With the simultaneous advent of personal computers and video games on a massive scale in the early ’80s, it was unsurprising that Hollywood tried to fit all things virtual into the exploitable framework of cheesy teen comedies. The latest Midnites for Maniacs triple bill reprises three of the era's daffier such efforts.
The eccentric Heartbeeps, a major flop released in 1981, puts Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in constrictingly ingenious makeup as two servant robots who run away from their factory warehouse in the brave new world of 1995. Despite meeting such over-the-top types as Randy Quaid, Christopher Guest, Mary Woronov, and Paul Bartel en route, their comic odyssey is weirdly sentimental, even inspirational — it's like Jonathan Livingston Seagull for androids.
More successful but equally derided was 1985’s Weird Science, which struck many as several juvenile steps backward for writer-director John Hughes after that year’s The Breakfast Club. Alas, he was never so silly or immature or funny again. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are dweebs who create an "ideal woman" (Kelly LeBrock) on their computer; she of course comes to life and teaches them all sorts of valuable life lessons while embodying a world of adolescent male masturbation fantasies.
Last and ever-so-least — save in camp value — is Joysticks, the Roller Boogie of video arcade movies, from the director (Greydon Clark) of Satan's Cheerleaders, Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate, and Lambada, the Forbidden Dance. A mean politician (Joe Don Baker, not walking so tall career-wise in 1983) tries to shut down the local arcade, believing it to be a hotbed of underage sin. Our heroes (cute guy, nerd guy, fat and desperately-trying-to-be-a-young-John-Candy guy named "McDorfus") thwart him and save democratic freedom amid many Porky's-style jokes. What you need to know: sequences are separated by the graphic of a Pac-Man biting its way across the screen; "punk" subsidiary villain King Vidiot is played by Napoleon Dynamite's future Uncle Rico (Jon Gries); and the theme song really is just about playing video games ("Jerk it left/ jerk it right/ shoot it hard/ shoot it straight/ video to the maaaaaax!!!"). (Dennis Harvey)
Fri/25, 7:30 p.m.
Castro Theatre
429 Castro, SF

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