A trouble-plagued production that, sadly, wound up making little impact at the box office and isn't terribly well known today (an awkward change-up in screen ratio within the film complicates home-viewing to a point as well!), this was the final motion picture of Wood's career. Walken plays a scientist who, along with fellow computer wizard Fletcher, has developed a virtual reality device, which allows the wearer to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the experiences of another person whose sensations have been recorded onto special tape that can be played back. The excitement over the breakthrough isn't allowed to last long before shifty owner and backer Robertson is letting the government take an interest in it for military purposes and also before certain individuals abuse the pleasurable aspects of it, causing detriment to themselves. Walken's estranged wife Wood is hired on to reduce the mammoth helmet to a more workable, sellable size. Walken uses the device to impart his feelings of love towards Wood into a tape that demonstrates his feelings and gives it to her as a reminder. They have barely begun to reconnect when the trouble surrounding the device starts to hit home and create havoc. Eventually, they have to take measures to prevent it from proceeding further, though there is danger to their own selves in taking that stance. Walken, never one to come off as completely normal or balanced in any film, is afforded the rare opportunity to play a somewhat traditional leading man. There's a cerebral quality to him that makes him well suited to this material. Interestingly, he is noticeably younger than both Wood and Fletcher (who he is also romantically involved with in the film.) Wood is often radiant in this movie (which she died before completing in a very controversial drowning accident) and establishes considerable chemistry with Walken. There are a few off-kilter costumes and overly fussy hairdos (she looks best, believe it or not, when her hair is all pulled back off her face in one scene), but she generally looks good and tries to invest her flimsy character with real emotion. Some degree of her appearance in the film was affected by her death, though it's not obscenely obvious to an uninformed viewer. At any rate, it's a far more flattering swan song than, say, "Meteor" would have been! Robertson had found a niche in portraying potentially immoral corporate men like he does here and he does so well, but kind of evaporates with little fanfare after a while. Fletcher has been lauded for her portrayal of a driven, chain-smoking inventor, but it's really quite a mannered, over-the-top and at times, quite embarrassing performance. She's overemphatic and frequently unintentionally funny and her final scene is hellaciously bad. She isn't helped at all by a director whose forte was special effects and not human conditions and traits. Most of the remainder of the cast doesn't register significantly. The film features an array of point-of-view shots meant to represent the scope of the virtual reality device from riding a roller-coaster, to flying over canyons to crashing a car off a cliff to even having a nubile blonde sitting astride the wearer, ready to engage in sexual intercourse! (Kudos to the writers for not ignoring the fact that with technological advances, sex is rarely forgotten as part of the equation!) These scenes are presented in an aspect ratio roughly twice as wide as the rest of the film in order to broaden their effect in the theater. This means that on home video, the majority of the film is letterboxed on all four sides, which is akin to watching the film through a large keyhole. It's a situation that will likely put some viewers off, though perhaps it will come off better on the newer (and larger) widescreen televisions. Director Trumbull, who developed a lot of eye-popping effects for the cinema, provides some interesting imagery for this film, though there is, of course, by now a dated quality to it. Though he managed (or the stars themselves managed!) to give Walken and Wood's story a certain degree of feeling, the film tends to flounder when it comes to focus and story flow. How much of this is due to the necessary retooling is unclear. It does come off as complete, just, perhaps, not perfectly so. Another side effect of the era is product placement, including Budweiser and other items, most notably a scene in which Walken is inexplicably and unnecessarily chawing on Ruffles potato chips! The climax is also unbelievable in a number of ways. It has to count as a wounded, but interesting, film. Depending on one's affection for the stars and interest in the subject matter, it may supply more entertainment for some than for others. Fans of James Horner will be drawn to the score, which features choral sounds associated with much of his work.
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