Electric Dreams proves that whether you’re in the ’80s or the ’10s, computers can frequently be a complete pain in the arse.
Described, onscreen by a computer, this movie is described as “a fairytale for computers”. For my first time watching this, I know if I’d have seen it at the time, I would’ve loved this so much, and watching it 33 years on for the first time, it’s absolutely blown me away. It partly feels like a film made now – but which is made to look like the ’80s, although knowing it was shot in October 1983 and released the following year, the entire 96 minutes is almost perfectly bang on the money.
It’s a boy-meets-girl tale, where it’s not only the two leads who have great chemistry, but also the interjection of a love rival… Edgar, a computer, who kinda wants a thre -esome between them. Well, not quite, but made you look.
Inspired by how much gadgets were taking over our lives in that decade and, as writer Rusty Lemorande (whose name I misread as ‘Rusty Lemonade’) confirms in the extras, it shows how it set a precedent to how things are now, and we’ve all seen idiotic people always on their damn mobile phones while walking about.
Edgar (voiced by Bud Cort) can get quite disturbing at times, but it all builds up brilliantly gently, as Miles (Lenny von Dohlen) buys the machine to help improve his life, and even for a unit from the early ’80s, it instantly is able to control all his home applicances. Really? I doubt that! And that’s before it turns the house into a game of Pac-man!
For the record, Miles is an architect designing a new “earthquake-proof brick” – I can’t imagine how they came up with that idea, not least because a building requires more than that to keep in place. However, with his new ‘friend’, he can get ‘him’ to do all the work.
Plus, the computer shakes when it’s processing too much data at once, and even starts to show smoke as if it’s catching fire… and it’s not even a Samsung mobile phone! In addition, Edgar learns how to play Bach while neighbour Madeline (Virginia Madsen) plays it on her cello. She’s a woman who could have any man – and in seven years time she’d be dating a Connor McLeod in Highlander II, but here, she ditches the jock (Bill – Maxwell Caulfield, who’s massively changed since) for the geek… which is kinda awkward if it goes wrong, since they live in the same building.
In addition, the film’s very ’80s, with the hair, the clothes, and a Bigtrak! Plus, Edgar can do graphics not possible in a home computer at that time.
Overall, Electric Dreams is all immensely daft, but great fun, plus the stunning San Franscisco backdrops in some cases, while the extras informed me that others were shot in the UK.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 and in 1080p high definition, and while the print is mostly clean, there’s a level of grain that I normally see in remastered releases from Arrow.
The audio is in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, and the wonderful soundtrack grabs you at the start and never lets go, particularly if you’re a child of the ’80s.
The extras are very engaging interviews:
- Is This A Story? (18:23): With a title borrowed from a line of Edgar’s in the opening to the movie, this is an interview with director Steve Barron. That name might not ring a bell, but he has made so many of the most iconic pop videos of the ’80s, such as:
- Adam and the Ants – Antmusic
Toto – Africa
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
A-Ha – Take On Me, The Sun Always Shines On TV, Manhattan Skyline
Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue
Paul McCartney – Pretty Little Head
In addition, both he, and his mother Zelda Barron, entered the record books for being the first mother and son to direct their first movie at the same time, hers being 1984’s Secret Places.
It was also suggested how Tom Hanks was also considered for the lead role. However, while Lenny isn’t the greatest actor, Tom Hanks is in far too many movies, so it’s best if he’s not dominating them all.
- Electric Dreaming (41:27): writer/co-producer Rusty Lemorande, who I thought initially was called ‘Rusty Lemonade’. He goes into great detail about Bud Cort’s role as Edgar, and how he wanted him on set every day, rather than the typical voice artist who’d just spend a day or two recording their lines. He did this because he wanted Bud to react to Lenny’s lines.
- Miles and Madeline (20:47): Interviews with Lenny Von Dohlen and Virginia Madsen, and one thing that’s particularly bizarre for me is that I’ve never seen the former before, so seeing him at 25, making the movie, and then at 59, recording an interview… that’s really weird.
Virginia has certainly wethered the world better, as Lenny looks like he needs too much make-up, but anyhoo, the lady tells us how she had a wonderful time making this, and felt really spoiled by the experience she had making the movie, compared to subsequent ones.
The main menu features a short piece of the classic theme set against clips from the film, and there’s a decent number of chapters with 16. Subtitles are in English, and if I was bit nit-picky, I spotted one typo where “Who wrote the song” becomes “Who wrong the song”, but I’m being a bit silly 🙂
Running time: 96 mins
Distributor: Second Sight
Released: August 7th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Steve Barron
Producers: Larry DeWaay and Rusty Lemorande
Screenplay: Rusty Lemorande
Music: Giorgio Moroder
Miles Harding: Lenny von Dohlen
Madeline Robistat: Virginia Madsen
Bill: Maxwell Caulfield
Edgar: Bud Cort
Mr. Ryley: Don Fellows
Frank, Co-Worker: Alan Polonsky
Computer Clerk: Wendy Miller
Conductor: Harry Rabinowitz
Ticket Girl: Miriam Margolyes
Ryley’s Receptionist: Holly De Jong
Woman at Airport: Stella Maris
Millie: Mary Doran
Girl in Soap Opera: Koo Stark
Himself: Winston T Dog
Talk Show Host: Dr Ruth Westheimer (voice)
D.J.: Frazer Smith
Radio Producer: Giorgio Moroder (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.