Steve Barron directed some of the most famous videos like “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League, “Africa” by Toto and “Take On Me” by A-ha. This was his first film, which was written by Rusty Lemorande, who also was behind Captain EO, Cannon’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Patsy Kensit and and Julian Sands-starring The Turn of the Screw.
Barron often shared his music videos with his mother Zelda. Now, that isn’t him being a mama’s boy. She was at the time doing continuity on Yentl with Lemorande — she also directed the movie Shag and Culture Club’s* videos for “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Miss Me Blind,” “The Medal Song” and “It’s a Miracle” — and showed showed him a video that Barron made for Haysi Fantayzee, which led to this movie.
The film is very much an extended music video and has lots of artists of the era, such as YB40, Jeff Lynne, Phil Collins, Heaven 17 and, most importantly, Giorgio Moroder, who was hired as the composer.
Barron would later say, “(Mordoer) played me a demo track he thought would be good for the movie. It was the tune of “Together in Electric Dreams” but with some temporary lyrics sung by someone who sounded like a cheesy version of Neil Diamond. Giorgio was insisting the song could be a hit so I thought I’d suggest someone to sing who would be as far from a cheesy Neil Diamond as one could possibly go. Phil Oakey**. We then got Phil in who wrote some new lyrics on the back of a (cigarette) packet on the way to the recording studio and did two takes which Giorgio was well pleased with and everybody went home happy.”
Miles Harding (Lenny Von Dohlen, Harold Smith on Twin Peaks) is an architect who wants to build earthquake-proof building, which is why he buys a computer to help him and goes overboard, buying everything he can to allow it to run his house. However, he screws up his own name and it calls him Moles. As the computer downlaods more information and it starts to overheat. Miles pours champagne on it, which is not how to fix a computer and it becomes self-aware, gains the voice of Bud Cort (Barron didn’t want Cort to be seen by the other actors so he did his lines in a padded box on a sound stage) and the name Edgar.
Miles and Edgar are both in love with neighbor Madeline Robistat (Virginia Madsen), with Edgar even playing cello along with her in a duet, a performance that Miles takes credit for. He even asks the computer to write a song for Madeline, but that takes things too far and soon man fights machine.
Yet don’t take this to be a horror movie. It ends up being quite sweet at the end and is a cute romance. You can even see Moroder show up as a record producer. This movie has one of my favorite movie things in it: computers that at once look dated and yet do more than they can today.
*Harold and Maude fan Boy George visited the set of this movie just to meet Bud Cort. George also helped compose the song “Electric Dreams” and contributed his band’s songs “Karma Chameleon,” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “Love Is Love” and “The Dream” to the soundtrack.
**The Human League’s singer.