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Electric Dreams 
Written by: on May 11th, 2009

Theatrical Release Date: US, July 1984
Director: Steve Barron
Writer: Rusty Lemonrande
Cast: Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield, Wendy Miller, Bud Cort (voice)

DVD released: April 6th, 2009
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Second Sight
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99

Synopsis: Miles is a brilliant yet blundering architect who needs some kind of organization in his life to balance his daily employment with his intense research for a private project. To do this, He purchases a state-of-the-art computer that controls every aspect of his apartment – from the kitchen appliances to the overzealous security system – while also helping to develop his personal assignment. But after a freak accident in which the computer overloads and, in an attempt to prevent fire, is doused with champagne, the machine begins to develop a personality of its own. Meanwhile, Miles meets his new neighbor Madeline, a beautiful and talented cellist who he becomes instantly smitten with. But the computer, who now calls itself Edgar, is slowly developing human emotions and it too falls her Madeline’s charms. Jealousy ensues, resulting in Edgar gaining access to almost any electronic system that allows the monitoring of Miles’ every move. Can Miles and Madeline’s romance overcome Edgar’s envy in this bizarre love triangle?

Due to repeated television airings and home video releases, ELECTRIC DREAMS has gained a considerable cult following in the wake of its lukewarm theatrical release and in many ways can be now viewed as the quintessential 80s mainstream movie since it captures the period’s commercial sensibilities so well: There is instant gratification at the expense of substance with its arresting but shallow music video visuals, catchy yet disposable pop tunes and a script populated with likable but paper-thin characterization. However, what is also interesting about the film – and what possibly makes it so intriguing after 25 years – is that it also gleans satire from the era’s over-reliance on technology, both how it was absorbed into daily life (Edgar develops into an all-seeing Big Brother force) and how artificial intelligence could readily replace human contact, while further amusement is also sourced from the bombardment of tacky television imagery in which product placement is used to subversive ends (everything Edgar knows about humanity is based on soap operas and Pepsi commercials).

While its ironic edge does allow ELECTRIC DREAMS a moderate amount of credibility, it is ultimately a ridiculous yet rather enduring slice of light-hearted nostalgia thanks largely to its attractive and likable cast. Lenny von Dohlen’s befuddled demeanor and bespectacled appearance recalls Cary Grant in BRINGING UP BABY and, while not equaling that actor’s masterfully perfected comic timing, he delivers a solidly pleasing performance. Perhaps the most significant element of the film is that it gives Virginia Madsen her first major feature role. An exceptionally gifted actress, Madsen brings some life to an underwritten role due to her warm persona and is a major asset to the picture’s lasting cult appeal. Maxwell Caulfield appears for only a small amount of screen time and portrays the suave and self-centered cad that he would go on to perfect throughout his career in pictures such as EMPIRE RECORDS. Bud Cort supplies the voice for Edgar and it is the actor’s quirky delivery that helps give the computer a strong human element, however sympathetic or annoying it can be. It is also worth pointing out that Koo Stark, the actress who starred in the British erotic dramas EMILY and CRUEL PASSION, can be glimpsed fleetingly in one of the programs seen via the frequent channel-hopping occurring on Edgar’s screen.

The DVD:

Second Sight has sub-licensed ELECTRIC DREAMS from current rights holder MGM and the company should be commended for releasing this relatively minor film rather than letting it languish in the vaults. Letterboxed at 1:85:1, the framing nicely balances the imagery and is of excellent quality, with only the slightest occasional blemish and a healthy amount of film grain (the transfer is anamorphic). It is worth noting that, to my knowledge, the only other DVD release that ELECTRIC DREAMS has had so far is a Region 4 disc issued in Australia, but is reportedly fullscreen and of sub-standard quality so is best avoided.

The audio is rendered in Dolby Digital Stereo and nicely represents the soundtrack that features many pop tunes from artists such as UB40, Culture Club, Heaven 17 and Jeff Lynne.

The extras are limited to only one object but it is most welcome – the music video for “Together In Electric Dreams”, which features prominently during the film’s closing credits and when released as a single to promote the ELECTRIC DREAMS but was more successful than the feature itself. Performed by Giorgio Moroder (who was responsible for the film’s incidental music) and Phil Oakey from the British group The Human League, the video is framed at a non-anamorphic 1:78:1. The image looks much softer than the feature film but, considering the nature of the material, it’s a very pleasing presentation of the piece and is a nice conclusion on the DVD.

ELECTRIC DREAMS is awarded a decent letterboxed transfer and makes its first significance appearance on DVD due to Second Sight.

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