The early ’80s was a curious time for movies with studios chasing down the movie that they would hope would be the record-breaking blockbuster. In the wake of Star Wars, science fiction and fantasy were in and all of the studios were chasing the next boxoffice bonanza that could be merchandised to the hilt. There were a number of hits such as E.T., the Star Wars sequels and Raiders of the Lost Ark; a few films that were flops in their time and are now regarded as classics such as Blade Runner and John Carpenter’s The Thing; a few interesting near misses like Dragon Slayer and Tron, and films that have been utterly forgotten like Brainstorm.
In the movie, scientist/entrepreneurs develop a device that can record and playback people’s experiences and sensations. They plan on developing it commercially and improve it’s design from the clunky Professor X helmet pictured above to a more elegant and easily wearable WalkMan-like device. It all goes well until the government wants to get it’s hands on the gadget. Then it turns into the earnest scientist versus the creepy spy guys sort of film that we’ve all seen a thousand times.
It starred Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood who died tragically before the film was almost completed. Douglas Trumbull, famous for providing special effects for Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed the film and rearranged and reworked the film so it could be completed without Wood’s participation.
Trumbull shot it in 70mm 6-Track sound, and Brainstorm apparently looked great on Cinerama screens, but was less impressive on standard movie screens and was ho-hum on television.
I was reminded of Brainstorm when my brother Brian visited the East Coast recently, and we went through some boxes I’ve been warehousing for him for the past few decades. Among his comics, we found probably a thousand, 11″ x 17″, glossy advertising circulars that were meant to be distributed at a comicbook/sci-fi convention. Brian had worked the convention back in 1983, and these were left over when the con ended. They were going to be tossed out, but Brian rescued them thinking that they may be worth something if Brainstorm became a blockbuster. It didn’t, and outside of curiosity, they’re not worth a dime.
I haven’t seen Brainstorm in years, and I’ll have to give it a spin on Blu-Ray.