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  Electric Dreams Computer Love
Year: 1984
Director: Steve Barron
Stars: Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield, Bud Cort, Alan Polonsky, Wendy Miller, Harry Rabinowitz, Miriam Margolyes, Holly de Jong, Stella Maris, Mary Doran, Diana Choy, Jim Steck, Gary Pettinger, Mac McDonald, Koo Stark, Patsy Smart
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, Romance, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Miles Harding (Lenny von Dohlen) is an architect who wishes to design the perfect brick, he lives in San Francisco after all and to create a building material which never fell down during an earthquake would be a wondrous achievement. However, for Miles even getting up in time for work is a success in itself, so his co-worker suggests that he buy a computer to be better organised. He is sceptical at first, but dutifully goes along to his latest electronics store to see what merchandise might help. Hoping for some kind of talking clock, he ends up with the most advanced computer he can buy...

Most will know Electric Dreams as the classic eighties pop anthem from Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey, but did you know there was a movie attached to it as well? This was that film, a fluffy little item that marked an attempt by Richard Branson and his Virgin company to branch out into the motion picture business, not an excursion that went tremendously well, which was probably why this was best liked for its soundtrack than for the frankly silly goings-on herein. It took the obsession of more than a few movies of this decade - computers - and aimed to give them a humanity not seen since...

Er, not seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the computer here, named Edgar, was the obvious ancestor of HAL 9000, the machine that went crazy in the Stanley Kubrick film but was nevertheless the most emotional aspect of the whole production. They even gave it a similar voice, courtesy of Bud Cort, and those emotions it has are what leads to its downfall as it falls in love with Miles' new neighbour Madeline, played by Virginia Madsen, who as with many of her films represented a saving grace because not only was she beautiful but made you believe her character would put up with the sort of nonsense she's put through and not turn on her heel and walk straight out.

For a start, Miles isn't exactly promising boyfriend material no matter that we are intended to accept his uncoordinated clumsiness is an endearing trait, as actually he looks as if he is suffering some undiagnosed physical malady; von Dohlen managed to be gauchely charming in spite of this overplayed hand. Madeline is a cellist with an orchestra to emphasise the musical aspects as Edgar hears her practising and decides to join in with bleeps and bloops, which she finds terrific, thinking it's Miles and not the machine that has produced them. Really, Miles only has himself to blame as he oddly is extremely embarrassed about owning a computer and is tied up in knots to hide it from his new girlfriend, but it was he who spilled champagne on it in the first place, thereby sparking it into life (don't try this at home).

So you're offered a twist on the traditional love triangle, as Edgar is non-human, though Maxwell Caulfield briefly showed up for a "why bother?" bit of business as a potential rival for Madeline's affections. With the gags mostly revolving around how awkward our hapless hero can be, and the manner in which his pet computer can render things worse, you'll have seen funnier movies, but it's so perfectly of its era that nostalgia comes into play with a vengeance if you choose to watch it now. The contemplation of artificial intelligence, and the admittedly soppy notion of what it would mean for a machine to feel love, is less important than the amount of catchy tunes that can be included (director Steve Barron made many classic videos), so it's no wonder those who have seen this have cheery memories of it: the peerless theme song sends this out on a high, no matter how featherbrained the rest of it is, giving it a reasonable excuse for its existence.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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