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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Butler
Written byJoseph L. McEveety
Produced byBill Anderson
CinematographyFrank V. Phillips
Edited byCotton Warburton
Music byRobert F. Brunner
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • December 31, 1969 (1969-12-31)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5.5 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is a 1969 American science fiction comedy film starring Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn and William Schallert. It was produced by Walt Disney Productions and distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Company.

It was one of several films made by Disney using the setting of Medfield College, first used in the 1961 Disney film The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is the first film for the series Dexter Riley.


Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) and his friends attend a small, private college known as Medfield College, which cannot afford to buy a computer. The students persuade wealthy businessman A. J. Arno (Cesar Romero) to donate an old computer to the college. Arno is secretly the head of a large illegal gambling ring which used the computer for its operations.

While installing a replacement computer part during a thunderstorm, Riley receives an electric shock and becomes a human computer. He now has superhuman mathematical talent, can read and remember the contents of an encyclopedia volume in a few minutes, and can speak a language fluently after reading one textbook. His new abilities make him a worldwide celebrity and Medfield's best chance to win a televised quiz tournament with a $100,000 prize.

Riley single-handedly leads Medfield's team in victories against other colleges. During the tournament, on live television, a trigger word ("applejack") causes him to unknowingly recite details of Arno's gambling ring. Arno's henchmen kidnap Riley and plan to kill him, but his friends help him escape by locating the house in which he is being kept, posing as house painters to gain access, and sneaking him out in a large trunk. During the escape, he suffers a concussion which, during the tournament final against rival Springfield State, gradually returns his mental abilities to normal; however, one of his friends, Schuyler, is able to answer the final question ("A small Midwest city is located exactly on an area designated as the geographic center of the United States. For 10 points and $100,000, can you tell us the name of that city?" with the answer "Lebanon, Kansas"). Medfield wins the $100,000 prize. Arno and his henchmen are arrested when they attempt to escape the TV studio and crash head-on into a police car.


* Not credited on-screen.


The film's theme song, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, was written by Robert F. Brunner and Bruce Belland.


A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote: "This 'Computer' isn't I.B.M.'s kind but it's homey, lovable, as exciting as porridge and as antiseptic and predictable as any homey, half-hour TV family show".[2] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune reported: "I rather enjoyed The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and I suspect children under 14 will like it, too".[3] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety praised the film as "above-average family entertainment, enhanced in great measure by zesty, but never show-off, direction by Robert Butler, in a debut swing to pix from telefilm".[4] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Disney Productions latched on to a terrific premise for some sharp satire only to flatten it out by jamming it into its familiar 'wholesome' formula. Alas, the movie itself comes out looking like it had been made by a computer".[5]

The film holds a score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on six reviews.[6]


Home media[edit]

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes on Blu-ray disc on September 9, 2014 as a Disney Movie Club exclusive.



Television films[edit]

This film was remade as the television film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes in 1995 starring Kirk Cameron as Dexter Riley.

Other Disney Channel films carrying similar plot elements were the Not Quite Human film series, which aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The films were based on the series of novels with the same name.


The animated title sequence, by future Academy Award-winning British visual effects artist Alan Maley, reproduced the look of contemporary computer graphics using stop motion photography of paper cutouts. It has been cited as an early example of "computational kitsch".[7][8]

The 2000 episode of The Simpsons, "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", is a reference to the film but the episode isn't related to the film in any other way, according to M. Keith Booker in his book Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from The Flintstones to Family Guy.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11
  2. ^ Weiler, A. H. (November 4, 1970). "Predictable Disney". The New York Times: 38.
  3. ^ Siskel, Gene (February 11, 1970). "An Odd Couple". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 7.
  4. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (December 24, 1969). "Film Reviews: The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes". Variety. 20.
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (February 13, 1970). "Disney's 'Computer' Has Instant College Genius". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 20.
  6. ^ "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  7. ^ "Computational kitsch in opening titles of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes". criticalcommons.org. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  8. ^ "Computer Wore Tennis Shoes title sequence". youtube.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  9. ^ Booker 2006, p. 59

External links[edit]