The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

I never went to a real college per se — I went to art school and then got my degree as quickly as I could from a university in the city, so I have no idea what it’s like to have a campus quad or fellow students into the same things that I’m into. I just live through the movie students of Medfield College, as seen in everything from The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber to this movie and its sequels Now You See Him, Now You Don’t and The Strongest Man in the WorldThe Shaggy D.A. also takes place in the same town.

Medfield College is named after the town of Medfield, Massachusetts, a place that Walt Disney would visit from time to time, landing his place on a private airstrip. Their middle school has a quote from Disney written in its cornerstone: “Our greatest natural resource is in the minds of our children.”

I always wondered why people disagreed so much with John Carpenter about casting Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken. I always say that your cultural experience is based off when you first experience it and didn’t realize that in myself. If I’d only known Russell from these Disney movies, I’d never see him as grizzled.

Dexter Reilly (Russell) attends the aforementioned Medfield College, a college with such a limited endowment that they can’t even afford a computer. To be fair, an HP 3000 sold for $95,000 in 1972, which is about $567,000 in today’s money.

The students get a wealthy businessman — criminal — named A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero) to donate an old computer to the college. What they get is one of his old gambling computers, which leads to all manner of problems when it quickly breaks down.

As Dexter goes to get a new part during a thunderstorm, a shock transforms him into a human computer that can do math better than anyone else, read and remember any book and speak any language within seconds. This takes Dexter from kindly friend to all to a robot, but the school is happy because they’re finally making money.

Reilly goes on a roll, leads Medfield’s team in victories against other schools on a TV quiz show. However, the word applejack unlocks all of Arno’s gambling info, so the criminal and his gang — featuring Kurt’s real-life father Bing — kidnap him. As his friends rescue him, a blow to the head turns off his computer brain, but the other team members rally to win $100,000 for the school.

Director Robert Butler may have worked in TV — and Disney films — throughout his career, but he also directed TurbulenceUp the Creek and Night of the Juggler. Writer Joseph L. McEveety also scripted The Barefoot ExecutiveSuperdad, the two Dexter sequels, Hot Lead and Cold Feet and No Deposit, No Return.

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