Defense Play (1988)

It’s time for more high school kids with WarGames tech skills!

But thanks to the presence of ubiquitous TV character actor Monte Markham (who lost out on the Steve Austin role in The Six Million Dollar Man; but we’ve enjoyed him in such TV movie and drive-in fare as The Astronaut, Hotline, and Ginger in the Morning) as the lead adult and (experienced) director, this obscure, up-against-the-budget clone is much better than the better known ’80s teen hacker clones Prime Risk and Terminal Entry, both which benefited from incessant pay cable replays not bestowed to Defense Play.

Now, if the film’s “Ancient Future” lineage and the presence of Monte Markham (as the military dad who heads the top secret shenanigans) doesn’t stir the cockles of your mainframe, this is the movie that answers the question: “Whatever happened to Boof from Teen Wolf?”

This time, instead of the U.S. Air Force firing up the WOPR, they’re firing up a (stock footage) Saturn V (in 1988, no less, although the shuttle program was in full swing) from Vandenberg AFV topped with a top secret (and aren’t they all) satellite. To foil the launch, KGB agents (natch) are out to steal — in a plot that foresees today’s drones — DART, a miniaturized, remote-piloted stealth helicopter under development at a local university. (And there’s LOTS of stock footage and stock sound EFX at “play,” here. You’ll notice what’s what.)

Not Saturn V’s, but Deltas — based on Space Shuttle technology — were used to launch satellites in the ’80s . . . but when you’re on a budget, you take what stock footage you can get.

The “David Lightman” for this go-around-the-mainframe is Scott Denton (David Oliver from Night of the Creeps; passed away at 30 in 1992), just another one of those 30-year-old high school students with a knack for computers. He’s the project’s team leader alongside Karen Vandemeer (Susan “Boof” Ursitti, who, before and after this, has smaller support roles in Funland and The Runnin’ Kind) and other older-than-high school age whiz kids on the DART program. When Karen’s dad, the school’s computer professor, is murdered-by-laser from one of the prototype DART copters, Scott and Karen — as is the case with the other ’80s teen-tech hero romps Iron Eagle and Red Dawn, My Science Project and The Manhattan Project — spring into action to find the murderer and thwart those Ruskies from thwarting the satellite launch.

If you’re into the nostalgia of Apple IIs, dot-matrix printers, and dial-up modems running those drone forefathers, then enjoy the show. While this received a limited theatrical release and ended up on VHS, it’s never been — and more than likely never will be — released on DVD.

Amazingly, there’s a VHS rip to watch on You Tube. And with Susan Ursitti (sigh goes the heart) starring, how can you not watch? Boof is a PTA soccer mom these days. Wild, right?

Caveat Mainframe: Ulli Lommel (Blank Generation, The Boogeyman), never one to not cheap-jack the films of others, has his own WarGames brat with a high-tech mini-copter that came out in 1987 as I.F.O. – Identified Flying Object — that was reissued to video as Defense Play.

Be sure to look for my reviews of Prime Risk and Terminal Entry, this week, as we continue with our week-long tribute to computer flicks of the ’80s.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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