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BRAINSTORM (director: William Conrad; screenwriters: story by Lawrence B. Marcus/Mann Rubin; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: William H. Ziegler; music: George Duning; cast: Jeffrey Hunter (James Grayam), Anne Francis (Lorrie Benson), Dana Andrews (Cort Benson), Viveca Lindfors (Doctor Elizabeth Larstadt), Stacy Harris (Josh Reynolds), Kathie Browne (Angie DeWitt), Strother Martin (Clyde); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Conrad; Warner Brothers; 1965)
“Distinguishes itself by the depth of its exploration of insanity.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Actor William Conrad (“My Blood Runs Cold”) directs the fright thriller Brainstorm. It is based on an unpublished story by Lawrence B. Marcus; the screenplay is by Mann Rubin. Brainstorm moves from romance to crime following the conventions of film noir, but ultimately distinguishes itself by the depth of its exploration of insanity.

James Grayam (Jeffrey Hunter) is a brilliant scientist employed by Benson Industries, who one night saves the drunken Lorrie Benson (Anne Francis), wife of the firm’s head Cort Benson (Dana Andrews), from committing suicide. This will lead to an affair between them. The powerful and vindictive industrialist learns of the affair through his spies, and plots to stop the affair and destroy Grayam’s career by arranging a series of incidents (ranging from accusing him of obscene phone calls to wrecking the workplace) that make it look like the scientist’s mind has snapped. It’s learned that Grayam was institutionalized as a young man over a nervous breakdown, and these fabricated incidents make it look like Grayam has become unbalanced again.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Grayam’s boss Josh Reynolds (Stacy Harris) tries to save his job by arranging for help through psychiatrist Elizabeth Larstadt (Viveca Lindfors), but while undergoing therapy the pressure gets to him and he displays irrational temper tantrums. The industrialist persists in his attempt to drive the scientist insane. Grayam resorts to talking the reluctant Lorrie into helping him pretend to be insane. He then murders Cort in a public lecture hall with the intention of eliminating his nemesis and being found not guilty for reasons of insanity. At the trial Larstadt is aware that Grayam’s faking insanity to beat going to prison, but for unexplained reasons testifies in his favor anyway. Grayam is sent to a mental institution, where he believes he will be soon set free when it’s discovered that he’s regained his sanity. But Grayam’s plan goes awry once in the asylum, as he begins to really snap when Lorrie deserts him and his fellow inmates unnerve him. Grayam goes downhill, eventually becoming really psychotic. In a desperate state he escapes hoping to get help from Dr. Larstadt, whom he believes is in love with him and will testify that he’s sane. But she secretly has other hospital shrinks listen to him tell her his incoherent tale of woe, and they all concur that it’s best that he’s returned to the state asylum.

I can’t help thinking how much this disturbing film reminded me of Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”