Weird Science

Tagged: Film | TV | Comics

1. Comic (see Comics). Seminal anthology comic book published by EC Comics from 1950 to 1953. The 22 issues of the series have returned to print dozens of times since their original publication, although they have not stood the test of time as strongly as other EC publications, such as Tales from the Crypt. Edited, often written and sometimes drawn by Al Feldstein (1925-2014), the series also featured stories written by or adapting stories by writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Harry Harrison, Anthony Boucher, and, most notably, Ray Bradbury – who successfully shamed the publishers after they plagiarized several of his stories in other EC publications, and then allowed them to officially adapt his work and advertise his participation on their covers. Artists for the series include Feldstein, Wally Wood and Al Williamson, all of whom produced some of the work that would they would be most noted for through the rest of their careers. Themes covered in the stories included UFOs, Lost Races, Time Travel, Bug-Eyed Monsters, Alien conquerors and Nuclear Energy. [JP]

2. Film (1985). Universal Pictures. Written and directed by John Hughes. Cast includes Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Bill Paxton. 94 minutes. Colour.

This film comedy was inspired by the 1950s comic, 1 above. A pair of teenage nerds, Wyatt Donnelly (Hall) and Gary Wallace (Mitchell-Smith) feed pin-up-girl pictures to their Computer and link it to a Barbie doll: with the help of a traditional lightning strike it conjures up a Sex goddess (LeBrock) whom they name Lisa. She is nice to them and gives them moral lessons, rather as one might expect a scoutmaster to do. Eventually they develop the courage to evict some bikers – temporarily created by Lisa as a challenge to her protegés – from a party; they win the hearts of two more appropriate teenage girls. Wyatt's nasty, bullying older brother Chet (Paxton) is briefly turned into a Monster and made to mend his ways. Although the Donnelly house has been extensively damaged by mishaps during the party, including more "weird science" gone awry, the status quo is magically restored in time for the parents' return after a weekend away.

Starting as sf, Weird Science quickly turns to what is in effect a supernatural Fantasy in which anything goes and nothing means much; despite Lisa's ostensible moral lead, its attitude towards all the women (some undressed against their will) remains infantile. This was one of a series of sf teen movies made at around the same time (see Cinema), and perhaps the worst, though occasionally Hughes's real ability to observe teenage mores shows. [PN/DRL]

3. US tv series (1994-1998). St Clare Entertainment with Universal Television for USA Network. Produced by Robert Hurd Lewis, Ed Ferrara and Peter Ocko. Directors included David Grossman, Les Landau, Tom Spezialy and Max Tash. Writers included Jimmy Aleck, Adam Barr, Alan Cross and Kari Lizer. Cast includes Vanessa Angel, John Asher, Michael Manasseri and Lee Tergesen. 88 30-minute episodes. Colour.

Television sitcom based on 2 above. Wyatt Donnelly (Manasseri) and his best friend Gary Wallace (Asher) are socially inept teenagers living in California. Deciding to create a "perfect woman" to teach them how to communicate better with the mysterious female sex, they accidentally bring to life Lisa (Angel) from a Computer program when lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. Lisa possesses various Superpowers which operate much like Magic in that she can seemingly grant the boys any wish she likes, though refusing requests she considers dangerous or inappropriate. Most of the Humour results from the wishes she grants the pair, often not working out as planned (though the effects are temporary). Gary's and Wyatt's main antagonist is Chett (Tergesen), Wyatt's older brother, who at last learns of Lisa's existence in the final season. While Lisa exists in the real world, she is also still a computer program and vanishes when the computer is turned off. The series was in effect a teenage version of older wish-fulfilment series such as I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970), adding a quasi-scientific origin for Lisa. The final six episodes, unaired on USA Network, were shown when the series ran in the following year on the Sci-Fi Channel. [GSt]

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