Short Circuit

Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz!

I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Telemetry Suits” with a minor in “Horny Robots”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!

This week Supercult proves once and for all that “Life is Not a Malfunction” with Short Circuit!

Short Circuit Poster

NOVA Laboratories constructs U.S. military robots for use in the Cold War, but inventor Newton Crosby is more interested in peaceful applications such as music and social aid. When Number 5 in the latest series of prototypes is struck by lighting, he suddenly develops sentience, goes AWOL, and finds his way into the home of animal-lover Stephanie Speck. Can Newton and Stephanie protect the childlike Number 5 from NOVA’s CEO and the U.S. Military? Number 5 is alive in…Short Circuit!

Short Circuit is a 1986 family film, starring Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, and the voice of puppeteer Tim Blaney, who also voiced Frank the Pug in the Men in Black films. Because of its themes and plot Short Circuit is often compared to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. but few would call it as deep or emotionally resonant, especially with the star robot purring suggestive comments to his human female benefactor while twirling her to the tune of “More than a Woman” by the Bee Gees.

Clearly drawing inspiration from earlier films with prominent robot casts such as Star Wars, Number 5 was the most expensive part of the film requiring several different versions to be made for different sequences. Number 5 was designed by Syd Mead, the “visual futurist” famous for his work on Blade Runner and Tron and his design was greatly influenced by the sketches of Eric Allard, the Robotics Supervisor credited for “realizing” the robots.

Most of Number 5’s arm movements were controlled by a “telemetry suit”, carried on the puppeteer’s upper torso. Each joint in the suit had a separate sensor, allowing the puppeteer’s arm and hand movements to be transferred directly to the machine. He was also voiced in real-time by his puppeteer, the director believing that it provided for a more realistic interaction between the robot and the other actors than putting in his voice in post-production, although a few of his lines were re-dubbed later.

Many of the little tricks done by Johnny 5 on-screen were done using relatively simple, yet ingenious sleight-of-hand prop effects. For instance, the an air hose was used to show Five flipping through book pages in the blink of an eye, while Five tossed a washer into the air like a coin using a piece of string at both ends sideways. Not only did tricks like these free up money for use on the actual robot and the screenplay, but they also proved remarkably effective in getting just the right look needed for the scenes.

Director John Badham, a master of 70’s and 80’s cheese, makes a cameo appearance during Stephanie’s impromptu news interview as the news cameraman. Not only that, midway through the film Stephanie and Number 5 dance to a scene from Saturday Night Fever, not necessarily because it’s a fantastic film (though it totally is) but because both Short Circuit, Saturday Night Fever and the nerdy sci-fi thriller WarGames are all directed by John Badham.

While USA Today called it “immensely entertaining and funny like Ghostbusters”, both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave Short Circuit a “thumbs down” calling it “a dumb, obvious, predictable movie that never realizes the potential of the marvelous machine that was built for it.” Despite the mixed reviews the film debuted at No. 1 in the US box office bringing in $40.5 million from a budget of $9 million, beating out other 1986 hits like ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and Jeff Goldblum’s ‘The Fly.’ The film also wound up spawning a 1988 sequel and a video game tie-in for the Comodore 64, Amstrad CPC and the ZX Spectrum. There is even word of a remake in the works.

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For now though, Short Circuit has a 6.5 on IMDB and a respectable 57% on Rotten Tomatoes and enough cheesy, one-dimensional heart to warm event the chilliest of Supercult souls.

Something wonderful has happened…

The Supercult show is proud to present Short Circuit!


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