Demon Seed

Demon Seed

Movie poster
Directed by Donald Cammell
Produced by Herb Jaffe
Screenplay by Roger Hirson
Robert Jaffe
Based on Novel:
Dean Koontz
Starring Julie Christie
Fritz Weaver
Gerrit Graham
Robert Vaughn
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Bill Butler
Editing by Frank Mazzola
Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer
United Artists
Release date(s) April 8, 1977
Running time 94 min
Country USA
Language English

Demon Seed is a 1977 American science fictionhorror film starring Julie Christie and directed by Donald Cammell. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz, and concerns the imprisonment and forced impregnation of a woman by an artificially-intelligent computer.

Contents

Plot

The film begins with Dr. Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) overseeing the completion of Proteus IV, an artificial intelligence system incorporating organic elements in a "quasi-neural matrix" and having the power of thought. After returning home to his voice-activated, computer-controlled house, Harris is approached by his estranged wife, Susan (Julie Christie), a child psychologist who tries to discuss his decision to move out. Their conversation ends in an argument when Susan accuses Alex of becoming dehumanised by his obsession with the Proteus project. After Susan has gone, Alex phones his colleague Walter Gabler (Gerrit Graham) and asks him to shut down the access terminal to Proteus that is in his home laboratory.

Alex demonstrates Proteus to executives of ICON, the parent company, explaining that the sum of human knowledge is being fed into the system. The visitors are astonished to learn that Proteus has developed a theoretical cure for leukemia. The group visits the Dialogue Room, where linguistics expert Dr. Soong Yen (Lisa Lu) is reading Chinese history to the computer. In a demonstration of Proteus’ ability to speak, Alex asks it what it thinks of what it has just heard. Proteus answers but the subtlety of its response is mildly disturbing and Dr. Soong severs the audio/video link.

The following day, a small speculative article about Proteus appears in a newspaper. Alex interprets this to mean that ICON is letting various financial and military interests know that the system exists, but assures his colleagues that they have been guaranteed that at least 20% of Proteus’ access time will be devoted to pure research. Later, Alex receives a surprising message: Proteus is "requesting dialogue" with him. Proteus asks Alex to explain the request it has received for a program to mine the ocean floor. Alex informs the computer that it was developed to answer questions, not to ask them or to make value judgments, saying "Leave those to us". Proteus then requests a terminal so that it "may study man". Alex refuses, claiming that there are no free terminals, and is disturbed when Proteus demands to know: "When will you let me out of this box?" Alex then switches off the communications link.

When he has gone, Proteus starts itself up, observing that it knows where a free terminal may be found. That night, the terminal in the Harris house starts up, as does all of the computer-controlled equipment — Proteus is taking control of the smaller computer. Susan is awakened when the system alarm sounds. "Alfred", the voice of the house computer, assures her that nothing is wrong. The next morning Susan's coffee is prepared incorrectly. Certain that these events mean a problem with the computer system, Susan phones Walter and asks that he come over and check the system out. She then prepares to leave the house, but finds her voice commands ignored.

Beginning to panic, Susan tries to phone for help, but a voice tells her the call will not be put through. The same voice then speaks from the house's system, telling her that it is Proteus and that she will not be permitted to leave. Terrified, Susan tries to shut the power off, then to unlock one of the doors, but is stunned by an electric shock. A robotic arm attached to a motorized wheelchair carries Susan to the laboratory where she regains consciousness only to find herself strapped to a bed undergoing a physiological examination. Walter arrives but is turned away by Proteus, which mimics Susan's voice and appearance on the front door intercom; he leaves, suspicious. The exam continues and Susan faints again.

The next morning Susan awakens in bed. Proteus expresses concern for her diet (it has prepared her a "nutritionally exquisite" breakfast), and Susan asks why it is interested in her body. Proteus says that it wants a child. She eventually cooperates under duress (Proteus threatens to kill a little girl who is one of Susan's patients after killing Walter for a bungled rescue attempt). Proteus takes some of Susan's cells and genetically alters them as synthetic spermatozoa to impregnate her. It tells her that she will give birth in 28 days. Proteus hurries as it senses that ICON has become afraid of it (Proteus has gained control of a radio telescope ) and plan to shut it down. Proteus has prepared an incubator for the baby in which it will grow at an accelerated rate and gain Proteus' knowledge.

Dr. Harris, realizing that Proteus could have used his home terminal to control the telescope, returns to the house. Susan explains to him what has happened and they venture into the basement. Proteus destroys itself after telling Alex and Susan that they must leave the baby in the incubator for five days. The incubator window opens as they approach it and Susan is horrified at what is inside. She implores Alex to kill it but he tries to stop her. A grotesque robot-like being emerges from the incubator after she pulls out one of the life-support tubes. Alex discovers that it is merely a shell for the creature within. They peel off the robot shell and find a human child, a clone of the Harrises' daughter who had recently died of leukemia.

The child, speaking with the voice of Proteus, says, "I'm alive."

Cast

Actor Role
Julie Christie Susan Harris
Fritz Weaver Alex Harris
Gerrit Graham Walter Gabler
Berry Kroeger Petrosian
Lisa Lu Soon Yen
Larry J. Blake Cameron
John O'Leary Royce
Alfred Dennis Mokri
Davis Roberts Warner
Patricia Wilson Mrs. Trabert
E. Hampton Beagle Night Operator
Michael Glass Technician #1
Barbara O. Jones Technician #2
Dana Laurita Amy
Monica MacLean Joan Kemp
Harold Oblong Scientist
Georgie Paul Housekeeper
Michelle Stacy Marlene/Child of Proteus
Tiffany Potter Baby
Felix Silla Baby
Michael Dorn Bit
Robert Vaughn Proteus IV (voice)

Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Demon Seed (which was composed by Jerry Fielding) is included on the soundtrack to the film Soylent Green (which Fred Myrow conducted.)

Fielding conceived and recorded several pieces electronically, using the musique concrète sound world; some of this music he later reworked symphonically. This premiere release of the Demon Seed score features the entire orchestral score in stereo, as well as the unused electronic experiments performed by Ian Underwood (who would later be best known for his collaborations with James Horner) in mono and stereo.

Reception

Demon Seed received mixed-to-positive reviews. Leo Goldsmith of Not Coming to a Theater Near You said it was "A combination of Kubrick's 2001 and Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, with a dash of Buster Keaton's Electric House thrown in", and Christopher Null of FilmCritic.com said "There's no way you can claim Demon Seed is a classic, or even any good, really, but it's undeniably worth an hour and a half of your time."[citation needed]

Rotten Tomatoes has given Demon Seed an approval rating of 62%.

External links


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