Review: My Science Project (1985) Blu-Ray Release from Mill Creek (2016)


Review: My Science Project (1985) on Blu-Ray (2016)

I have fond memories of watching many “B” movies of the 80’s either from the local Video Update rental store or from such early cable entities such as Spectrum or HBO. The unfortunate downside of a premium paid channel was the lack of quality content. In the age of Betamax versus VHS meant waiting at least a whole year (if not more) before a big Hollywood movie such as Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Star Wars was available for home viewing/ownership. It also meant we paid a premium to own a video copy of any given new release. It wasn’t uncommon to see a $99 price tag for a new release back in 1981 (pan and scan).

Early Cable TV wasn’t any different BUT provided in earnest to deliver something of value that might’ve been lost, otherwise. I must’ve watched The Beastmaster, several times a day. As years went on, not much changed other than a few original programming such as the family-friendly Fraggle Rock or the tawdry/sensual/softcore-adult tales of The Hitchhiker. Once pay-per-view started to come around that’s when one could pay to see high profile movies such as Aliens or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off months after its theatre run and before it was released on VHS; this is where I would order such things I missed on the big screen such as Big Trouble In Little China.

There will be mild spoilers in this review.


The opening of the movie sets up the entire plot device: alien technology coming from a spacecraft crash back in the mid-1950. President Eisenhower demands, in the fear of global panic, the wreckage be decommissioned and buried. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t something I questioned back in 1985, and now 30 years later it seems rather silly. I suppose that’s the point considering the portrayal of Eisenhower is light-hearted. The movie was written and directed by Jonathon R. Betuel, the same man wrote The Last Starfighter, some TV, and finally Theodore Rex before disappearing. I can only assume that his Last Starfighter script is what got him the directing job of My Science Project. Oddly, the two movies show very little resemblance to each other.


The film then jumps to modern day 1985 where our hero, Michael, is a grease monkey only thinking about cars and not much else. Getting close to graduation finals he learns from his post-60’s proto-hippy science teacher, scene chewing provided by Dennis Hopper, that Mike will fail science class if he doesn’t come up with a mind-blowing science project. It’s also reinforced that Mike is not allowed to simply rebuild a carburetor but to think outside the box and expand his skills. Then his day goes from bad to worse when his girlfriend, the hottest girl at that high school, dumps him. Wait, you think that would be bad, right? Well, here’s where I’m thinking that Mike is either a nihilist or a sociopath. He doesn’t show much emotion toward much of anything. Either the director told Mike, played by John Stockwell, to approach the character as someone with no future or as someone who really didn’t care much about anything. Mike is deadpan and mumbles most of the time (this is our hero) so perhaps my tendency to watch this movie over and over again when I were young had to do with deciphering Mike’s lines? Perhaps it was intent to play the character as James Dean or Danny Zuko casual-complicated-angst-cool but instead feels cold. There are more things to fuel Mike’s bad day of which involves his father but it feels completely unnecessary much like many other things in the movie.

So why not bring in the Jerry Lewis to its Dean Martin? Mike’s funny partner in crime is Vince, played by Fisher Stevens. Other than Hopper, Fisher Stevens steals the show and completely owns his character. He plays a high-energy wisecracking East Coast transplant best buddy friend to Mike. Their dynamic reminds me of the old cartoon where the big brooding bulldog is constantly being followed and worshiped by a jumpy little dog yapping, “what are we doing next, boss?”

Vince is probably the saving grace of the entire movie; he’s the glue that keeps the entire movie together in both pacing and plot. When there is a sticky plot point, Vince is there to help save the day! Vince also has the most memorable one-liners; he was the cool guy I wanted to be. Even to this day I’ll still find any chance I can to use the line, (in response to a question as to why Vince wears sunglasses at night) “when you’re cool, the sun shines on you 24-hours a day”. He was greasy and smarmy in a Jersey Shore and Andrew Dice Clay kinda way while still being completely likeable. I can tell he really enjoyed playing the role and I was fully on board.

As I mentioned earlier in regard to Mike’s dad, there are more than a few useless participants in the movie. Ellie, played by Danielle von Zerneck, is the lead female protagonist; unfortunately she doesn’t add much of anything to the story. She’s plays the awkwardly hot and nerdy high school newspaper/yearbook journalist with a crush on Mike. When Mike gets dumped, Ellie quickly pursues Mike for a date. After that she becomes a tag-along for the rest of the movie. In fact, the entire movie feels like a tag-along. My original feeling for the entire film was it only got made based upon the final 30 minutes of visual effect eye candy. For their first “date” Mike and Ellie trespass onto an Air Force graveyard hoping to find something Mike could pass as his science project. He does and it happens to be a piece from the old alien wreckage. Once it’s activated it draws in surrounding electricity like a Hoover to dirt. What is it and what will happen when the device has raw access to a main power grid?

Kudos to the visual effects team that used proven effects that were successful in other films (Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars) and did a delightful smorgasbord of optical, practical, mechanical, and more in order to believably blend a 1985 high school with various intersecting timelines and dimensions. That alone is what I patiently sat through the first and second part of the movie to finally get to. It’s the payoff.

Transfer quality? This is the first time My Science Project has been released on Blu-Ray. Admittedly I have only seen this movie on cable and VHS. It was always presented in TV framing 4:3 ratio pan-and-scan. My Science Project was shot in its native wide screen format because the pan-and-scan version always annoyed me with its awkward forced frame panning. The transfer to Blu-Ray 1080p looks a bit grainy than I’d expect but I have no DVD release-reference to compare (I suspect it to be the DVD transfer). There are no extras and no subtitle options (nothing, not even English). The Blu-Ray release is an auto-play release with no menu other than a splash screen that has a selection of “play movie”.

My Science Project is a sci-fi mid-eighties campy time-stamp, but with deservedly lessor credibility. I have a soft spot for My Science Project mostly because of overexposure during my impressionable childhood nostalgia-ripe years. I love science fiction, I love fantasy, and I love high school shenanigans. My Science Project is far from perfect but plays out a larger concept that, at times, is fun to watch. It’s in good company with movies such as Solarbabies, The Wraith, Lifeforce, and The Soultaker.