11 user 3 critic

Threshold (1981)

PG | | Drama, Sci-Fi | 21 January 1983 (USA)
The celebrated heart surgeon Dr. Vrain supports the research of the offbeat scientist Aldo Gehring, who is inventing an artificial heart. Dr. Vrain performs the first artificial human heart... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Thomas Vrain
Edgar Fine
Tilla Vrain
Carol Severance
Dr. Aldo Gehring
Henry De Vici
Julie Armstrong ...
Donna Clure
Jun Asahina ...
Japanese Technician
Steve Ballantine ...
Injured Motorcyclist
Ralph Benmergui ...
Mr. Orantes' Interpreter (as Ralph Benmurgui)
Richard Blackburn ...
Dr. Cutter
Lally Cadeau ...
Anita, Vrain's Secretary
Eric Clavering ...
Old Man in Recovery
James Douglas ...
Older Doctor in X-Ray Room (as James B. Douglas)
Nancy Downey ...


The celebrated heart surgeon Dr. Vrain supports the research of the offbeat scientist Aldo Gehring, who is inventing an artificial heart. Dr. Vrain performs the first artificial human heart transplant against the advice of the Ethics Committee. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In this surgeons hands, life has a new meaning.


Drama | Sci-Fi


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 January 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Herzchirurg Dr. Vrain  »

Box Office


CAD 5,700,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum previously appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). See more »


Dr. Thomas Vrain: Carol? Carol? You're doing fine, you know that? You're doing just fine.
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User Reviews

Not a disease-of-the-week tearjerker
2 April 2004 | by (Minnesota) – See all my reviews

"Threshold" is a meticulously crafted Canadian drama with several stars in top form. There's Donald Sutherland as the heart doctor who is warm and genial, but still keeps an emotional distance from his daily activities. This is evidenced in the scene where he's talking about the miracles that he's experienced in his life, and he doesn't mention a single one of his life-saving operations. He doesn't see himself as a Superman, just an ordinary man doing his job. He has no ego or God-like persona, he's just a dedicated doctor. He is so phenomenal in this role that I would have to say it's my favorite Donald Sutherland performance, and he's given many great ones. I also thought this was one of Jeff Goldblum's best performances, right up there with "The Fly". In "Threshold", he is totally believable as a 34-year-old man who has dedicated probably every inch of free space in his mind thinking about his exhilirating project for over a decade, possibly all his life. When people scoff at his ideas with vague, juvenile arguments, he begins rambling and rambling about the specific virtues of his experiment so descriptively, passionately, sometimes euphorically that the result is often exciting, like in the incredible scene towards the end between him and the radio personality; he always totally ignores any childish comments and goes straight to the heart of the matter. It's no wonder that when his invention seems to work he is suddenly overcome with grandiosity, because he basically is his project, totally. Few people ever devote this much of their life and minds to one incredible concept like this, and as a result, he becomes carried away.

Mare Winningham is such a priceless jewel in "Threshold" as Sutherland's first artificial heart transplant. She is luminous in every one of her scenes, particularly towards the end. We feel so much sympathy for her character and only want the best for her in the end. She should have been Oscar-nominated along with Sutherland and Goldblum for this. I'll never forget how much I could truly feel her sense of loss and fear after the surgery: "I'm just not the same."

The film obviously raises the issue that many people feel Sutherland and Goldblum are "playing God", and I could be wrong, but that was kind of an impression I got from one scene right after Winningham's surgery when she's still sedated. Sutherland comes to see her and as he's watching her sleep he hears the ominous sound of a helicopter overhead, which we know is the press, but it's almost like a rumble from a God uknown, a private message to Sutherland, at least that's what I imagined his character might be thinking. I'm not sure if it signified an approval of or anger at the operation, but I would guess that in his character's mind it would have been the latter.

The film has a deceptively happy ending. Winningham seems to physically fine in the end, but as she's walking with her parents from the hospital we can see in her eyes that she's lost herself and will probably never be the same. She may in time learn to forget somewhat about her anxieties or put them aside, but it's doubtful. Then of course there's always the possibility she could die the very next day, being that the prosthetic heart is so experimental.

The film has some very beautifully lit scenes, like the first scene that we see Winningham talking to Sutherland on the street at night. It's the almost glowing background lights that make this scene so beautiful, apart from the actors; it has an ethereal feel to it.

I walked away from "Threshold" feeling that I had gained something as a human being from watching it. Not only that, I enjoyed the experience!

My rating: 10/10

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