Zapped! (1982) – A Review

Zapped 1982 movie poster

“Your father and I went to a drug education seminar at the school.”
“Are you…..a junkie son?”

Barney (Scott Baio) is a science nerd who while fiddling in
the lab at school gains telekinetic powers. His best friend Peyton (Willie Aames) sees some great potential in this. They can make big money at a college casino, easily win the high school baseball game, embarrass the big jock bully and make girls blouses pop open. They have their sights set high with Barney’s new gift.

I remember watching this flick on HBO when I was little. I guess I must of watched it more times than I thought since I remembered pretty much all of it when I was rewatching it. Once it started rolling the whole movie came flooding back. Even the obscure songs on the soundtrack rung some bells and gave me that ‘oh yeah, I remember this tune’ reaction.

This is a ridiculous movie. It’s not very funny. The special effects are pretty lousy – it mainly consists of stuff on strings, bad animation and planned wardrobe malfunctions. The movie is not very original when it comes to Barney using his powers. You’re waiting for him to use them and when he does the scenes are pretty boring – other than ripping clothes off women.

Scott Baio gets zapped in the 1982 movieAround this time the idea of telekinetic powers seemed like a popular fad. Chevy Chase got them in Modern Problems and not that much earlier Kurt Russell acquired all sorts of powers in those Disney kiddie films. My guess is that this came about from the popularity of Uri Geller and his bending spoon BS he was doing all the time in 70’s. What a bunch of nonsense that was. If I had telekinesis I would side with Baio’s idea of using it to disrobe chicks. I wouldn’t be fooling around with silverware.

Besides the teen characters the movie features some pretty bizarre stuff with the adults. Usually these kind of films poke fun at the grown-ups, but here it’s particularly weird.

There’s this whole thing about the principal and a teacher getting it on, Barney’s mother being petrified of him thinking he’s possessed and baseball coach Scatman Crothers complaining how his wife won’t let him eat salami anymore. Yeah….it’s really odd, but it gets even stranger when he gets high and dreams of meeting Albert Einstein. Crazy stuff. The movie would have been much better if they had dropped all the nonsensical subplots and just focused on Baio moving stuff with his mind.

Zapped comedy 1982 Scott Baio Willie Aames Heather Thomas
Baio using his powers the best ways possible

In between the dopey adults and having fun with the powers there’s a love story that blossoms between Baio’s Barney and the nerdy girl in school Bernadette (Felice Schacter). She’s one of those classic nerdy girls who everyone thinks is a real square because she wears glasses. Then when she takes them off it’s supposed to hit us – “wow, she’s a hot chick!”

Thanks to our old friend the trusty movie montage we see Barney and Bernadette grow fond of each other, spend time together and fall in love. That takes a few minutes of screen time – I think it took one song.

The film does some parodying of The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, Star Trek and the prom finale from Carrie which is the climax of Zapped. This time our telekinetic character doesn’t terrorize their fellow student body, but Barney…..well he undresses them. I’m not sure why, but logic isn’t something the film is too concerned with. The movie has a consistent agenda – let’s get some girls naked.

Heather Thomas boobs naked body double Zapped
Heather Thomas willing to get down to
her bra, but that’s all!

One thing people remember from this movie is Heather Thomas as Jane the hot girl in school. Inevitably, she’s the target of Aames who’s trying to get her in the sack and Baio uses his powers to remove her clothes. By the way, Baio’s widening stare means he’s concentrating and something is about to move.

If you’re hoping to see Thomas au natural you’ll be disappointed. She does get unclothed, but a body double for her was used. Apparently, she had some major issues with the filmmakers and doing nudity. She was adamant about not getting undressed, was really pissed the film used a body double to try and sell the idea it was her and was very vocal after the film was released to reassure everyone that the skin they saw was not hers.

In fact in the closing credits it states – “A double was used for Miss Thomas in her nude scene and in the photograph.”. I don’t think I ever saw a credit like that in another movie. The film isn’t able to maintain the illusion of having a topless Thomas in it very well anyway. Even without that credit the way her topless scenes are edited it’s pretty clear the boobs we see don’t belong to her.

She must of made a pretty big stink about what was expected of her in this flick. I don’t really understand what kind of movie she initially agreed to make or why the filmmakers just didn’t replace her with a more willing actress to bare all. Was having Thomas in this really that much of a draw at the time? I don’t think she was an established name yet in ’82, but I could be wrong. She looks hot, but there must of been thousands of hot, hungry actresses who would have given the filmmakers less trouble and were willing to bare all for the opportunity to be in a movie.

She still looks good though. It’s kind of strange that considering how popular she was and fondly remembered she is (everyone remembers her sexy pink bikini poster) Zapped! is one of the few
highlights on her resume. At least it was more risque than anything she did on The Fall Guy.

Scott Baio Willie Aames Zapped
Baio + Aames =
Onscreen Magic

Baio was at his height of popularity from being Chachi on Happy Days. So I’m guessing his name pulled in some audience. Really, most of the teen movies of this period didn’t really have a recognizable star to headline the movie – they usually didn’t need one. This was one of Baio’s most memorable film projects from this time. After Zapped! he went back to television work with Joanie Loves Chachi and mainly focused on TV ever since. Baio didn’t do very many movies.

Because of this movie I always considered Baio and Aames one of the 80’s famous duos, even though they just did Zapped! and Charles In Charge together. Had they collaborated on more projects they could have attained the fame of the Corey teamings and given them a real run for their money. The two of them actually have some chemistry and seem to work together as onscreen friends for some reason.

Despite Zapped! being a pretty idiotic cheap looking movie, its somehow maintained a fan following and achieved cult status through the years. I’ve heard some people legitimately love it. I don’t think it has that ‘it’s so bad, it’s good quality‘, but there’s something about it that’s helped it stay around and not completely disappear. Kind of strange when you consider the punchline it’s become as an example of a notoriously awful movie.  

Just the title…..Zapped!…..it doesn’t sound like you’re about to view a cinematic masterpiece. It’s a pretty unusual title for a movie. Unique I grant you, but pretty unusual. It’s hard to imagine a movie called Zapped! garnering a shelf full of awards, but that’s not what this film was after anyway.

Zapped Again a direct to video sequel showed up in 1990. Tragically it didn’t have the reteaming of Baio and Aames though. It must of been pretty bad, since that one disappeared immediately. And no, I’m not curious to see it.

Zapped 1982 comedy movie Scott Baio Willie Aames
Baio using his powers at roulette

The premise of a high school kid with telekinetic powers does make Zapped! stand out from the usual pack of teen films from this period (along with Baio starring in it). Today this idea would result in a superhero, horror or sci-fi film. It’s not likely they would revolve the whole idea around getting Heather Thomas down to a bra. I got to hand it to Zapped! for not trying to complicate things.

It’s got everything you’d want from an 80’s teen/sex comedy. The stupid humor is here. Some catchy 80’s tunes popping up. It’s got the nudity, but isn’t sleazy. It’s sort of like a teen/sex comedy training wheels movie. It makes for a good, mild introduction for a kids first R-rated movie experience, before they ventured into watching harder core, grosser, more gratuitous flicks. But it’s still awfully stupid.



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