Saturday, January 15, 2005

Nobody Locks me Out!

There's a piece of cinematic crap that I need to address, as it has become somewhat of a leitmotif for me here in Budapest. I've mentioned before that the English-language TV options are pretty sparse, but at 9pm every night the Cartoon Network morphs into Turner Classic Movies, which seems to be a limited version of the TCM I know from American cable. Apparently, it has about six movies in its repertoire, and it just shuffles them in what I have come to think of as a filmic Russian roulette.

The loaded barrel, if you will, is Brainstorm (1983), starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood, who died during the 1981 filming. Walken plays Dr. Michael Anthony Grace, who is a brilliant researcher who has developed along with his colleague, Dr. Lillian Reynolds, played by Louise Fletcher, a mechanism which can record people's thoughts, feelings, and memories. Lillian dies from a heart attack while in the lab, and decides at the last minute to record her death via this breakthrough recording device. Federal agents come in and confiscate Mike's research; they want to use the technology for some sort of militaristic brainwashing scheme. Mike is determined, however, to play Lillian's recorded death experience, thereby experiencing "the scariest thing man ever has to face."

A lot of people like this movie. That's great. I like it too, because it's awesomely bad. Take, for example, some of the awesomely bad dialogue:

"This is not the research we're interested in-- this is sick!"

"Why do you have to die to let go?"

"I'm scared, so scared, but the thing is-- I like it! I want more!"

"He's taken my work and turned it into something bad!" (spoken by Walken's character while eating Ruffles potato chips)

"Nobody locks me out! That tape is mine!"

"The production lab has gone crazy!" (in response to lab-mayhem featuring robotic arms running amok and lots of cool "water-activated foam")

This movie is also awesomely bad for all the 80's sci-fi gadgetry: lots of cool shiny spools and lighty-up whats-its. Fun!

There's so much discontinuity in this movie it's just plain trippy. But my brother Aaron and I have a favorite: when Mike's son Chris falls down a giant plot-hole, as Aaron puts it. Mike has just breeched the fed's security, and witnessed their nefarious manipulation of his research in the form of a tape which contains a "Psychotic Episode. Extreme Version." (I LOVE THIS-- "extreme version!" This kills me! "um, hi, yes, I'd like to have the psychotic episode, but just the mild version please. I don't wanna go completely wacko, after all.") While Mike is eating potato chips, his son Chris wonders into his dad's office, puts on the headphones in the midst of playing the psychotic episode (extreme version). Next scene, Mike and his wife Karen are in the hospital waiting room, and a doctor informs them that their son has experienced a "severe psychotic break." You might expect Mike and Karen to be concerned about their son, but not in Brainstorm. Instead, Mike flies off the handle shouting, "Nobody locks me out!" (denies him access to the tape) and disappears in a huff in the elevator. Poor Chris is never heard from again, as Mike and Karen set about transmitting Lillian's death tape to a telephone booth in Kitty Hawk, and re-forging their love for one another.

I'm sure the Wright brothers never dreamed their daring experiments in aviation would someday serve as a symbolic backdrop for this remarkably suck-ass movie, but that is just one of the unlikely surprises that Brainstorm has in store for us. We are apparently supposed to liken the Wright brothers' pioneering exploration of the skies with Mike's pioneering into death. Wow. And he does all this via a public telephone booth. Wow again. And I can't even play a movie trailer properly with my DSL connection. Truly amazing stuff.

I invite you, friends, to experience this mind-boggling precipitation of grey matter, this Brainstorm. Aaron, I would also appreciate any commentary you have to offer on our mutually beloved piece of crap.


At 12:17 AM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...

Brainstorm! Yes!
This movie is truly amazing for its bad badness and goodness in equal measure. The last scene where Walken experiences ascension into that weird outer-space-heaven-core thing is priceless. The kookie house and recumbent-rider bicycle he rides home on are also great. But I have to agree, the Psychotic Episode thing really takes it all. A close second is that whole thing where the old researcher splices the "experience tape" of the younger lab tech having sex into this bootlegged loop. His wife finds him hooked up to the machine playing the tape over and over, almost comatose! haha. I need to see that one again, it has been far too long. And to think, Hungary is the place to see it!

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I love bad movies! Thanks for the entertaining post. My favorite bad movie, so bad it's brilliant, is "Re-Animator" (1985). West, a brilliant student from Switzerland invents a formula that will reanimate dead tissue. Only trouble is the reanimated people/animals are raving mad and want to kill everybody. West decaptiates his nemesis, a professor trying to steal the formula for his own devious designs. But West then makes the mistake of renaimating the body and head. The sickest and funniest scene is when the professor, who now has to carry his head around with him, uses it to go down on the dean's daughter.

And there's always Ed Wood....

My movie tip for a brilliant movie with is:

El Esqueleto de la señora Morales (1960)

I was fortunate enough to tape it from German television.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

Andy: I can't believe you've seen Brainstorm! The brotherhood grows,.. you're right, I didn't even address the weird sex tape thing. So many layers of badness.

Indeterminacy, I've never heard of Reanimator, but now I must see it! ...uses his decapitated head to go down on the Dean's daughter. Wow-- that's hot. I've got to tell my Swiss friend about this. They're SO reserved, the Swiss-- don't usually go around reanimating dead tissue. They usually just dip it in cheese.

um,..that was a really bad (and gross) fondue joke. I apologize. I have nothing to say for myself.


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