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Saturday, October 11, 2014

DNDF: Better Thinking Through Technology

-   S P I N   T H E   W H E E L  -


Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967)

  • Original Title: Blood of Ghastly Horror
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Al Adamson
  • Produced:
    • Al Adamson 
    • Charles McMullen 
    • Zoe Phillips 
    • Samuel M. Sherman 
    • J.P. Spohn 
    • Don Geuss
  • Written:
    • Al Adamson 
    • Samuel M. Sherman 
    • Dick Poston 
    • Chris Martino 
    • Mark Eden
  • Starring: John Carradine, Kent Taylor, Tommy Kirk, Regina Carrol, Roy Morton, Tacey Robbins, Arne Warde, Richard Smedley, Kirk Duncan, Tanya Maree, Barney Gelfan, John Armond, Lyle Felice, Joey Benson, John Talbert, K.K. Riddle
  • Music:
    • Don McGinnis 
    • Jimmie Roosa
  • Cinematography:
    • Louis Horvath 
    • Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Editing: O'Dale Ireland
  • Studio:
    • Independent International Pictures  
    • Tal Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Independent-International Pictures  
    • Allied Artists Television  
    • Troma Team Video  
    • Koch Vision  
    • Super Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: January 1972 (USA)
  • Running Time: 85 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Al Adamson, shameless purveyor of countless horror anti-classics, juggles around most of the footage from his 1965 clunker Psycho-A-Go-Go after dressing up and re-releasing it on no less than three prior occasions (under a wide assortment of titles -- see below) with a few incomprehensible subplots added to further confuse audiences into thinking they were watching something else.

The initial premise involves an insane Vietnam veteran being fitted with a brain implant by mad medic John Carradine (a regular Adamson player by this point) and used as a remote-control zombie by a cabal of jewel thieves.  Their pet maniac subsequently blows a gasket, breaks his programming and turns on his controllers, strangles some dancing girls, then gets his revenge on Carradine. 

Enter gratuitous subplot #1 as the electro-fiend heads straight for Lake Tahoe (can you blame him?), where his rampage continues until he is eventually killed by the cops.

Splice in gratuitous subplot #2: The late psycho's embittered pop is also a monster-making mad scientist, who avenges his son's death by mutilating Carradine's buxom daughter.  None of the aforementioned plot combinations can disguise Adamson's trademark style -- i.e. cheap gore, cardboard sets, hideous acting, and so on.  Viewers who manage to make sense of this piecework monstrosity should switch off their VCRs and seek immediate professional help.

Sundry title variations include The Man with the Synthetic Brain, The Fiend with the Atomic Brain, The Fiend with the Electronic Brain, The Fiend with the Synthetic Brain... you should begin to notice a vague pattern here.


The Terminal Man (1974)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Thriller
  • Directed: Mike Hodges
  • Produced:
    • Michael Dryhurst 
    • Mike Hodges
  • Written:
    • Michael Crichton (Novel “The Terminal Man”)  
    • Mike Hodges
  • Starring: George Segal, Joan Hackett, Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, Michael C. Gwynne, William Hansen, Jill Clayburgh, Norman Burton, James Sikking, Matt Clark, Jim Antonio
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Richard H. Kline
  • Editing: Robert L. Wolfe
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Distributed:
    • Warner Bros.  
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • Palisades Tartan  
    • Warner Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 19 June 1974 (USA)
  • Running Time: 107 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

The Terminal Man is a 1974 film directed by Mike Hodges, based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton.  It stars George Segal.  The story centers around the immediate dangers of mind control and the power of computers.

Harry Benson, an extremely intelligent computer programmer in his 30s, suffers from epilepsy.  He often has seizures which induce a blackout, after which he awakens to unfamiliar surroundings with no knowledge of what he has done.  He also suffers from delusions that computers will rise up against humans.

Benson suffers from Acute Disinhibitory Lesion (ADL) syndrome, and is a prime candidate for an operation known as "Stage Three".  Stage Three requires surgeons to implant electrodes in his brain and connect them to a miniature computer in his chest which is meant to control the seizures.  The operation is presented with no musical score; the only sounds are from the surgeons, from the medical procedure itself, and from medical students viewing from above.  The surgery is a success.

Benson's psychiatrist, Janet Ross, is concerned that once the operation is complete,  Benson will suffer further psychosis as a result of his person merging with that of a computer, something he has come to distrust and disdain.  Shortly before he can fully recover, Harry suffers a relapse and his electrode malfunctions while his brain has more severe seizures, making him more violent and dangerous.

Crichton was originally hired to adapt the novel himself, but Warner Bros. felt he had departed from the source material too much and had another writer adapt it.  "I don't think they [Warner Bros] gave it a chance," said Crichton later.  The director's cut omits the scene in which the doctors explain the cause of Harry's seizures.  Hodges did not like the scene, believing it spoon-fed the audience.  Warner Brothers felt that the story needed it, and that the audience would not understand or like Harry Benson without the scene.  The director's cut was shown at the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival and at the ICA cinema in London in 2008.  It was also screened in 2011 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne at the Mike Hodges retrospective to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Get Carter.

 

Sources:

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