Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: 984: Prisoner of the Future (1982)

Before his best known, first studio-backed film, The Gate, and its sequel, The Gate 2: The Trespassers . . . long before he passed up the chance to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master . . . before I, Madman . . . long before he started churning out the mockbuster hoards of Ice Spiders, Mega Snake, and Destruction: Los Angeles for the SyFy Channel . . . before he got into the Hallmark Christmas movie business alongside our equally beloved Fred Ray Olen and David DeCoteau, Hungarian-born Tibor Takács shot this failed Canadian TV series pilot programmer in 1978. Courtesy of the Star Wars-infused sci-fi market, it was shook loose from the analog dustbins onto home video shelves in 1982. Criminally allowed to fall into the public domain, this well-written and produced production (on a budget, natch) turned up as a track selection (aka The Tomorrow Man) on numerous bargain-basement DVD compilations.

Primarily known as a talent manager, studio producer and engineer, this CBC telefilm-pilot was Takács’s first professional feature film project, after his self-produced feature film debut, Metal Messiah (1978), a long-form rock opera/video which starred two bands from his stable: Kickback and the Cardboard Brains. (We’ve wanted to review Metal Messiah since forever, but have been unable to locate a copy. And yes, we’ve had I, Madman (1989; with Jenny Wright!) on our shortlist of must-reviews since our 2017 review of The Gate. We’ll get to it, one day . . . what the hell . . . courtesy of our annual October 2020 “Slasher Month,” Sam reviewed it, finally!

As you read this review, please take into consideration my crazed fandom for Patrick McGoohan’s surreal psychological drama The Prisoner, concerned with the imprisonment of an intelligence agent, of which this Orwellian-influenced tale reminds — only with the resourceful, low-budget production designs of PBS-TV’s 1980 production of Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel A Lathe of Heaven. (Again, take into consideration of my fandom of that PBS adaptation igniting my sense of nostalgia for Takács’s dystopian tale.) And speaking of PBS-TV, one will also have a sense of Tom Baker-era Dr. Who déjà vu in the production designs (especially in the prison’s Cylon/Cybermen-styled sentries) and its cast of Shakespearian-skilled thespians.

Since Takács knows we are, at the very least, familiar with the dystopian tales of Aldous Huxley with Brave New World and more importantly, George Orwell’s 1984, 984: Prisoner of the Future dispenses with long-winded set ups in establishing how The Movement came into power and gets right into it: how affluent businessman Tom Weston became “984” by way of his entries in a ratty diary from the walls of his prison cell, which triggers a series of flashbacks to the mind games played by Warden Dr. Fontaine (the steely-excellent Don Francks (his work dates back to ’60s TV’s The Man From Uncle), his interrogator.

Don’t let the fact that this Canadian TV tale fell into, it seems, public domain territory due to a lack of legal due diligence on the part of the CBC, deter you from watching. This is a quality work by Tibor Takács that rises above the usual public domain or still legal, yet forgotten, odds ‘n’ sods from the VHS-era finding a new, digital home on these DVD box sets that brings the ol’ ’80s video store shelves to the abode.

You can watch 984: Prisoner of the Future on You Tube or own it as part of the “Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion Box Set.” You Tube also offers the trailer.

And be sure to join us as we examine Tibor’s career and films with our “Drive-In Friday” featurette.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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