Forgotten Film Synopses Requests: Short Circuit


Holy crap peeps - I'm swimming in so many requests and indecisive users my brain is ready to explode! But it's all good, as deep down I'm just so thrilled so many of you really enjoy FFS.

This Request Edition is for Snafoo, and features an oldie you may definitely remember from the 80's - Short Circuit.


Despite all the copious amounts of cheese, this film still had an undeniably enthralling subject matter, regarding the possibility of soul within a machine. Sci-fi movies usually took a stance on either side of the line between technophobia and technophilia; that is, advancement would either bring about some utopia, or it would destroy us all. In this case, for possibly the first time ever, Short Circuit showed us both sides of the coin.

What results is a fascinating mash-up between compassion and great positivity in unprecedented technological advancements, and outright fear as to what such advancements may really represent.

Add in some dated robotic effects, uber-cheesy one-liners, a little Government intervention, ethnic stereotypes, and Steve Guttenberg, and you have a comedic Sci-fi romp the whole family can enjoy.

It's a beautiful day out in the field. But wait - what just destroyed all the pretty flowers?!


Aahhhh! What are those things?! Some robots with glowing red eyes just lasered the fuck out of a whole mess of tanks and jeeps carrying a slew of military guys decked out in full assault gear!


Holy crap if this doesn't make old standards of war obsolete. The whole thing was a demo, with the military guys just mannequins. The same robots emerge from cover, and introduce the President of Nova Robotics, Dr. Marner (Austin Pendleton).

Nova is a major technological company just making a breakthrough in robotic advancement, with the creation of 5 new weapons-ready prototypes with massive military applications - the Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport, or SAINT models.

Dr. Marner takes great pride in demonstrating their capabilities to a large audience of Government officials, military personnel, and possible financiers (which actually include a Saudi). Oh well, it's still the 80's, I guess.


Unfortunately, a sudden thunderstorm interrupts the presentation, so everyone heads inside. Dr. Marner is bugged by a Senator who demands to speak with the man who created the robots, so he runs off to find him and get his ass to the event.

Ben Jabituya (Fisher Stevens) is one of the technical guys who assists Newton Crosby (Steve Guttenberg), the actual brain behind the robots themselves. And he's usually the one Marner is stuck having to deal with when Crosby decides he doesn't want to be in the spotlight. Ben knows Crosby hates the PR schtick, but seeing as how it's such a monumental occasion, he tries to get him to come down. An angry phone call from Marner helps, as well.

I told you it's still the 80's - a General is discussing an idea he has with Marner, about parachuting the robots behind enemy lines so they can blow shit up in downtown Moscow. In the meantime, some guys are just finishing charging up the robots with a mini-generator, when a bolt of lighting touches down, frying the shit out of robot Number 5.


Back at the after-party, Marner is trying his best to kiss ass while Crosby tries to explain he had no intention of creating the robots for military use (naturally). The units show up a few minutes later to wow the crowd, and when Number 5 fails to appear, Marner, Crosby, and Ben get a little worried, to say the least.

They get together at Operations, where they try to patch into it remotely to shut it down. From what they receive on the monitors, it seems it is refusing, claiming "malfunction" and that it "needs input". They determine it's position and note that it's outside the perimeter fence, no longer on site, and that it's laser is still armed.

This makes everyone VERY nervous, especially Skroeder (G.W. Bailey), the movie writers' purposely-named militant Security Chief who hates the robots and the very idea they exist to begin with. His concern is what happens if it decides to blow away anything it wants, which is quite the relevant question. But Crosby assures everyone it's still just a robot, and it isn't as if it can get pissed off and purposely decide not to follow orders...


Number 5, in the meantime, is like an innocent child, playing with light switches, following moving objects, soaking in all the stimulating sights and sounds around him. He had been pushed onto a garbage truck by a collection bot, which is what took him outside the labortatory's perimeter.

He was at a gas station, reading advertisements and asking fuel pumps for "input" when Skroeder's guys finally caught up with him, by banging into him on the road. Number 5 was just going to say hello when the dudes freaked out, swerved, and sent him flying over the bridge, right on top of a woman's mobile snack kiosk.

Her name is Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy), and Number 5 remains quiet on the roof while she speeds home to have an argument with her dickhead ex-boyfriend. Stephanie has this thing for collecting homeless animals, and her house is full of them. A true kind-hearted humanitarian, she believes Number 5 is an alien whose species has chosen her, when she finds him in her truck.

She brings him inside, where he makes a mess out of her kitchen and she gives him her encyclopedias and library to run through in seconds. In a big way, it's a good thing, seeing as how Number 5 is now able to speak and identify the objects and most situations around him. Stephanie ends up going to bed  leaving her new "alien" friend alone with the TV for a whole night of input.

At the same time, Crosby and Ben decide to take a Nova van and Number 2, and drive off on their own to search for Number 5. Funny how a genius like Crosby doesn't seem to know where Ben and his family come from... anyway, their main concern is that the robot is brought back unharmed, as Skroeder is determined to blow it to shit and return with the pieces.

The next morning, Stephanie takes her new friend outside to see the sunrise, but her dog scares him off the porch and right into the chicken coop. It's there Stephanie notices the I.D. inscribed on his base stating he's from Nova.

She calls up the installation, pissed at their "war-mongering" tactics, but all too happy to report she has their equipment. Dr. Marner explains she should keep a "safe distance" from it, and that they're on their way to pick it up in order to disassemble it for research.

She tells Number 5, who is too busy jumping with a grasshopper to care much. However, he accidentally squashes it, and surprises Stephanie with his remorse. He believes that all that is needed is to re-assemble the insect, and it would be o.k. But when Stephanie explains the concept of death, Number 5 puts two and two together and believes that if Nova takes him apart, he will die.

He takes off with her truck, and stops only when she tells him they will both die with the way he's driving. Crosby and Ben pull up then, and Number 5 freaks out.


The Scientists cannot believe what Stephanie tells them, same as with Number 5 following her prompts. They listen as the robot tries to explain himself, but Skroeder shows up with his men, extremely angry and ready to fire.

Number 5 goes on the defensive, firing warning shots to dissuade the guys from advancing on him. But bullets graze his outer shell, and he gets scared, calling for his friend to help him. Eventually Crosby shuts his power off, and tells Skroeder's guys to hold their fire and gently take him to the Nova van.

Crosby blows off anything the woman tries to tell him at that point, and sends Ben along with one of the Nova Secruity guys back to the lab. But on the ride, Number 5 powers up partially, enough to find a way to turn his main body back on, replace his bum arm, and take control of the van when he's discovered.

He even removes his tracking device, throwing into the back of a passing pickup truck, and finds a pop station on the radio, jammin' to some tunes.

Now everyone at Nova is on red alert, and even Dr. Marner is siding with Skroeder, despite Crosby's growing intuition something is going on. In the meantime, some reporters have gone to Stephanie's home, in order to ask about the Nova robot and whether or not she's aware a $25,000 reward is out on it. Her pesky ex is watching the news, though, and schemes to ensure the money is his, after getting Stephanie to reveal where Number 5 is hiding.

Of course, it's at her home now, seeing as how Number 5 came back. He and Stephanie dance to some tunes, where he later gets the idea for his new name  "Johnny 5", like in the radio song (derrrr). Maybe if he doesn't get torn apart he'd make a great addition to Mrs. Dustspinster's class for special needs children - and you know what that means...

                                                         There goes 11 million in research....

He spends another night chillin' out and watching The Three Stooges, his favorite program. And sure enough, the following morning, the ex shows up with a shotgun in an attempt to take Number 5 back himself for the reward money.

Mentioning Nova throws Number 5 into a tizzy, at which point he takes off for the yard and Stephanie wrestles with her ex so as to prevent him from shooting her friend.

When they finally get outside, they're shocked to discover Number 5 has dismantled the ex's entire brand new sports car, right down to the nuts and bolts. Deflecting all the shells, he resorts to mimicking actors on TV, like John Wayne. Then he burns the guy's weapon and shoe soles, sending him running - but not before the guy promises to contact Nova and police.


Now Stephanie and Number 5 are on the run, and with Nova informed, they quickly run out of options. Number 5 explains that Stephanie should contact Crosby, since he's his creator and the one man who could turn this whole thing around for them.

So as Crosby and Ben are parked in the middle of nowhere, they get a call from Marner stating Stephanie will meet with them in a secret location. The guys are game, so long as Marner agrees not to say anything to Skroeder.

At a local bar and grill, Stephanie tries to convince Crosby something miraculous has happened to alter his robot into a conscious and innocent form of higher life. But still, Crosby tries to assure her that although a robot can seem very advanced and life-like, it is still only a robot, and a malfunctioning and unstable one at that.

At the bar, Skroeder sits with some of his guys, disguised and ready...

Alone in the woods outside the area, Number 5 bides his time until he meets up again with Stephanie, and hopefully, Crosby. And suddenly out of nowhere comes the other prototype SAINT units, which Nova, for some reason, decided to let loose and armed around the restaurant.

Setting up crude traps, Number 5 manages to outwit them all, by blinding one with mud, catching another in a net, and luring one into an outhouse, which actually explodes as the unit jokes on "not lighting a match". Hm - maybe a jolt got to him, too.


Number 5 busts right through the wall of the restaurant, just as Skroeder makes his presence known and tries to make it seem as if he and Crosby were planning it all along.

A chase is on between Stephanie's snack van and the Nova Security force, but Number 5 manages to blow up a tree in order to block the bad guys' pursuit. Now fuming, Skroeder starts screaming at Crosby, complaining that the other prototypes should have eliminated their runaway bot by now.

And along comes the three units, re-programmed to behave like The Three Stooges. Forget how in the hell they're capable of even performing in such a way - I guess the point here is it's obvious only Number 5 could've done it, and now Crosby knows for sure Stephanie must've been right.

The snack truck eventually breaks down, and Stephanie becomes emotional, telling Number 5 to blast the next person that tries to hurt him - and finds that even after all that's happened, Number 5 refuses to cause harm to other life.


He goes off on his own, right back to the restaurant, where Crosby is talking with Ben on how no one could've broken Nova access codes and re-programmed the robots using the language he invented. Checking their tracking system, they find the unit is right on top of them, and sure enough, Number 5 tells Ben to beat it and for Crosby to go back to where Stephanie waits.

Now able to see with his own eyes, Crosby finds that Number 5 had rewired himself, and questions him on who his creator is, etc. The answers the unit gives baffle him, as Number 5 insists that his hardware is his alone, he is alive, and chose on his own what was best. Also, he poses concern as to the reason for his original programming - he takes a moral stance against causing harm, and will not do so.

Trying to convince himself now, Crosby issues a series of psychological tests in order to determine that imagination, emotion, and preference cannot come into play with a robot. He uses his soup for an inkblot, but again, freaks out when Number 5 sees images in the liquid.

Finally, at dawn, he gets one last idea. Crosby goes into this big drawn-out Priest, Minister, and Rabbi joke to determine if the unit is capable of a sudden emotional response - and it works. Number 5 laughs so hard, in fact, it wakes Stephanie up, and once and for all, the Scientist is convinced.

But unfortunately, their joy is short-lived. Nova shows up in full force, backed by the U.S. Army. After some time engaged in a verbal stand-off, Skroeder has his men go around back and forcibly remove Crosby and Stephanie from the van, where Number 5 explodes out the back to make a run for it.

They watch in amazement as a chopper takes off after him, where he's finally blown up. Crosby can only comfort the grieving Stephanie as best he can while the rest of the group cheers.


Wanting out at that moment, Crosby takes off with Stephanie as Marner fires Skroeder. Never to return to Nova again, Crosby talks about going up to Montana, where his relative had left him some land. Suddenly, Number 5 is heard from the back, stating he'd love to go!


Inspecting the contents of the van, Crosby finds that Number 5 had made a duplicate of himself from robot parts, which is what he really sent off into the valley to be destroyed! As the three embrace, Stephanie decides that 40 acres of Montana landscape would also be perfect for all her animals.

Their minds made up, they let "Johnny 5" drive them off into the distance, on their way to a new life.


film (c) 1986 David Foster Productions, PSO, Tri-Star Pictures



Uploaded 09/07/2011
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