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The Terminal Man (1974)

Hoping to cure his violent seizures, a man agrees to a series of experimental microcomputers inserted into his brain but inadvertently discovers that violence now triggers a pleasurable response his brain.

Director:

Mike Hodges

Writers:

Michael Crichton (novel), Mike Hodges
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... Harry Benson
Joan Hackett ... Dr. Janet Ross
Richard Dysart ... Dr. John Ellis
Donald Moffat ... Dr. Arthur McPherson
Michael C. Gwynne ... Dr. Robert Morris
William Hansen William Hansen ... Dr. Ezra Manon
Jill Clayburgh ... Angela Black
Norman Burton ... Det. Capt. Anders
James Sikking ... Ralph Friedman
Matt Clark ... Gerhard
Jim Antonio ... Richards
Gene Borkan Gene Borkan ... Benson's Guard
Burke Byrnes ... Benson's Guard
Jordan Rhodes ... Questioner No. 1
Dee Carroll Dee Carroll ... Night Nurse
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Storyline

As the result of a head injury, brilliant computer scientist Harry Benson begins to experience violent seizures. In an attempt to control the seizures, Benson undergoes a new surgical procedure in which a microcomputer is inserted into his brain. The procedure is not entirely successful. Written by Bruce Janson <bruce@cs.su.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Harry Benson is a brilliant computer scientist. For three minutes a day, he is violently homicidal.


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 June 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Homem Terminal See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film never had a UK cinema release. See more »

Quotes

2nd man behind door: They take Benson yet?
1st man behind door: This morning.
2nd man behind door: They really gonna put wires in his brain?
1st man behind door: Sure.
2nd man behind door: No shit!
See more »

Alternate Versions

On its release at 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival, there was a director's cut which Hodges had cut out the beginning with the doctor looking at photographs of Harry Benson. See more »

Connections

Featured in Cinemacabre TV Trailers (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

Goldberg Variation No. 25
by Johann Sebastian Bach (as J.S. Bach)
Played by Glenn Gould
Courtesy Columbia Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Time capsule of 70s science
3 August 2004 | by bulk-15See all my reviews

Although this movie is weak as a 'thriller', its real power is its evocative sense of place and the emotional texture of science as it was seen in the 1970s -- sombre and dystopian, yet strangely attractive.

The plot centres on a group of scientists and doctors who are pushing the frontiers of neuroscience by implanting a computerized chip in the brain of a man (George Segal) afflicted with terrible seizures. The chip is programmed to shock the patient's brain each time a seizure is about to happen. The effort is prestigious, the technology flawless, and the doctors, scientists and technicians react to the initial success of the project with a certain conceited arrogance. Only when the the chip malfunctions, and the patient breaks out of the hospital and starts killing people, does the veneer of omnipotence and professionalism fall away, revealing in the scientists ambition, uncertainty, and humanity.

Segal does a good job of portraying the wildly changing emotions of a man who's mind is under the control of a computer. At the push of a button he can be made to laugh, cry, scream, babble like a child, or even become aroused, as the computer chip in his brain explores his mental map. It's a study that would be interesting to fans of Oliver Sacks.

The most interesting moments of the movie are the early ones, where the patient interacts with his dispassionate doctors in the sterile, streamlined chromium world of the hospital. The doctors and scientists seem like mechanical, perfected reflections of the technologies that surround them. The messy humanity of the patient, demonstrated through humour, fear, weakness and anger, stands in contrast to his surroundings, and it is not surprising to the audience when he disappears from his hospital room.

Scenes of the doctors in tuxedos and evening gowns at a dinner party while a shiny computer console monitors their ailing patient lend the robotic professionals a strange, formal humanity, at the same moment in the movie when their own fallibility begins to be revealed. Both technology and technologists promise perfection, and in the end both are revealed as imperfect and unable to overcome the challenges of the human condition - sickness, insanity, violence and death.

Once the patient leaves the hospital, the movie shifts to a more conventional 'crazed murderer' theme, and things become less interesting. It is this shift that cripples Terminal Man and prevents it from being the science fiction classic it might have been. The movie closes with a disappointing, clichéd 'Big Brother' riff on mind control and the future.

This is still a movie worth watching, however, if only to get a glimpse of how the 1970s saw the near future. There are endless details for the technophile, from absurdly technological architecture to atomic batteries to ancient video terminals to mainframe computers to futuristic touchtone telephones. The technological landscape is presented with a glistening newness that evokes movies like The Anderson Tapes, Coma, Westworld, and The Andromeda Strain (the last three of which, like Terminal Man, were written by Michael Crichton). The set design and the soundtrack (mostly Bach, No. 25 in the Goldberg Variations) create an inviting, peaceful sense of space that stands at odds with the tension of the plot. The clean, elegant world of Terminal Man is one in which you would want to live.

Watch Terminal Man for the sets, for the music, and for its nostalgic sense of a forgotten future. Back in the 70s, this was the future everyone was expecting, if not hoping to find right around the corner. Like Andromeda Strain, Coma and the Anderson Tapes, Terminal Man is less a thriller and more a cultural time capsule. Get comfortable in your beanbag chair, turn on the lava lamp, and enjoy.


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