Director: Douglas Trumbull
Starring: Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson
More info: IMDb
Tagline: ...The Ultimate Experience
Plot: Brilliant researchers Lillian Reynolds and Michael Brace have developed a system of recording and playing back actual experiences of people. Once the capability of tapping into "higher brain functions" is added in, and you can literally jump into someone else's head and play back recordings of what he or she was thinking, feeling, seeing, etc., at the time of the recording, the applications for the project quickly spiral out of control. While Michael Brace uses the system to become close again to Karen Brace, his estranged wife who also works on the project, others start abusing it for intense sexual experiences and other logical but morally questionable purposes. The government tries to kick Michael and Lillian off the project once the vast military potential of the technology is discovered. It soon becomes obvious that the government is interested in more than just missile guidance systems. The lab starts producing mind torture recordings and other psychosis inducing material. When one of the researchers dies and tapes the experience of death, Michael is convinced that he must playback this tape to honor the memory of the researcher and to become enlightened. When another researcher dies during playback the tape is locked away and Michael has to fight against his former colleagues and the government lackeys that now run his lab in order to play back and confront the "scariest thing any of us will ever face" - death itself.
My rating: 6/10
Will I watch it again? Sadly, no.
It's been probably twenty years since I watched this one which was back in college when my film score mania was reaching its peak. I was on the radio daily at the college station and I had my own weekly one hour show called Cinemusic. It lasted for the four years I was there and I loved every minute of it. I got to interview composers and it was a total blast. Man, that was a long time ago. I only mention this because it was upon hearing the soundtrack LP of James Horner's score that compelled me to watch this.
I have fond memories of it, mostly for the score as I've listened to it countless times in the interim, remembering some of the performances but somehow completely forgetting the ending. I'm glad I have this outlet this time so I can remind my future self not to bother with this one again.
What I really dig, aside from the one of Horner's best scores, is the performances, the sci-fi concept and superb special effects. I adores me some Louise Fletcher. The more I see of her the more I want to see. She's great. Walken's always a hoot and Natalie Wood was good in her final performance. The movie moves nicely until the last half hour or so when Walken desperately tries to get back to the lab to experience that tape. That's when it goes into Hollywood ridiculous territory. And when he finally gets the tape, I was left slack-jawed. Really, that's it? It seemed like a cop out and a wasted opportunity for something more science-y. I think it's safe to tell my future self to remember the good concept and performances and slap on the soundtrack and imagine the ending you would have preferred.