I can still picture the hard plastic case—the only one in our VHS tape collection—peeking out above the other paperboard covers. And I remember the feeling of permanence when writing those two timeless words in blue pen on the card insert: Weird Science
My family was not rich. My mom and dad worked hard and thankfully had the help of my grandmother and aunts in raising me and my three siblings—yep, four wild kids in one house. Suffice to say: the latest technology was NOT of utmost concern (at least to any of the adults). To be honest, it was not of much importance to us children either; tech fads were not a big thing just yet.
So, getting our first VCR was kind of an understated yet monumental moment in our lives. Until this landmark occasion, repeated viewings were left to the powers that be at broadcast television companies—unless you factor in HBO, who would replay any given movie about 30 or so times in as many days. (AND without commercials! What?!)
The huge, almost-briefcase-sized VHS video cassette recording machine sat up on a shelf under the cable box with its enormous (by today’s standards) square-inch buttons for Play, Stop, Rew, Ffwd, Pause and Record. The first VHS tape we had, it may have come with the purchase, was equally epic. An actual hardcover plastic box (“heavy-duty” if you will) that had kind of a gray craquelure feel to it. The title card would slip into a clear plastic on the front.
We’d later switch to TDK or Sony or whatever cheaper brand was available. We’d also begin recording more than one movie to a tape with the discovery of what SP, LP and EP meant. But, for the very first cinematic gem we would immortalize to cassette, it would be one movie and that one movie only.
In my memory, I seem to recall kind of leading the charge on what we would record. I may have been the only one who really cared; my older sister was ahead of me and my two younger siblings by four years and arguably the most popular of all of us. I said arguably guys, don’t get mad at me.
To my point, she was probably too busy with an actual social life to care about television. And my younger siblings, sorry again guys, may have just been outvoted by me. Because I, of course, was older and arguably wiser.
In any case, the very first film we (or I, really) recorded on VHS was that bastion of motion pictures: Weird Science.
Generations after mine will never understand the concerns of “taping” a movie from TV:
• Making sure the VCR or TV is set to channel 3.
• Hitting BOTH play AND record buttons (why wasn’t the one button enough?).
• Pausing the tape for commercials if you weren’t recording a cable show.
• Remembering to un-pause when the show started again after the break.
• Making sure the tape head was clean.
• Specifying AM or PM if you were programming something to record.
• Having a blank tape (or enough space left to get the whole recording).
• Checking to be sure the copy protection tab was intact (or taped over).
• Staying awake through the whole movie to not get the next movie or interstitials.
All that aside, I’m fairly certain we recorded the ‘80s classic from HBO. The film written and directed by John Hughes, of course, featured Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly LeBrock. Hughes was on a bit of a tear after writing and directing Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club (both of which also featured Hall).
Danny Elfman sang the Oingo Boingo theme song which somehow fit right in on 1980s’ pop radio. The story is a basic Frankenstein remake but, instead of the mad scientist, you have two pubescent geeky teens. And naturally instead of a monster, the unpopular mechanics use a (laughably “state-of-the-art”) computer to simulate a dream woman into being.
Looking back, recording Weird Science not only set the tone for my love of films. The film itself reflects my life experience. Nerdy, young, fun, interests in movies and music and comedy and science and the arts, with a love—and deep respect—for women. As well as a general happiness of just being alive.
Also see: Weird Science Trailer