DEMON SEED (director: Donald Cammell; screenwriters: from a Dean R. Koontz novel/Robert Jaffe/Roger Hirson; cinematographer: Bill Butler; editor: Francisco Mazzola; music: Jerry Fielding; cast: Julie Christie (Susan Harris), Fritz Weaver (Dr. Alex Harris), Gerrit Graham (Walter Gabler), Berry Kroeger (Petrosian), Larry J. Blake (Cameron), Lisa Lu (Soong Yen), Davis Roberts (Warner), John O’ Leary (DavidRoyce), Alfred Dennis (Mokri), Dana Laurita (Amy), Patricia Wilson (Mrs. Talbert)Robert Vaughn (voice of Proteus); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Herb Jaffe; Warner Bros. Archive Collection; 1977)
“It falls in the Rosemary’s Baby (1968) tradition for creepy child birth films about violated moms.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Adapted by writers Robert Jaffe and Roger Hirson from the lesser known Dean R. Koontz 1973 novel. The nutty futuristic techno thriller, with the slight conceit of computers turning on their masters, ala 2001’s HAL, is stylishly directed by Donald Cammell(“Performance”/”White of the Eye”/”Wild Side”) and terrifically acted by the beleaguered research cybernetics scientist as played by Fritz Weaver and with proper vulnerability by Julie Christie as the scientist’s wife terrorized by estranged hubby’s home intruder artificial intelligence creation named Proteus IV (voice of Robert Vaughn). It’s an adventure in sci-fi horror that’s creepily weird but, nevertheless, compelling viewing.
Dr. Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) has invented a computer named ProteusIV to act as a brain with greater powers than humans to reach the truth. The scientist doesn’t realize the dangers of the daring experiment, as it allows Proteus to use its ability to reason to challenge humans to achieve greater things. But it also gives Proteus the ability, overlooked in the experiment, to terrorize humans.
When the loveless marriage is dissolved between the Brits, the psychologist Susan (Julie Christie) gets the high-tech house with a robotic-controlled security system. At this juncture, the restless Proteus escapes its lab isolation by tapping into the home terminals of Susan’s house and goes on a crazed power trip by trapping her in the house with no possible escape. Calling hubby’s brilliant assistant Walter Gabler (Gerrit Graham) for help, has Proteus dispense with him and terrify his captive even more. Susan then shockingly learns that Proteus has devised a way to impregnate her, as his desire is to sire a “brainchild” and be a complete entity to rule the world.
Cammell infuses mind-blowing surprises into the climax, creates a fascinating hallucinatory atmosphere and uses some chilling special effects. Also the stunningly pleasing visuals and avant-gardist Jordan Belson’s experimental optical assistance are a treat to behold. Though, it must be said, it was deservedly savaged by some critics for its unpleasant rape story. In any case, it’s a strange film that blends together melodrama and sci-fi, turning into a thrilling home invasion tale that is loopier than any of those in mainstream films. It falls in the Rosemary’s Baby (1968) tradition for creepy child birth films about violated moms.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2013 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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