Brainstorm (1983) The Christopher Walken Virtual Reality Mind Experience

Brainstorm (1983) movie poster sci-fi 80's 2

Spanish poster for Brainstorm

Rented this on VHS cassette tape in my teens, though I didn’t realise until many years later this was the second and last movie to be directed by legendary special effects guru, Douglas Trumbull. His first, and always to be a favourite sci-fi movie for me, was the eco warrior Bruce Dern film, Silent Running. A film with a message to mankind and of course those three very cute robots called Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Silent Running bruce dern Huey Louie and dewey robots sci-fi douglas trumbull

Douglas Trumbull has been influencing, creating and entertaining us for years, his visual flare is embedded in the souls of so many science fiction movies. All classics, all favourites and all films I could put on at any time of day and be transfixed to the screen.

tyrell pyramid blade runner douglas trumbull

Douglas Trumbull Tyrell Pyramid Blade Runner

He worked his magic on the special photographic effects of Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Andromeda Strain and the big one, 2001: A Space Odyssey. With all those beloved films having the Trumbull touch, it was about time I revisited Brainstorm to see if I could remember anything and to discover how it holds up after all these years.

Brainstorm (1983) movie poster sci-fi 80's

Well I can safely say it holds up very well and to be honest I couldn’t recall much which made it more exciting. Obviously it the weakest out of his works but it’s really good fun. Interesting concept pushed along by fine performances in the pursuit of discovery. Great ideas are thrown around and what with us all trying Imax cinema experiences at some point and the constant ambition and longing for virtual reality, this film hits on a fair few key notes. Yeah of course it loses the plot and takes a curve ball turn but it’s so worth it for the psychedelic Trumbull endgame effects bonazza.

Tagline – Imagine a machine that records feelings, emotions and even your hopes and dreams. And to think you can transfer these experiences from one mind to another.

Brainstorm (1983) Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) sci-fi inside machineBrainstorm (1983) Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) Dr Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher)

Scientific researchers Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) and his chain smoking, no nonsense partner Dr Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) are working on an experimental technology. Developing a prototype system that records real time experiences of of someone’s vision and feelings, with the ability to play them back through a virtual reality headset. Beaming the actual real-life experiences and emotional perception right into the viewers mind. Capturing the point of view sensations of the memory within the recording device and releasing the adventures straight in the brain noodle of the player.

Brainstorm (1983) Virtual Reality cliff robertson tech

Brainstorm (1983) Research Triangle Park, North Carolina future building crazy design

Burroughs Wellcome Pharmaceutical Corporation HQ Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

With no lack of thrilling experiences to record they set to work improving the system and experimenting. And what with the CEO of the company Alex Terson (Cliff Robertson) wanting something to “really knock my socks off” they set to work recording everything from roller coaster rides, water slides, surfing, random monkey, horse riding, race cars…… Sex! What really could go wrong?

Brainstorm (1983) Virtual Reality point of view jet plane fighterBrainstorm (1983) boobies cleavage waitress cakes bra casino pov

Tagline – The door to the mind is open!

It’s not long before the military potential of the technology is realised and a fight ensues to keep it out of their hands. Louise Fletcher is superb as the feisty scientist who really doesn’t take any shit, Walken is actually pretty sane for most of the film! Also in the cast is Natalie Wood (unfortunately in her last film) she plays Walken’s estranged wife Karen Brace.

Brainstorm (1983) Natalie Wood karen brace last film before she died

A few random things….

  • Douglas Trumbull’s Dad Donald was a special effects guy too and I read he worked on The Wizard Of Oz and was also involved with Star Wars A New Hope and personal fun favourite Lifeforce.
  • It was sad to hear that Natalie Wood died under somewhat suspicious circumstances right near the end of filming. She drown after falling off her boat. Douglas Trumbull was so upset he decided to pack in directing films.
  • Douglas Trumbull is involved with a strange and wonderful entitled film in production at the moment, The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot. It definitely has my intrigue, whether it’s a film or a TV series I don’t know but I look forward to investigating when it’s released.

Brainstorm (1983) boss Alex Terson (Cliff Robertson)

This is a quirky fun film filled with great performances, crazy ideas and best of all, all the 80’s technologies and visuals on show. Well worth hunting down for a watch if you haven’t seen it. Let me know if you rented this delve into virtual reality on VHS back in the day, or you get to see it soon.

Have fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

Ps at time of writing Brainstorm is available to stream on Youtube

12 thoughts on “Brainstorm (1983) The Christopher Walken Virtual Reality Mind Experience

  1. Aside from Wood’s death, I don’t recall much about this one other than being underwhelmed at the time of it’s VHS release. Haven’t seen it since and funny how I wasn’t big on Walken back in those days and now of course I buy into the whole Walken cult. lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was the same Mike, couldn’t quite recall it but you know what dude, it was very enjoyable. Walken and Wood’s are great but it’s easy Louise Fletcher who steals every single scene in the show. Warrants a rewatch one day I would say. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did I watch it on VHS? Pal, I watched it on a giant screen in San Diego during its release in 1983! I thought it was pretty cool back then, but I haven’t seen it since then, so not sure what I’d think now (although I’m sure I’d still think Natalie Wood was a total fox). I’ve read that the DVD and/or Blu-ray displays the film the way it was shown in ’83: regular scenes are in a normal aspect ratio, while the ‘seen through the headset’ moments are blown up to 2.40:1, or something like that. I don’t remember that switch back when I saw it, although it would make sense, since I was in a Cinerama theater.

    Liked by 1 person

    • On the big screen! wow I bet that ending and the POV stuff looked wonderful. Douglas Trumbull definitely liked trying new things. You’ll so right on the film ratio changes throughout the movie. I thought it was really effective and added a nice dramatic to it. It’s a fun film and that thinking of deeper meanings is creative but it’s not perfect. Unless you really want to, I’m sure this one can wait for a really rainy day to day to watch again. Shame it was his last film as I reacon he sure would’ve made some incredible thoughtful pieces after this. Louise Fletcher pure badass and yes you right Natalie a fox, so tragic!


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