The Manhattan Project – Special Edition (Lionsgate/DVD-Video)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Film: C+
genius/loner cycle of tech comedies in the 1980s is one of the most interesting
and understudied. For every silly hit
like My Science Project, Weird Science, Project X and War Games,
there was a masterwork like Real Genius
and even a cult film in Marshall Brickman’s The Manhattan Project (1986) which owes something to the latter two
yet is its own film in interesting ways.
Collet plays 16-year-old Paul, a young man with a bright future and a good
demeanor, but his mother Elizabeth (Jill Eikenberry) is becoming involved with
a nuclear scientist (John Lithgow) who is also nice to him. He even takes him to work… at his top secret
nuclear science lab and that gives Paul an idea. Why not team up with his girlfriend (Cynthia
Nixon) and steal a warhead to make a nuclear bomb!
kids will be kids, at least back then.
Towards the end of what was decades of films about the safety of
childhood and the teen years, Paul does what he does with the assumption of
“what can they do to me, I’m just a kid” before that line was permanently
blurred, but the film acknowledges that the line was never really there in the
first place if the stakes are high enough.
finds out that if you set of the feds enough, it will make E.T. look even more like a fantasy (especially that suspicious
re-edit) and if anything is a culmination of the many ideas and impulses of its
own cycle plus child-safe films like E.T.
that began to surface in the 1980s. That
is its appeal, pulling no punches to the very end, which ironically is more of
a 1980s ending than following through on its edgiest moments. John Mahoney (Say Anything…, The Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink and Peter Yates’ underrated Suspect) is effective as the military antagonist and Robert Sean
Leonard makes his feature film debut.
Though it never takes off, its consistent darkness is more appealing
than ever and its cult status will continue for decades.
anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is not awful, but seems lacking
throughout in vibrancy as if it were taken from a slightly aged print. Director of Photography Billy Williams, B.S.C., has always
been one to deliver exceptionally interesting cinematography and you at his
best, always feels like you are going somewhere you have not been before or
should not go. Besides lensing Ken
Russell’s first theatrical films, Billion Dollar Brain and Women In Love, John
Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday,
Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi
and Yates’ Suspect. He is one of the main reasons this film is
the cult hit it is.
Digital 2.0 Stereo was issued in Dolby A-type theatrical analog sound and this
mix shows its age. If they could go back
to Philippe Sarde’s original music masters and the original sound stems, though
this is often a quite film, a DTS 5.1 upgrade would not be hard. Extras include a trivia track as one of the
subtitle options, the original theatrical trailer, full length audio commentary
by Brickman et al and two featurettes.
- Nicholas Sheffo