Still Watching the Skies: Episode 86 “Real Genius”

Nat, Cody, and Robert are joined by Kyle Fahrner to see Val Kilmer’s star on the ascent in Martha Coolidge’s REAL GENIUS from 1985.

Fifteen year old Mitch (Gabriel Jarrett) is recruited by a-hole professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) to a California tech college with designs on developing a workable laser for nefarious purposes. Fortunately for Mitch, he’s mentored by senior Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) who wants Mitch not to succumb to the pressures of college and have a good time.

There are a ton of college comedies from the 1980s, REVENGE OF THE NERDS most prominently, and teens and cold war science pops up several times, so REAL GENIUS isn’t really striking new ground. But, perhaps surprisingly, we find a lot of things to discuss.

Real Genius

Unlike REVENGE OF THE NERDS, there’s a grounding in realism that makes the film seem like it’s actually in touch with reality. Characters are exaggerated, but they don’t feel like full blown caricatures. That attention to character appears to be primarily due to Martha Coolidge, the screenwriters tend towards gag related writing, and bumps up the film quite a bit.

Real Genius


A lost classic? Maybe not. An 80s college comedy that’s aged well? That’s something of the consensus.

Real Genius

You’re not going to need to develop a 5 megawatt laser to listen. You can give us a play below or Download the episode. Also, feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below or Email Us at as we appreciate feedback.



Time tracks:

REAL GENIUS  Discussion: 0:00 to 1:08:45

Next Film and Outro: 1:08:45 to End

Next month, We take a dive into 1977’s DEMON SEED with Julie Christie. We hope you’ll join us.

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