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Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (1993)

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A documentary about the inventor of the first electronic synthesiser instrument and his subsequent life after he was abducted by the KGB as well as a history of his instrument.


Steven M. Martin
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Leon Theremin Leon Theremin ... Himself - Inventor of the Theremin
Clara Rockmore Clara Rockmore ... Herself - Theremin Virtuoso
Robert Moog Robert Moog ... Himself - Inventor of the Moog Synthesizer
Nicolas Slonimsky Nicolas Slonimsky ... Himself - Composer and Historian
Paul Shure Paul Shure ... Himself - Musician
Henry Solomonoff Henry Solomonoff ... Himself - Theremin Studio Member
Suki Bader Suki Bader ... Herself - Theremin Dancer
Beryl Campbell Beryl Campbell ... Herself - Theremin Dancer
Lydia Kavina Lydia Kavina ... Herself - Theremin's Great Niece
Brian Wilson ... Himself - Founder of The Beach Boys
Todd Rundgren Todd Rundgren ... Himself - Musician and Producer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
V.I. Lenin ... Himself (archive footage) (as Lenin)


A documentary about the amazing life of Leon Theremin, inventor of the theremin, the electronic musical instrument so beloved of 50s sci-fi movie music. Theremin amazed America with his instrument until his kidnapping by Soviet agents in the mid-30s. Upon his release from a labor camp, he worked on surveillance devices for the KGB. Almost 60 years later , he is brought back to America for a touching reunion with his friends and colleagues. Written by Erik Gregersen <erik@astro.as.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Music He Created Was Strange. His Life Was Even Stranger.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:





English | Russian

Release Date:

24 August 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Лев Термен: Электронная одиссея See more »

Filming Locations:

Moscow, Russia See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The Theremin is played without being touched; it was the first and is still the only non-contact instrument. See more »


In the documentary, Bob Moog makes a statement to the effect that Stradivarius designed the first violin. "Stradivarius" is not a person but refers to a musical instrument, usually a violin, made by Antonio Stradivari and his family. The violin existed as an instrument for more than a century before the birth of Antonio Stradivari in 1644. See more »


Brian Wilson - Founder of The Beach Boys: It sounded like one of those scary movies where - OOOH - a weird trip, you know. Weird facial expressions. Weird, you know. It's almost sexual.
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Alternate Versions

The uncut version of the film contains a segment from The Mickey Mouse Club that is not available in any of the home-video releases because of rights issues. See more »


Lunar Rhapsody
Written by Harry Revel (uncredited)
Performed by Les Baxter (as The Great Les Baxter)
Arranged and Conducted by Les Baxter (uncredited)
from the Capitol album "Music Out of the Moon" (uncredited)
Courtesy Capitol Records
Bax Music
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User Reviews

An Interesting, But Bumpy, Electronic Odyssey...
18 January 2004 | by underfire35See all my reviews

THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY is a documentary on both the Theremin, the instrument, and Prof. Leon Theremin, the inventor. The film follows both through a strange sequence of events and interweaves these stories with those influenced by the machine and the man. Some of the interviewees include Clara Rockman, a virtuoso Theremin player, and one time love of Prof. Theremin. Robert Moog, who went on to create the massive Moog synth--and it turns out, who started out by building Theremins himself. Nicolas Slonimsky, a composer who studied the work of Prof. Theremin. And Brian Wilson, which brings me to my first problem with the film: Even though Wilson is amusing with his burned out rambling, his interview goes on far to long and adds little to the flow of the story. I can see why the director, Steven M. Martin, wanted to use this footage, however it is obvious that Wilson can neither play the instrument nor knew what one was until Phil Spector brought it to him. I would have much rather seen more about Bernard Herrmann's score for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, which, sadly, has not had the lasting impact of "Good Vibrations". Anyway...

Well it turns out that at one point midway through his life, Prof. Theremin was kidnapped by the KGB and brought back to Russia. Second problem: those shadowy years are explained by Theremin himself, however being in his mid-nineties and speaking broken English. It is very hard to tell what happened and when, although some other sources flesh it out to a certain degree. Subtitles or a better microphone would have helped. He apparently was involved with electronic listening devices and received an award from Lenin himself. Heady stuff for a single man's journey through life. Although, the film remains too aloof to capture the whole scope of Theremin's story.

That is not to say that the film does not have some great moments. The scenes of the elderly Russian inventor wandering, alone, through the busy streets of an urban sprawl are haunting and sad. And simply to witness Rockman performing on the instrument is incredible, the way the smallest movement to her fingers creates an unique sound. I was familiar with the story before I saw the film, but it did not shed much light on the questions I had. It is a good film for someone who has never even heard of the Theremin before, but I felt it fell short of it's promise of really delving deep into the story and casting light on corners that will more than likely remain shrouded with gloom. 6/10.

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