Brainstorm [Blu-Ray] Douglas Trumbull

Brainstorm [Blu-Ray] Douglas Trumbull
This ill-fated movie is best known today as star Natalie Wood's final film, released posthumously. It is also the last feature directed by Douglas Trumbull, renowned as one of Hollywood's great special-effects visionaries. (He designed the effects for 2001.) The film doesn't really work, but viewed 30 years later, it has a certain historical fascination as a document of the end of several eras at once: the old Hollywood represented by Wood and the new (now also old) Hollywood, and the extraordinary license it offered filmmakers eager to impose their obsessions on a mass audience. The story concerns the efforts of a scientist (Christopher Walken) to perfect an invention called the Hat, a sort of computerized helmet that allows the wearer to experience another person's sensations, right down to the taste of food. As the transcendent powers of the device become clear, Walken battles the inevitable military/industrial interference and rekindles his relationship with his estranged wife (Wood). The film was conceived as a vehicle for Trumbull's experimental 70mm process: Showscan. The "brainstorm" sequences ― POV shots of rollercoaster and car rides, sexual intercourse and, ultimately, the experience of death and ascension to the afterlife ― were eventually shot in conventional 70mm when the studio balked. These scenes are the crux of the movie and they have an immersive power, even on TV, which the rest of the movie lacks. Trumbull has no particular feeling for story and character, and based on this evidence, not much skill at directing actors, so the cast flounders. Wood's performance suffers especially, her pert competence ill-matched with Walken's twitchy mannerisms (fun as he is to watch). They are a spectacularly ill-matched couple, so it is difficult to invest much in their reconciliation. Trumbull's attention is elsewhere anyway ― the driving force behind the narrative is Walken's increasingly radical attempts to protect his invention from the corporations. Given the studio interference, with the plug very nearly pulled on the project after Wood's death, this is highly understandable. It is disappointing that the sole extra is the film's trailer, as a making-of doc would have been far more interesting than the movie itself. But would anybody bankroll such an effort and, given all that went on, would anybody agree to participate? Brainstorm continues to stand as one of the true cast-offs in movie history. (Warner)