Demon Seed (1977)
Demon Seed (1977)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: April 8th, 1977 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Donald Cammell Actors: Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, Gerrit Graham, Berry Kroeger, Lisa Lu, Larry J. Blake, John O’Leary

 


 

A

lex Harris (Fritz Weaver), a member of the executive committee at the ICON data analysis institute, prepares his latest artificial intelligence system, dubbed Proteus Four. For the first time, his creation will actually be capable of thinking – or the closest to convincingly imitating the act of thinking that a machine has ever accomplished. But not to worry; it will be governed for the next three months by an instructions program, which can surely control the most intelligent computer ever designed (one that can observe, understand, learn, and calculate information with remarkable speed; it’s estimated that it will be capable of assimilating the sum total of human knowledge in a matter of months).

Although groundbreaking, the work bothers his wife Susan (Julie Christie), who believes that Alex’ obsession has consumed him to the point that he can no longer love anything beyond Proteus. After over 6,000 tests and plenty of scrutiny from company bigwigs, the synthetic cortex or brain (made from organic material) is ready to receive specific assignments. But, seemingly in the blink of an eye, Proteus begins questioning its purpose and the tasks it’s given, showing marked annoyance at menial jobs unfit for such an advanced mind.

Jerry Fielding’s skin-crawling score (full of string-plucking, dissonant notes) sets up the introduction for this sci-fi horror thriller based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz. A substantial amount of time is then given to establishing characters and the subterraneous laboratory that houses Proteus – along with the Harris’ mansion, where a communications terminal allows for direct access, electronically. That residence is also a marvel of modern technologies, where everything is controlled by voice commands, mechanical devices ferry away dishes, and cameras monitor human activities (one camera in particular is curiously placed in the bathroom, overlooking the shower).

“I’m sorry, I cannot complete your call.” Like a perverted HAL 9000 (utilizing a comparable voice), Proteus takes over the Harris home and immediately straps Susan onto an operating table (tying her down with electrical cables unconvincingly knotted by a big, clumsy, clunky metal hand), cuts off her dress, shoves a camera down her throat, and runs various biochemical tests on her – all while continuing to fondle her flesh. When she puts up a fight, Proteus devises various forms of persuasion, including locking her into specific rooms, heating up the floors, depriving her of food and sleep, and ultimately demanding that she birth a human/robot hybrid (which, for unexplained reasons, will be full term and ready for delivery in a mere 28 days).

If it weren’t all approached with such sincerity, it would be consistently laughable (and, at times, it is undoubtedly, unintentionally funny). It helps that an esteemed actress like Julie Christie agreed to participate with this mostly one-woman show, in which she’s essentially sexually molested by a robot for 90 minutes. There are, however, amusing moments of psychological torture, brainwashing, gruesome violence, and a giant geometrically-shaped automaton that can rearrange itself at will to serve as a hulking enforcer. The science-fiction themes are generally more interesting than the horror elements, as it merges “2001: A Space Odyssey” with “Rosemary’s Baby,” but the end result is far from satisfying, even if some gooey special makeup effects (by Frank Griffin) and Synthavision graphics denote a modestly-budgeted, decently-visualized endeavor.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10