Thursday, 10 February 2011

80s Movies: Short Circuit (1986)

"No disassemble, Stephanie!" - because to be disassembled is to be dead. That one premise pretty much sums up the plot of Short Circuit. Weirdly, the actual central theme of the movie is of outsiders - Ally Sheedy (WarGames, The Breakfast Club) is stuck in what seems like a dead-end relationship and a fairly unfulfilling career, while Fisher Stevens (Hackers, Super Mario Bros.) as Ben Jabituya is an ethnic stereotype that would be unlikely to make it past the first script meeting these days. Along with Number 5 (who also appears in Short Circuit 2) and Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Three Men and a Baby) as Newton Crosby, the main protagonists of this film are all either out of place or downright outcasts.

Despite that fact, they are never portrayed as anti-heroes - instead, we're with them from the very beginning, which in itself paints Number 5 as something of a coward when, newly enlivened by being struck by lightning, he runs away from the military training field and begins the wild goose chase that forms the storyline for the rest of the film.

The Plot

As I've mentioned above, the central plot is about Number 5 becoming alive - and promptly running away. The fact that he becomes alive with an utterly harmless personality - albeit a somewhat clumsy one - despite being a military-grade killing machine is what makes the rest of the film work. When he is forced to retaliate by the ever-growing horde of US Army officials who hunt him down, he does so either through fairly harmless slapstick, or by outwitting them.

Meanwhile, Number 5's inner turmoil is his attempt to understand what being alive really means - and to avoid becoming dead in the meantime. It's a personal journey that affects those around him, in particular Sheedy's Stephanie Speck whose life is transformed through meeting this unlikeliest of allies.

Music and Legacy

I'm delighted that I managed to find a copy of the full soundtrack to Short Circuit, despite it never officially being released as an album. One of the best tracks on the soundtrack, Come and Follow Me - which plays over the closing credits - made it on to a limited vinyl release, I think, but that's about it.

Come and Follow Me itself is a brilliant 80s theme, with all the synth and electric guitar you'd expect. Think Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, from the end of Mannequin, and you're halfway there.

It remains to be seen where the Short Circuit story will end. There was, of course, 1988's Short Circuit 2. However, there are also continual rumours of a third film (a bit like there are always hints at a Quantum Leap film). Whether it will ever hit the screens is probably a truth that only time is able to tell.

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

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