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Revenge of the Nerds
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 84 mins .
M15+ . PAL
HUR! HUR! HUR! HUR!
For many of us thoughts of the ‘80s turn instantly to an endlessly memorable parade of teen films. There were, of course, many varieties – the romantic, such as Valley Girl, Pretty in Pink and Say Anything…; The downright silly such as Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer and Sixteen Candles; ones for the geekier boys and girls like Real Genius, Ferris Bueller and Electric Dreams and, of course, the boorish, frat-based booby-fests the likes of Animal House, Porkys and its sequels. Revenge of the Nerds takes bits of the latter three of these four styles, and is certainly interesting to revisit many years later through the eyes of a now jaded 30-something.
Cleanliness is next to nerdliness...
The two titular nerds it’s all hung around are Lewis (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) – the sort of guys for who pocket protectors are the ultimate in high fashion, posters of computers are décor deluxe and robots are downright cool and sexy. They’re out of high school and off to college in the family truckster – a chance to shake off the shackles of adolescent oppression on their journey into manhood, and perhaps even get some action with the opposite sex – it’s gonna be really neat! But reality soon checks in, as they realise they’ve just traversed one period of derision for another – for as the law of these things dictate, jocks rule the school, right?
Booted from their freshman digs after the jock house – the Alpha Betas – kind of burned theirs down (fireball!), our two “heroes” and the other first year students are set up in the gym. The college’s many fraternities take their picks of the bunch, leaving a ragtag group of misfits as the remainder – or nerds as this story would have it – facing either a roomful of balls as a home, or doing something about it.
Are these things on?
They soon find a rather TRaShed old building, arrange a bit of a MicroBee – oops, spelling bee – umm, working bee to do it up to be the Apple ][ of their eyes and eventually start up their own PET fraternity as a chapter of Lambda Lambda Lambda and get to party hearty. But all the time they face the wrath – and more specifically pranks – of the Alpha Betas and their sister house, the Pi Delta Pis, until eventually they decide they’re as mad as hell and aren’t gonna take it any more, using the homecoming carnival as a chance to exercise that revenge the title of the film has promised all along.
"I say we blow the f*ckers up."
While time has been kind to many of the films mentioned in the opening of this very review, the advancement of those old hour, minute and second hands (or indeed digital displays if you prefer) hasn’t been particularly sympathetic to Revenge of the Nerds. The unnecessary forays into teen titillation are simply crass – one of the examples of “revenge” involving a network of video cameras being setup in the Pi Delta Pi dorms being downright perverted as the nerds sit around their house lapping it up like it’s the Playboy Channel – and despite the whole thing supposedly being some sort of “yay for the dorks” affair it basically just takes a whole gang of supposed “loser” stereotypes and sticks the knives in, with a clumsy “we won the war” type thing sticky-taped on the end in an attempt to both hide this fact and mop things up to fit the title (yes the nerds win, duh – it’s hardly a spoiler, the title gives it away!)
Dexter continues his search for the perfect snatch...
There are some fun performances - John Goodman in fine, vociferous form as Coach Harris, underrated ‘80s teen queen Michelle Meyrink as Gilbert’s girlfriend Judy and Timothy Busfield (now a semi-regular on The West Wing) as the Muppet-like Poindexter - and many a puerile gag which still raises the odd giggle, however much like that old Commodore VIC20 that’s stashed somewhere under your parents’ house, Revenge of the Nerds has a certain fleeting retro appeal, but ultimately little timeless allure like so many of its contemporaries.
Revenge of the Nerds comes to DVD looking very much like an ‘80s film, which shouldn’t be any sort of surprise, ‘cos duh – it is! HUR! HUR! HUR! HUR!
PHWOAR! Check out the resolution!
Delivered in a 1.85:1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement, there’s plenty of side-action for those of us who only ever saw crappy old full screen VHS tapes to lap up, in what is a reasonable transfer, but never anything particularly special. After a rather jelly-like case of the wobbles right at the beginning things soon stabilise, leaving greeblies such as small but fairly regular speckles, generous washes of grain at times and a generally slightly under-saturated picture to be the bugbears of note. Black levels are quite pleasing, and shadow detail is pleasantly surprising at times, with little losing its way in the dark. It must be the x-ray specs.
Blah. You’d think a film both fondly remembered by many and possessing a title such as this would actually be given to some audio nerds to do some fiddling with, but no, sadly all we get is a decidedly flat Dolby Digital stereo mix which for all intents and purposes is mono. Dialogue gets by relatively unscathed; however the musical interludes sound tinny and generally ick – at least offering the perfect opportunity to relive those many nights spent at the drive-in. Oops – there goes my nerd credibility… umm, “or so I am told ‘cos I always stayed at home with my Commodore 64” – erm, phew, yes – got out of that one...
Cool! It's the Village Devo Dolby Elvis Jackson People!
As for the tinny and generally ick sounding music, the score comes from well known purveyor of generic ‘80s synth doodles Thomas Newman, and is kept company by a theme song which Devo should sue over along with the odd outbreak of Talking Heads, Queen and somebody ultimately more frightening than any character on offer in this flick, Michael Jackson. HUR! HUR! HUR! HUR!
Oh come off it, are you trying to tell me Nerds didn’t even have a trailer?! A hopelessly generic menu, sans title and all, leads to absolutely zip in the extras department – still, we didn’t receive any packaging, so with luck at least the cover slick will have instructions so we can go all origami and make a handy pocket protector or something. HUR! HUR! HUR! HUR!
Very much a product of its time, Revenge of the Nerds comes to us on a functional, but nothing special DVD (it's suitably round, has a movie on it etc.), however those with fond memories of it may be surprised to find they have the odd bit of faulty RAM inside their heads.
Anyway, ultimately the nerds have had their own, much better revenge on the jocks and human Barbie and Ken dolls of the world – one William Gates basically owns the universe now and anybody who can’t use a computer is way behind the eight-ball. And just think, if not for those wonderful clever clogs’ out there we wouldn’t have DVDs to play with and this review wouldn’t even exist. PHUT!
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "