begins, five little robots, created by Newton Crosby (Steve Guttenberg), are unveiled to the media as the army’s latest weapon against the enemy. They can seek out any threat on a battlefield – human or otherwise – and eliminate it, often with an explosion. Later, while everyone is busy, they haven’t been locked away and one gets struck by lightning. Hence: “Number 5 is alive”
In another nod to the fear about what making machines could lead to, as was shown with The Terminator a couple of years earlier, he becomes self-aware and legs it (well, heads off on his rollers) out of the factory and into the country to escape any a potential reprogramming, eventually landing in the vicinity of animal lover Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy) who then gets together with Newton, as you’d expect.
Despite the popularity of the two leads at the time, it’s actually Fisher Stevens, as Newton’s colleague Ben, who ends up impressing on the viewer more than either Guttenberg or Sheedy. Naturally, he was the only one who returned for the, comparatively lacklustre, sequel. And I’d also wager that The Simpsons‘ voice of Apu was clearly based on that of Fisher Stevens’ character.
It’s fantastic to see Short Circuit in the full 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision widescreen ratio which is the first time I’ve seen it presented like that. When I first saw it on TV, I didn’t realise it was filmed that way, but once I got used to the variety of aspect ratios, I could see how much I was missing and I don’t recall a TV station ever showing it properly in the UK. As for the picture on the disc, it’s not perfect and feels very “80s” if you’ll pardon the expression, but while you’ll know what I mean when you see it, I also mean that it can’t look completely pristine simply because of the original print. Either way, this is as great as the film is going to ever look, save for hiring your own cinema, of course.
It’s a great piece of entertainment, with lots of little clever comedic lines dropped in here and there, and director John Badham was also in charge of other engaging favourites of mine including The Hard Way, WarGames, Drop Zone and Blue Thunder, all but one of which were also shot in a similar uncompromisable ratio.
At this point in the review, I have a problem, because when I first watched the screener which arrived, it played fine. I got an hour into the film and tried it again and now, for no apparent reason, it no longer plays. All my other disc work fine, but this machine no longer likes this one (Second Sight, please can you issue regular discs for your next release).
However, from what I did see, it is worth a look -and has a fair number of extras, which Amazon reminds me are as follows:
- Commentary by Director John Badham and Writers SS Wilson and Brent Maddock
Original Theatrical Trailer
‘The Creation of Number 5’
Cast and Crew Interviews
Behind the Scenes Featurette
Can’t assess these
|OVERALL||Worth a purchase|
Running time: 98 minutes
Released: November 19th 2012
Distributor: Second Sight
Sound: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Badham
Producers: Gregg Champion, David Foster and Lawrence Turman
Screenplay: SS Wilson and Brent Maddock
Music: David Shire
Stephanie Speck: Ally Sheedy
Newton Crosby: Steve Guttenberg
Ben Jabituya: Fisher Stevens
Howard Marner: Austin Pendleton
Skroeder: GW Bailey
Frank: Brian McNamara
Number 5 (voice): Tim Blaney
Duke: Marvin J. McIntyre
Otis: John Garber
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.