Thursday, March 16, 2017

DEMON SEED (1977) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive

Region Code: A
Duration: 94 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen  (2.40:1)
Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional 
English SDH Subtitles
Director: Donald Cammell 
Cast: Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, Gerrit Graham, Berry Kroeger, Lisa Lu, Larry J. Blake, John O'Leary, Alfred Dennis, Davis Roberts, Patricia Wilson

Based on  Dean Koontz’s 1973 novel of the same name we have here a slice of science-fiction horror directed by Donald Cammell (White of the Eye), in it a brilliant scientist named Dr. Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver, Creepshow) develops an A.I. entity he calls Proteus IV, voiced by Robert Vaughn (Battle Beyond the Stars), that is housed in a government laboratory. Proteus communicates through a monitors set up st the lab. Soon after being brought online he devises a cure for leukemia, the potential for what Proteus can contribute to society is staggering, but Proteus begins thinks for itself, developing a somewhat malevolent personality. Soon the A.I. begins to to question demands from Harris and his benefactors, questioning the legitimacy of the requests. For starters, not wanting to help develop underwater mining for precious metals, for it knows it will do irreparable harm to the environment, it sees the folly in out choices. Soon after Proteus asks Harris to be let out his box in a way, to be given access to a computer terminal so he can study mankind, realizing this might not be such a great idea Harris refuses, and he and his benefactors begin to fear the Proteus program, and with good reason, planning to shut it down before it gets out of control, but unbeknownst to them Proteus is able to infiltrate Harris personal lab which is located offsite in the basement of the home of his estranged wife Susan (Julie Christie, Don't Look Now). The couple are in the process of getting a divorce following a mutual tragedy in their lives. Gaining access to the home lab Proteus is able to assume control of the hi-tech homes electronics, which control everything inside the home. Holding Susan captive Proteus reveals it's plans to impregnate her with his bio-engineered hybrid child, and thus 70s sci-fi madness ensues. 

The hi-tech home is completely automated, everything is run by computer, including the security system, and a weird looking arm/hand apparatus mounted on a motorized wheelchair, all of which Proteus uses to terrorize, restrain and impregnate poor Susan. It's been a long time since I read the novel, and even Koontz himself re-wrote it in the 90s, but I do remember in the novel that Proteus used hypnosis to bring Susan around to the idea of baring his sci-fi love child. Here he more or less breaks down her will, and sort of convinces her t o along wit his diabolical plan. 

Proteus designs and manufactures a weird geometric pod of sorts that is capable of changing shape and performing various tasks, including disposing of a pesky lab technician (Gerrit Graham, Phantom of the Paradise) who is called upon by Susan early in the film to address her malfunctioning home automations. However, when he resists Proteus's subterfuge he pays a terrible price, losing his head in the process. 

Julie Christie is fantastic, she really goes for it here, literally baring it all at certain points, buying into the role with a great range of depth, it might be a silly sort of premise, but she's all in on this one, giving a truly anguished and vulnerable performance. One of the creepiest aspects of the movie is the disembodied voice of actor Robert Vaughn as Proteus, it's an unnatural voice, cold, electronic, malevolent - it always gives me goosebumps. It's efforts to terrorize, restrain and impregnate Susan are super weird and uncomfortable, poking and prodding her with needles and instruments, inseminating her, 70s sci-fi was some seriously weird shit, this is a bat-shit crazy movie, but the ideas are provocative and it's played straight-faced.

On the downside, I don't think the movie has aged particularly well since '77, I am not sure this would hold up for a younger audience, the sci-fi elements are vintage to put kindly, not campy, but oh-so seventies. And the whole premise of the A.I. rapist might be a bit much, heck, it was probably a bit much in '77, but for me this one still manages to get under my skin. Demon Seed is an ominous slice of 70s sci-fi horror with a phenomenal performance from Julie Christie, I think in an age of the modern convenience and electronic personal assistants like Siri and Amazon Echo that this cult sci-fi nugget might have some terrifying new relevance.  

Audio/Video: Demon Seed (1977) debuts on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a new 2017 HD transfer sourced from a new 2K scan of the interpretive. This looks quite a bit better than my old DVD, colors are subdued but appear accurate, decently crisp and occasionally sharp, the vintage sci-fi thriller has never looked better to my eyes. I love 70's science fiction, the laboratories, retro-graphics, the 2001: A Space Odyssey sort of psychedelic animations that represent Proteus's consciousness, it's all good stuff and look great in HD. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 track, everything is mixed nicely, the sound design comes through wonderfully as the electronic machinations burp into existence from time to time, and Robert Vaughn's coldly malevolent voice sounds wonderfully menacing. The score by Jerry Fielding (Funeral Home) has good fidelity for a mono presentation. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. The only extra on the disc is the original theatrical trailer for the film, in widescreen and HD.      

Special Features: 

- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 

Demon Seed (1977) is an eerie slice of menacing 70s sci-fi, while it might not have aged well, I still love it. A creepy tale of man's creation of an A.I. entity, designed for greedy purposes, which inevitably comes back to bite him in the ass. This is a movie you will not soon forget, it's hard to forget a movie that in large part is the story of a woman menaced by a computer, forced to conceive its human-computer hybrid offspring, it's weird and wacky stuff, and it's never looked better on home video, I love that are Warner Archive bringing these vintage cult-classics to the masses with new HD transfers, keep it up guys. 3/5