They Went From Zeroes To Heroes In One Fantastic Weekend.
If you can’t get a date… make one! After proving himself the king of heartfelt teen flicks with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, writer-director John Hughes infused the genre with a hefty dose of wacked-out sci-fi comedy in Weird Science, a film where every teenage boy’s wildest fantasies come to life.
Perennially picked-on high school nerds Gary (Anthony Michael Hall, Sixteen Candles) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are sick of their status at the bottom of the social food chain. Using Wyatt’s computer, the two hatch a plan to create their dream woman - and following a massive power surge, that woman unexpectedly appears in the form of Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Gorgeous, intelligent, and blessed with limitless magic powers, Lisa makes the boys’ dreams come true… but what about Wyatt’s gun-toting psycho older brother Chet (Bill Paxton), and the two bullies (Robert Downey Jr and Vamp’s Robert Rusler) determined to put them back in their place?
Inspired by Ec Comics and boosted by a killer soundtrack (including the classic title theme by Oingo Boingo), Weird Science has never looked better than in this new 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray edition, including an extended version of the film and hours of bonus content.
Arrow Video upgrades their Blu-ray edition of John Hughes’ Weird Science to 4K UHD, presenting the b in both the theatrical and extended versions in their original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a triple-layer disc in 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition encode and Dolby Vision. Arrow uses the same 4K restoration that was the basis for the 2019 Blu-ray edition, taken from a scan of the 35mm original negative.
Arrow’s previous high-definition presentation was impressive enough, so much so I wasn’t expecting a significant improvement here, yet there is still a notable one. Most of the upgrades come down to what HDR and Dolby Vision bring: black levels and colors receive a sizable boost. Shadows look excellent with clean gradations and better details (where the source allows), and colors show far more range compared to what the Blu-ray afforded, the bright pink light present during Kelly LeBrock’s emergence being the most striking moment. It also has a few decent pops of brightness where appropriate, though nothing that I felt came off overtly hot.
The base restoration and presentation still look solid, too. Arrow has cleaned almost all instances of dirt and damage, and grain (which is relatively heavy) is rendered wonderfully, even cleaner than the Blu-ray’s. The film’s optical effects lead to dupey-looking moments (which probably stand out more here compared to the Blu-ray), yet the image remains highly detailed and clean outside of those moments. The extended portions, which total about 2 minutes, also show a slight drop in quality. However, it’s almost certainly due to how they were sourced, likely from an interpositive or internegative (scanned and restored in 4K for this edition).
Source element short-coming aside, it’s a clean and sharp-looking presentation that still manages to best Arrow’s previous Blu-ray edition, even if it’s just by a little.
As far as I can tell, Arrow is re-using the same DTS-HD MA audio tracks present on their Blu-ray edition for the theatrical presentation: the original 2.0 stereo surround soundtrack and a remastered 5.1 one. The extended version only includes the 2.0 soundtrack.
The audio is still sharp and clean with superb fidelity and range, but both soundtracks are front-heavy with limited surround use outside of music and some of the effects-heavier sequences.
Arrow replicates their previous special edition’s features, though, somewhat disappointingly, don’t add anything new. This includes a couple of alternate editions, including the extended version, which consists of a couple of scenes, which are also offered here on their own in the special features as additional scenes.
You’ll also find the entire 94-minute television version of the film, presented in high-definition in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I think it’s excellent as curiosity, but I would still recommend watching the 18-minute split-screen comparison Arrow put together comparing the differences between the theatrical and TV cuts. In most cases, a scene from one version is shown, followed by the same or similar scene from the other, highlighting some minor edits and dubs over curse words (some of which are funny). But some scenes have been entirely re-edited, including one where shots have been rearranged to (hilariously) avoid showing a toilet flush, and then others were redone to cut out nudity. It’s pretty bizarre at times what needed to be changed. Music in the theatrical version during the mall scene (a cover of “Pretty Woman”) and at the end (the “Rocky Theme”) have also been replaced with the “Weird Science” song (my understanding is that some previous home video versions did this as well, and I assume it was a rights issue in both cases). It still proves fascinating what was and wasn’t considered okay for television then.
Arrow next includes the same batch of interviews recorded exclusively for their editions. Casting director Jackie Burch talks about her work with Hughes and the interesting casting process (including how Robin Wright and Sharon Stone were up for playing Lisa), followed by actor John Kapelos. Kapelos reflects on his character and talks about working with Hughes over a few films and his regrets that Hughes would eventually leave Hollywood. The interviews run 6 minutes and 7 minutes, respectively.
They’re good interviews, as is a 14-minute one by composer Ira Newborn, who talks about the synth sound of the score. But I was more fascinated by two technical ones: a 20-minute interview with make-up effects artist Craig Reardon and an 11-minute one with editor Chris Lebenzon. Lebenzon’s is fun as he talks about how he just fell into editing (apparently practicing on a machine used by Thelma Schoonmaker) and how getting pulled into Weird Science at the last minute ended up helping his career. Reardon’s is probably my favorite, though, as he talks in detail about creating the Chet monster that appears in the film. It was a rough process creating this creature, and he explains the many ways they worked around its issues. He also comments on how getting the right people to work on a film is all that it takes to make a film work, admitting that he could not picture the script, as it was written, working at all. To his surprise, it did, and it’s all because of who was involved.</P>
I’m guessing the 17-minute It’s Alive! Resurrecting “Weird Science” comes from a previous Universal release. It’s a decent retrospective on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Anthony Michael Hall, John Kapelos, Ally Sheedy, costume designer Marilyn Vance, writer Diablo Cody, director Amy Heckerling, critic Owen Gleiberman, and others. It’s a pretty standard DVD “making-of” feature, rushing through some of the material, like casting and the music in the film. Again, nothing special, but it’s okay.
Arrow then includes some of the usual features: a teaser trailer (basically the “creation” sequence cut down to trailer length), a theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, and nine radio spots. We then get three galleries: the complete shooting script, a large selection of production photos, and samples of posters and home video art from around the world (including the awful retro Blu-ray cover in North America).
Arrow also duplicates the booklet from their Blu-ray. There’s an excellent essay on how the film has aged, written by Alexandra Heller-Nichols. She is still fond of the film (even if it’s just nostalgia) but notes how in the age of “Incels,” it can be a bit troublesome (though the lesson in the film is, of course, these boys need to build their confidence and are not entitled to a relationship). There’s also another essay by Amanda Reyes about the possible influence of E.C. Comics and the series “Weird Science” on the film.
I'm still surprised at the lack of a commentary, but Arrow still delivers a good set of features.
Arrow’s new 4K edition doesn’t present any new features but does offer a sharper-looking video presentation over their previous Blu-ray.