Written by: Ron Cotton on October 10th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: July 25th, 2006
Director: Warren Amerman
Writers: Warren Amerman, Marty Langford
Cast: David Joseph, Sanjiban Sellew, Amy Shelton-White, Robert Weingartner, Tom Whaley
DVD Released: July 25th, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 77 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (16:9 Anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Heretic Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
What has become of Magdalena Welling’s (Amy Shelton-White) shattered life was neither what she expected or what she had control of. Drinking heavily to forget the past of a horrible experiment where her husband Arthur (Sanjiban Sellew) becomes (for the lack of better words) the embodiment of Steven Hawking. Nevertheless, Magdalena and Arthur continue with the Artificial Intelligence project seeking to make a breakthrough for an intelligence that can give humanity a better existence through science. Needing assistance, Magdalena recruits the able bodied skills of her brother Jim (Robert Weingartner). Andrew (David Joseph) lives in another part of the expansive warehouse adding frustration to Magdalena. Soon, Andrew is part of the design to fulfill Magdalena’s desires. While resolving her issues of feeling imprisoned with her psychologist, the experiment becomes the catalyst to Magdalena’s true issues.
No better fit for lead of Magdalena’s Brain (MB) than Amy Shelton-White, whose acting style and expressiveness sets the tone of the film. Magdalena’s doctor’s and David Joseph gives a very marginal performance. Robert Weingartner has a lankly look and facial expressions of a seasoned actor, but adds almost nothing to his role as Jim. All of the other actors interacting with Magdalena are lifeless cardboard cutouts, for reasons that are to be reveled in its twist ending.
The locations are surreal dream-like places, sterile and nearing perfection, reminiscent of Italian Giallos and Kubrick films. While some camera shots added to the film’s momentum, others shots lacked substance. This loss of direction made returning to the crux of the film near impossible. On the plus side, the audio and visual effects implemented to give the illusion of flashback worked quite well, and without the introduction of these effects would have only confused the viewer.
Magdalena’s Brain is a science fiction drama exposing similar issues that the film Blade Runner contends with. Not only does it explore the marriage between man and machine but Magdalena’s Brain uncovers the difficulties in differentiating between what is reality and what isn’t. Magdalena’s Brain chooses to confront these avenues directly with an even more bizarre love story in comparison to Blade Runner. Unfortunately, this wasn’t accomplished in MB.
Magdalena’s shortcomings stems from a storyline centered on Artificial Intelligence. In but a few cases in film, Artificial Intelligence is a subject very difficult to pull off seamlessly. Magdalena’s Brain was yet another casualty. The script is quite dry with many key sequences that could have flourished into something greater but instead flat lined. In retrospect, this low-budget film with a fifteen day filming schedule goes well beyond many peoples expectations. Most will not find this to be a valid excuse.
Magdalena’s Brain has a cardboard surrounding the clear keep case with no substantial differences between the two. This was a disappointment, leading me to believe that this was a theft protection measure. For any future releases, plea to Heretic Films use the extra surfaces for more artwork, screen shots, and overall design.
The Deleted Scenes contributes little to the story with helpful notes before are clips. The Commentary doesn’t traverse over much new ground behind the scenes and instead lament over how much better MD could have been. The features are not really much of features at all. The music video music is horrible, but giving insight on the who’s who if the cast was nice – just watch this feature with the volume completely down. A day in the life is the behind the scene feature with camcorders giving a realistic account of the hijinks that happens behind the scenes between filming. Again, it lacks information about the steps of film making. The best feature in MB is the Heretic Trailers including Red Cockroaches, Last Exit, Sacred Flesh, Cold Blood, I’ll Bury You Tomorrow, London Voodoo, Katiebird, Shockheaded, 24 Hours on Craigslist, Kissing on the Mouth, and Lurking in Suburbia.
The audio is clean and better than many other low-budget films. Natural sounding and good isolation of voices. The audio is a stereo mix yet at times lacks the dynamics. The background music isn’t memorable by any stretch of the imagination. The commentary track is very standard, and sadly chooses not to expose enough information on film making or the production of MB.
Keeping in the spirit of Magdalena’s Brain, video best fit the setting. MB’s video quality is a slick high-definition digital transfer fully expressing the expansive set in vivid pristine colors. The video quality is so crisp that each red brick can be individualized. In comparison to all prior Heretic Films releases, MB definitely has the best video quality to date. The video quality fails but once during a dark chase scene, creating a heavy grain-like effect that appears unintentional and part of the HD master. If you happen to go frame-by-frame during mediums to heavy motion, the transfer has double images – but who watches a movie like that anyway?
Upon reflecting on Magdalena’s Brain, it’s my firm belief that the Director of Photography Mark Devin salvaged this production from becoming a complete disaster. Amy Shelton-White’s performance was also admirable. As the end result, MB lacked the time, resources, and scriptwriting that was needed to push this production into the cult film arena.
For more information about Magdalena’s Brain and other titles released by Heretic films visit their website.