Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson
Director: Douglas Trumbull
Format: NTSC, Widescreen
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: July 10, 2012
Run Time: 106 minutes
is a mess, but it’s an interesting mess . . .
Brainstorm will go down in history – if at all – as
Natalie Wood’s last movie. When the Rebel Without a Cause and West
Side Story actress died under mysterious circumstances in a drowning
accident in November 1981, special-effects-guru-turned-movie-director
Douglas Trumbull had a choice: either claim Wood’s insurance money (as the
producers wanted) or finish the movie.
Trumbull chose to finish the movie and, after some
rewrites and additional filming, it was finally released in 1983. In
retrospect maybe Trumbull wishes that he took the insurance money instead.
Brainstorm met with so-so reviews and was a flop at the box office. One
cannot know what Trumbull originally intended for the movie before Wood’s
tragic death, but Brainstorm is a disjointed mess.
All of which is a pity since it boasts some interesting
concepts and ideas. A team of scientists discover a way to “record” and play
back another person’s real life experiences. The applications are endless,
but predictable. One character for instance makes a “loop” tape in which
someone else’s orgasm is endlessly replayed! A similar “technology” will
feature again in Hurt Locker director and former Mrs. James Cameron
Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 action movie Strange Days
starring Ralph Fiennes (you know: the one which is set on New Year’s Eve
Later on in the movie one of the scientists – a
chain-smoking (natch) Louise Fletcher, better known as Nurse Ratched in
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – gets a heart attack. Realizing that
the heart attack is going to be fatal, she “records” the experience. The
nefarious corporation they work for however sells out to the military and
forbids the tape from being played back by her fellow researcher played by
Peculiarly enough there isn’t much of an ethics debate as
to whether the “death experience” tape should be played back or not. Do we
really want to know what happens when we die? Brainstorm doesn’t do
much with its ideas, alas. The first half is part-domestic drama. The second
half – involving reprogrammed factory floor robots – feels like something
out of a different movie altogether, perhaps some Disney flick?
The ending in which the death experience tapes finally
gets played back is also a jumbled mess and the final scene ends on a
muddled and abrupt note. 1980’s Altered
States (also out on Blu-ray this month along with Brainstorm) features
similar themes, but deals with them in a more consistent manner. At least
Altered States has are no security guards
slipping on their butts like some cheap comedy routine.
THE DISC: No special features except for a
theatrical trailer, not even a director’s commentary. No surprise really
considering that Brainstorm turned out to be such a sour experience
that Trumbull (Silent Running) never directed
another movie again. The image and sound are fantastic though. The disc also
replicates the movie’s rather distracting trick in that it changes aspect
ratio all the time from letterbox to widescreen for the “playback” scenes.
WORTH IT? Brainstorm never lives up to its
intriguing premise, but it is still much more interesting than most of what
passes as science fiction nowadays.
RECOMMENDED: Open-minded genre fans should give it
a shot. It has its moments.