We take a journey back to 1985 for the not-so-PG-13 Weird Science. Arrow Video has upgraded its set with a beautiful 4K UHD.
Wow, 1985 had to be a weird fucking year to make movies.
Watching John Hughes’ Weird Science, one is struck by this very sentiment with every passing scene. Still entertaining and fun but the film with ample amount of nudity, language, and general un-PC behavior would never have received a PG-13 in 2023 nor would probably be made either.
Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are losers of the highest order, made all the more obvious by an incident in the High School Gym that half the girls in the school witnessed. Pondering one night what would make them popular, whilst watching the original Frankenstein, the two horny teens decide to create the woman of their dreams by using Wyatt’s computer. A bit of movie magic ends up with the teens creating Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Lisa not only guides them on the ways of being popular but manages to teach them a lesson or two (maybe the wrong lessons but who are we to judge?). Throw in Vernon Wells straight out of The Road Warrior, Bill Paxton as the Older Brother that was shat out of hell, and Robert Downey Jr (before he was Robert Downey Jr) and you have the recipe for a highly entertaining movie.
It is odd, to say the least, to go back to the oeuvre of John Hughes in 2023 to see how really questionable a lot of what passed for comedy (e.g., Long Duck Dong in Sixteen Candles for example). Even Weird Science takes some deep breaths to get through. Some may want to skip a revisit altogether because of this fact. Let me counter with this. Weird Science does present a fascinating look back at the 1980s and all its crapulent glory. It isn’t a bad movie or a movie so far out of line that it shouldn’t be rewatched. In fact, it has some salient points to make about image, and behavior that is only lightly touched upon but still ring true.
That being said, it’s still a fun and funny mash-up of High School Comedy and High Concept Science Fiction. There is something hilarious about a film about two teenagers that create a dream composite sex pot only to never have sex with her/it but actually, learn a few lessons from her/it. Gary and Wyatt are good kids just looking for what every kid looks for in High School, popularity and a relationship. The film allows Lisa to be a mentor of sorts for them, not giving them what they want but (as the song says) giving them what they need.
One wonders after the trifecta of Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and Breakfast Club why Anthony Michael Hall didn’t turn into the biggest comedic force of the 1980s. One also wonders why he wasn’t cast as Ferris Bueller. Weird Science is Hall at his loosest and best. There isn’t a moment that Hall doesn’t take a turn it into a moment for him to shine. Equally as good is Bill Paxton who was just adding scene-stealing part after scene-stealing part after the toad that is Chet. Paxton’s Chet is the model for Asshole-Big-Brother parts from this point forward. It is all Paxton, only some of Hughes’s writing, that creates this iconic role.
With that said the film belongs to Kelly LeBrock as Lisa. Playing part Bride of Frankenstein and part Yoda, LeBrock shines like the star she is. Hughes gives her both moments to shine comedically and dramatically. There isn’t a scene that she doesn’t control the tone and pitch of. Hughes adroitly writes Lisa as a higher lifeform that knows that these boys will ever touch her let alone be with her. The only part that one would consider dated is just how much Hughes over-fetishize and over-sexualizes her to the point of absurdity, though that could be the point that Hughes is trying to make.
At the end of the day, Weird Science still stands as one of the best of the High-Concept High School films of the 1980s (not the best, we all know that’s Back to the Future). It’s great to see other than a few bumps Hughes’ most commercially straight-ahead comedy still shines as bright as it did in 1985.
The new restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative is beautiful. The hyper-stylized way in which Hughes and Cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti have decided to shoot Weird Science only benefits the image in UHD with Dolby Vision encoding. The contrast levels and color saturation are perfectly balanced giving the image a better-looking feel than the previous editions – including their original Blu-ray release. I have been on record for a very long time for my dislike for most Universal Catalog titles (produced by Universal). Arrow Video’s transfer has nary a sight of DNR or cleaning of the grain, giving the film a beautiful sheen of grain. Bravo to Arrow Video for giving us an upgrade to their already wonderful Blu-ray edition with this 4K UHD upgraded transfer.
They include the following;
- 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDr10 compatible) of the original Theatrical Version of the film (94 mins), plus a seamlessly branched Extended Version (97 mins), featuring two additional scenes
- Edited-for-TV version of the film (sd only, 94 mins), plus comparison featurette highlighting the alternate dubs and edits
- Casting ‘Weird Science’, an interview with casting director Jackie Burch
- Dino The Greek, an interview with supporting actor John Kapelos
- Chet Happens, an interview with special makeup creator Craig Reardon
- Fantasy and Microchips, an interview with editor Chris Lebenzon
- Ira Newborn Makes The Score, an interview with the composer
- It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science, an archive documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew, and admirers, including star Anthony Michael Hall
- Theatrical trailers, TV spots, and Radio Spots
- Image galleries
The film offers three different cuts of the film;
- The theatrical cut running 94-minutes
- The extended version runs 97-minutes
- The Edited-For-TV version running 94-minutes
One may wonder what the differences are. Well, the only difference between the extended and the theatrical cut are two additional scenes. One is where Gary and Wyatt are watching Frankenstein while they compare it to other films being “scarier” as Gary hilarious begins to cook crap in the house. The other scene begins with the Devo Heads and is in the midst of the party.
The Edited-For-TV has a whole featurette that runs 94 minutes discussing the various edits made not just for language but for content as well. The featurette is quite hilarious and entertaining to watch as is the Edited-For-TV version. Those familiar with watching Weird Science on TBS, TNT, USA, or WGN will be right at home with this version. Including the fact that it’s a Stand-Def transfer that’s not bad quality but is framed 1.33:1, taking you right back to 1988 when you would have seen this version. Note the film does come with Subtitles, an odd benefit.
The 18-minute split-screen comparison of the edits is hilarious and enlightening to the TV-Censoring process. This can be found under the submenu for the Edited-for-TV version.
Casting Weird Science (6:01) – is an interview with casting director Jackie Burch. Burch discusses the third film she did Hughes. Some great insider information like who was up for Lisa other than Kelly LeBrock (one of which was Sharon Stone). Burch goes over the casting of the various characters, including Vernon Wells and Michael Berryman.
Dino The Greek (6:55) – is an interview with supporting actor John Kapelos. Kapelos is known for his roles in Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club. Kapelos is a great interview giving not only his history of getting into the acting but also giving the skinny on what the word “Malaka” means (it’s great).
Chet Happens (19:38) – is an interview with special makeup creator Craig Reardon. Reardon gives a detailed breakdown of how he came onto the project, the work that was done, and how he almost got Back to the Future but ended up on The Goonies and how that lead to Weird Science. The interest is a great mixture of interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, and b-roll footage.
Fantasy and Microchips (10:44) –is an interview with editor Chris Lebenzon. Lebenzon known for working with director Tim Burton on his classic films here discusses first his origins as an Editor moving to Los Angeles and getting into Editing working on things like One from the Heart, The Outsiders, and eventually how he was hired for Weird Science. Other tidbits include how multiple editors came onto the project and his relationship with Hughes.
Ira Newborn Makes The Score (13:43) – is an interview with the composer. Newborn discusses his theories on making the musical score for Weird Science and how he came to use the Synth Score sound. Tidbits include how he was only given about 5-weeks to edit Weird Science, much to his chagrin, and how he only had 2-weeks to score Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. From the account of the work done on Weird Science from Newborn, it sounds like he had a contentious relationship with the director.
It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science (16:38) – is an archival making-of documentary featuring interviews with Anthony Michael Hall, Diablo Cody, Amy Heckerling, John Kapelos, and other critics and various cast and crew. Produced in 2009 the slick but cheesy edited making-of definitely works and gives a bit more context and fewer production anecdotes. There are some great anecdotes about casting and the actual production, mostly Hall.
Theatrical Teaser (2:37)
Theatrical Trailer (1:34)
TV Spots (1:01) – two 30-second spots.
Image Galleries are broken down into three sections;
Shooting Script – The Shooting Script is by far the best gallery as it states includes the entire 134-page script you can navigate via your next and back chapter stop buttons on your remote.
Production Stills – 120 stills from the production you can navigate via your next and back chapter stop buttons on your remote.
Poster, and Video Art – contains about 23 stills of various Movie Posters, Vinyl covers for 33”, and LPs, VHS, and DVD covers from around the world you can navigate via your next and back chapter stop buttons on your remote.
The Final Thought
Arrow Video continues its run of amazing 4K UHD upgrades with Weird Science. Highest recommendations.