Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Brainstorm: Whoooah … 

8th October, 2013.

You know, I’ve only got so much in my iTunes account.

No, really … !

Which means  two things, really.

One … ?   That I look at a rental price, when I’m thinking of renting out a movie through Apple.

I do like to spin the cash out, you know.

Two … ?   That I’ve not been renting as much as I could.

Saving money: and download limits, frankly.

Either way … ?

Well, either way, I like to think I make wise choices in what I rent: and hope, in writing about them, afterwards, that this is reflected in what I tell you.

If that makes sense … ?

I hope it does.

At ANY rate … ?

At any rate, I’ve managed to catch a film tonight: Douglas Trumbull’s 1981/83, Brainstorm.

And thinking, “Bloody HELL, that’s something!”

There’s a reason for that … 

You see, I think this might be the film that successfully predicted the future.


Set in the (then) modern day, Brainstorm sees Christopher Walken and Louise Fletcher as Dr Michæl Brace and Dr Lillian Reynolds: a pair of scientists leading a research team who’ve invented a method for accessing everything seen and felt by a human being, as they see and feel it.


And recording.

Everything one sees, hears, feels, tastes, smells: you name it, the team records it.

Including a recording of what a junior researcher gets up to with a cute blonde*.

It’s only after Dr Brace’s wife — Karen, played by the late Natalie Wood, in what was to be her last film role — gets involved in designing the headsets for the recording gear, that things take off: when the company funding the research gets extra help from the US military.

A military that’s very interested when Dr Reynolds dies of a heart attack, in the lab: whilst wearing a headset that’s recording her death from a very close perspective.

Which is when things start turning … 

Darker … 


Now …

What did I make of all this … ?

It’s not perfect, it really isn’t.

Brainstorm IS good, though.

I have to admit to happily sitting down and watching a film that is quite early eighties looking.   But doesn’t suffer from it.

And also doesn’t suffer from the fact one of its stars — Natalie Wood — died after filming her scenes.

From what I’ve read and seen of Brainstorm, I get the impression the director, Douglas Trumbull, would’ve only wanted a few reshoots and dubbing sessions from her: one or two scenes seem a little stiff, but the film doesn’t suffer because of it.

I do know that the production was held up by MGM, the film’s financiers, whilst they tried making an insurance claim, after the death of Wood.

Something Lloyds of London wasn’t having any truck with.

I believe that hold up made some of the final cutting a touch iffy, as the knock-on effects meant Trumbull having to work with the footage he had.

I’m also aware — and disappointed — that all this led to Trumbull walking away from a potentially great career as a director, in disgust at MGM’s behaviour.

But I feel he made one heck of a good film, in spite of the delays and problems: and could’ve made more.


I’m ALSO aware of something else, as well.

That Brainstorm is — in all the entries I’ve seen on it — listed as a film released in 1983.

That was due to the delay imposed by MGM, trying to claim the insurance money: it should, if I’ve understood things correctly, have been released in late 1981/early 1982, some 12 to 18 months before it actually saw daylight.

That fact — that Brainstorm should have seen a 1981 debut — was something that caught my attention.

You see, to the best of my knowledge, the first publicly available internet service — CompuServe’s, one available to paying home users, like you and me, rather than to academics, business or military personnel — had only been around for some two years in the US.

So that idea that — as the film’s characters do — someone could hook up a computer to a phone, and have it communicate with another person on a phone-line connected computer, would have been pretty radical.

As would the idea of using a phone connected computer to access entertainment material†.

Remotely accessing another computer on the network to do malicious things.

Or even just plain CHATTING, via computer networks … !

This film … ?

Sees characters using computers to do all that.   Has people using an internet, a computer network, as a tool.

As casually as the same characters use cars, pens and kitchen equipment.

Casually using a computer, without making it the Frankenstein’s Monster, in the way WarGames does: or turn the ’Net into a fairyland as Tron did.   That’s quite profound, I think.

And makes Brainstorm very ahead of its time.

Predicting the future … ?

I should say so … !

I can, much like Douglas Trumbull, only be disgusted at the film company’s behaviour, even as I enjoy the film.

*        As we know from the history of the internet, one thing that makes new technology spread faster is porn.   We’re human.   We like rude things.   Rude, sweaty, things.   I’m willing to bet that one of the FIRST things Alexander Graham Bell found, after inventing the telephone, was a prostitute’s phone number.

†        At one point, Walken’s character tells his boss they can demonstrate their new technology by ‘… pumping it down a phone line’.

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