Ah, there’s nothing like an “Ancient Future Week” inspiring us to review the future-tech tomfoolery of Brainstorm (1980) and Brainscan (1994) — which also uploads a little bit o’ Ulli Lommel into the frontal lobes.
Yes. Ulli “I’ve Never Seen a Film I Can’t Copy Cheaper” Lommell has hijacked your grey matter and chopped it up into different shapes and sizes at the Ulli Lommel Cookie Factory Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of the Lommel-Love Boilerplate Consortium, Inc.
Yes, Ulli “That’s a Good Idea for a Movie, I’ll Make Another One” Lommell. He of the rock flicks Blank Generation (1978) and Cocaine Cowboys (1979), as well as the opinions-vary Halloween and The Amityville Horror knockoffs The Boogeyman (1980) and The Devonsville Terror (1983), and The Raiders of the Lost Ark hornswoggle that is the Klaus Kinski-starrer Revenge of the Stolen Stars (1985).
After that .. . well, you can pick any hit film, or genre, or serial killer, or newsworthy senseless crime story and, chances are, as with the proverbial fish-in-a-barrel, you will hit a low-budget clone-of-a-clone sloppin’ on Ulli Lommell’s resume.
Oh, the VHS joys of the Ulli-herrings we scooped into our 5-5-5 rental nets: When not clipping John Carpenter during the slasher ’80s or George Lucas during the adventure ’80s, Ulli “borrowed” from John Badham to give us a ne’er-do-well ’80s computer nerd with I.F.O.: Identified Flying Object, aka Defense Play (1987). When the market was crazy for Top Gun, Ulli gave us WarBirds (1989), which he stylizes to evoke a little WarGames in the mix.
Such a film is BrainWaves: a film that blatantly tech-jacks Douglas Trumbull’s journey into the human brain, aka Brainstorm — and Ulli, again, stylized the title to toss a little WarGames tech in the mix. Yeah, Michael Crichton’s Coma (1978), which kicked off the evil medical drama craze of the ’80s, and John Carpenter’s Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), which kicked off the inherited memory-cum-clairvoyance craze of the ’80s, are another pair of celluloid Pisces sloshin’ in the five-gallon paint bucket under the scope upon Ulli’s eye.
That’s the joy of Ulli Lommel: a reviewer can just rattle off a bunch of popular movies . . . and you’ve got the plot of the film in a skullcap. But since we’d be remiss in our journalist duties: After receiving a brain injury in a car accident, Ulli Lommel’s always-starring real-life wife Suzanne Love descends into a deep coma. Learning nothing from his own work in The Manitou (1978) or heeding Rock Hudson’s warnings after Embryo (1976), along comes the good neurosurgeon Tony Curtis tech-bamboozling a lovesick Keir Dullea — who learned nothing from the dead fish in the bottom of his career barrel that is Welcome to Blood City (1977) — with his electro-trinket that can jump start comatose brains via the “neural patterns” from dead brains.
Uh, oh. Futuristic pseudo-science is going to fuck you up, again.
As with all of those hand and eye transplant and inherited clairvoyance movies before it, Ms. Love begins to have the ol’ distributing visions trope haunt her, as her brain-impulse donor was drowned in a bathtub by a guy with a wrist tattoo. And Love and Dullea’s investigation inspires the murderer to silence the love birds . . . or is that LoveBirds, Ulli?
While this futuristic medical drama isn’t great, it’s still not that bad and above par for a Ulli Lommel clone-joint; if Ulli upped the Argento-body fluids, we’d have an even better, junk science-driven Giallo. The par comes courtesy of a solid cast headed by Keir Dullea (The Starlost) (he’s a little heavy on the histrionics, but it’s not a total thespin’ tragedy), along with the classy Vera Miles (Hitchcock’s Psycho), distinguished character actor Percy Rodriquez (Planet of the Apes) (Rodriquez, James Earl Jones, and Roscoe Lee Brown, the best voiceover pipes in the business), and everyman character actor Paul Wilson (Office Space, 976-EVIL, the also-reviewed this week Circuity Man, and the one Jennifer Annistion movie I can stomach, courtesy of Mike Judge’s Office Space), and perpetually-beautiful character actress Eve Brent (from TV’s Dragnet in the ’50s to trading chops with Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns to Fade to Black to The Green Mile with Tom Hanks). And, why yes, that is the Penthouse “Pet of the Month” Corrine Alphen Wahl as our brainwave doner, she of Sean S. Cunningham’s Spring Break (1983) and the great Cirio Santiago’s Equalizer 2000 (1987).