Val and Aqua are a couple of robots designed for everyday life. He’s a business robot while she’s a social robot and there is an instant attraction. They escape from the robot factory for an excursion and build a son, all while getting pursued by a police robot. Can they escape the police robot (and perhaps find love) before it’s too late? Find out in… Heartbeeps.
How?! This is gonna be a tough one. This is basically just a story of a boy and girl robot, Val and Aqua. Boy robot meets girl robot and the rest is history. No, I’m serious. That’s the movie. They go out to look at some trees (along with crazy uncle robot Catskil) and this sets off all kinds of alarms at the robot factory and triggers a police robot to begin pursuit. Meanwhile, Val and Aqua build a son robot, Phil, and go on their merry way. They look for batteries here and there. They hide from the police robot here and there. They see a bear. They end up in a dump. Etc. etc. etc. Crazy kooky robot adventures. Once they realize that they may not have enough battery to make it back to the robot factory they begin to panic because they realize that no one knows about Phil. They worry that they may not be able to alert the factory to his existence, in which case they could have their memories wiped and Phil would be all alone! Oh no! Catskil gives up his battery to him, but it’s all for naught as Val and Aqua shut down and are taken back to the factory without Phil. Fortunately love prevails! Hooray! Because no matter how many times they wipe their memory and fix them Val and Aqua end up back in for repairs. Eventually they are dumped… which was the plan all along! They live out their days in the dump with their friends and a new little robot baby. It’s really a story of domestic bliss… with robots. THE END.
Why?! Other than serving as a very basic story of the purpose of life through the model of a couple of robots, I’m not really sure of the point of the movie. Perhaps we are supposed to look at Val and Aqua at the end of the film and realize “hey, wait a second. I just watched a whole movie about a couple of robots and forgot that they weren’t human… so what does that mean about being human?”… maybe. It’s really just a story of love.
Who?! Every once in a while there is a weird credit here that is hard to believe is true. I think maybe it’s a mistake on IMDb. That’s the case here as Jerry Garcia (yes, that Jerry Garcia) is credited as the voice of Phil. Seeing as Phil speaks in a series of beeps and boops, it’s hard to imagine Jerry Garcia doing that unless he was a close personal friend of someone… and that apparently was the case. Garcia and the director Allan Arkush were buddies back then and I guess Garcia played all those beeps and boops using a guitar or something. I guess that’s also why Garcia is credited on the score for Deathsport. Wild.
What?! I may as well use this part to point out that this film was actually nominated for an Academy Award for makeup. Much like Norbit, sometimes even really bad films are just amazing in some way. Stan Winston did a really good job with making Andy Kaufman look like a robot. Uncanny at times. Eventually Winston did win his only Oscar for makeup a decade later for Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Where?! I’m not sure it’s made explicit where this is set. It seems like somewhere in Northern California probably, and that would be in line with where someone might write a robot factory to be set. The real problem is that the robots really don’t consider much about the world. They mostly just internalize their immediate situation. So they aren’t really talking about what state they may be in. F.
When?! Certainly in the near future, but a lot of stuff is pretty much the same as now (except now with robots). It’s far enough in the future that people are already lamenting the loss of the more primitive robots with simple purposes like driving forklifts and stuff for more intricate social and performative robots. Almost like someone reminiscing about when “a phone was just a phone” or something. D-.
This movie is hilariously bad. If I wanted to show someone a film to demonstrate the weird and wild (and really boring) films that we end up watching for BMT I could use this one. It is really slow, really boring, really bad, really not funny, really not anything. It’s strange that it even exists given that other than an actually good opening credits scene (scored by John Williams) it immediately starts in on a stretch of 70 minutes of… nothing. No scene that you would look at and understand what they were even trying to do. It’s almost like it was made begrudgingly. Like, “Fine, I’ll make this Andy Kaufman film,” and then after each take the director is just screaming at a producer, “Are you happy now? I’m making the film.” Truly a baffling venture. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! You ever get that need. That need for a poorly received art film from the early 80s? Me neither, but we ended up watching one. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – This film is oddly legendary. But not in a good way. I think Jamie put is best using the word begrudging. The director seemed to begrudgingly make the film. And critics and bad move scholars alike begrudgingly put it onto worst-of lists. Everytime it came up while filling in cycles, I always had to remind myself that the film, indeed, qualifies for BMT. It looks like a film from the 70s, and certainly looks like the kind of film that was accidentally released to 300 theaters. But nope, it is a wide release film, it is real, and we had to eventually watch it. What were my expectations? To be bored out of my mind. All of the reviewers seemed bored. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be the first person in history to think Heartbeeps was an entertaining good-bad film.
The Good – There is a moment right in the beginning of the film where you think “wait … do I like this film?” and right before you scream “YES, I am a genius, this movie is secretly amazing,” the sheer boredom of the film makes your mind melt and it is ruined. I will say some of the “future” stuff is pretty fun, like the bags of Coke and Coors. And obviously the makeup is a pretty incredible achievement, it looks super crazy, but in a good way. The kind of makeup where you genuinely wonder how it was done. Read the IMDb notes if you want to know. Best bit: The makeup.
The Bad – Perhaps the most boring film ever made? As I said, it is an arthouse film masquerading as a real film that you would release to theaters. Andy Kaufman genuinely seems like he doesn’t know what he is doing. There isn’t really even a plot line. So it is an arthouse film in which you’d hear years later than everyone booed and walked out of the theater. There isn’t much to really say about it … it is a super weird and terrible film. Full stop, do not recommend. Fatal flaw: Ridiculously boring.
The BMT – Hellllllllllllls no. This film sucks. I’ll forget I watched it in a week, and then it’s only possible legacy in BMT lore is merely that it won the Smaddies Baddie for worst BMT film of the year. At least we’ll eventually be able to say that we watched every bad robot film ever made … presumably, in like 20 years. Did it meet my expectations? I guess so. I mean, I did say I expected to be bored out of my mind. And here I am explaining for the third time in this recap how bored I was watching this film … so yeah, I expected this to be a terrible BMT and it was. Why did we watch this film again?
Roast-radamas – Some great Product Placement (What?) with the technicians searching for our robot heroes drinking delicious and refreshing Coors throughout the film. Also they drink some futuristic Coke-in-a-bag. And you know what? I’m going to give it a pity MacGuffin (Why?) for the power of love! That’s right, our robots are striking out to discover and understand love and domestic bliss. How quaint. This might be a leader for Bad movie of the year, but only time will tell.
StreetCreditReport.com – Somehow it didn’t make Siskel and Ebert’s worst-of list for 1981. I figured that was the most likely place to find some actual cred. Luckily, just about any list of worst ever film robots will include Val, Andy Kaufman’s robot character. Just as an example, here it gets number two. That and this being an extremely rare Andy Kaufman led feature film is likely why I knew about this film at all prior to watching it.
You Just Got Schooled – There was luckily a natural schooling session with this film, namely the Allan Arkush classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School which was constantly on Comedy Central when I was growing up. Turns out it is actually really well reviewed, and watching it the film is really fun. Having The Ramones in the film is a little odd, especially because the main character is a little … odd looking, he isn’t exactly a classic Hollywood leading man. But P.J. Soles is great in it, the music is great, and it is a decent spoof film to boot. Interestingly the principal (Mary Woronov) and music teacher (Paul Bartel) have been in a few Arkush films including Heartbeeps, they were who of the people at the party the robots crash. So it ended up being a decent glimpse both into how some comedy films were made in that era, and a cool precursor to Heartbeeps. B+, a fun if rough around the edges 70s spoof film. If you’re looking to recapture that feeling of watching random movies on cable you could do a lot worse.