The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

Post  BoG on Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:08 pm


This was the first of three Disney films to feature Dexter Reilly (Kurt Russell) and his pals at Medfield College, the small private college that had been seen in the older Disney comedies The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber. Though the story obviously updates the environment to fit the late sixties, it still offered the common Disney view of wholesome family entertainment and college-age kids who had positive values, rather than rebelling anarchists. Sure, they would bug the Dean's meetings surreptitiously, but they still wanted what was good for their school. In this case, it was a computer. They convince rich tycoon Arno (Cesar Romero) to donate the $10,000 computer, but he also reneges on his $20,000 donation to the college, causing the Dean (Joe Flynn as the eternally flustered academic head) no end of consternation.
One night during a thunder storm, Dexter has returned with a replacement computer part for his professor (William Schallert) and lightning strikes! Dexter gets zapped and somehow his brain is altered to mimic the computer. The next morning, he aces a one hour test in 4 minutes. Very soon, he is world famous, displaying a prodigious (superhuman) intellectual prowess in multiple fields. He quickly becomes arrogant. On top of all this and unknown to most, Arno is also the secret head of an illegal gambling ring. Since he is the former owner of the computer, all that information is still stored in there somewhere and Dexter absorbed it when he transformed. During a crucial Encyclopedic competition - $100 Grand in prize money - Dexter blurts out one of the secrets, code-named "Applejack." Since this competition is televised, Arno hears this; he quickly has Dexter kidnapped. Without Dexter, there's no way that Medfield would win the competition. But, it may be worse than that - after keeping Dexter on ice for a day, the thugs plan to rub him out.

This was pretty amusing throughout, with Romero (TV Batman's Joker) in rare form as the criminal boss and Flynn first perfecting his flustered Dean Higgins (repeating in the next two films). He and Kurt Russell would also reunite in the similar The Barefoot Executive (71) as different characters. This is also capped by one final inspired amusing moment from Michael McGreevey as Dexter's slow-witted buddy Schuyler; McGreevey seemed to always have at least one of these moments in these films. This was the first starring role for 18-year-old Russell, who began as a child actor. Unbelievably, he would go on to such roles as the duplicitous salesman in Used Cars (1980-sort of Dexter gone bad) and Snake Plissken in Escape From New York (81). The next Disney-Medfield film was the even more amusing Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972).  BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10

Trivia Worn:
Ed Begley, Jr. has a small role as one of the students competing against Medfield; he returned as a Medfield student in the next film;
Star Trek TOS actor alert:
Schallert, a character actor in several famous old sci-fi monster films, also appeared in the famous episode The Trouble With Tribbles
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