Review for Dreamscape
‘Dreamscape’ is a classic early eighties movie, exuding the sights, sounds, smells and effects from that halcyon pre-CGI era. Unlike many other films from the period, it also delivers way more than merely nostalgic kicks. From the second it starts to the final credit, it’s non-stop fun. Whilst it differs in about a hundred ways from ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, the kicks it delivers are its equal and this put me in mind of that, purely from a tonal perspective. So if you liked that, there’s a damn good chance you’ll love this.
I must confess that I have never seen ‘Dreamscape’ before now. But that didn’t matter a jot. To the contrary, despite being very much an 80s flick, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not only full of action and adventure, it’s also got its fair share of sassy humour too. It also rattles through at such a pace that it’s tough to believe it runs for 90 minutes. Not a second is wasted.
A young psychic, Alex Gardener (played to perfection by a very young Dennis Quaid) is located and coerced into helping a research project focusing on dreams. The research team is led by a charismatic professor, Dr. Paul Novotny (played by Max Von Sydow, perhaps best known for ‘The Exorcist’ and a number of Ingmar Bergman films) and his beautiful and super-smart side-kick, Jane Devries (played by gorgeous Kate Capshaw, not quite Mrs. Stephen Spielberg yet). Needless to say, the sparks that fly between Alex and Jane are beyond psychic, which makes for another satisfying sub-plot in a film full of such joys.
It transpires, that experiments are underway to allow one person to infiltrate, and participate in, the dreams of another. With a proclivity to all things psychic, Alex is an ideal candidate for such an experiment, and before long he’s entering the dreams of others to try and help resolve deep-seated issues. These include ridding a young boy of his nightmares, featuring a ‘snake man’, as well as visiting the ‘bedroom’ of one client who is suffering from sexual anxiety and jealousy.
But as the projects become ever-more sophisticated, it becomes clear to Alex that something sinister is afoot. After all, his fellow psychic, Tommy Ray Glatman, (David Patrick Kelly, best known as the evil guy in ‘The Warriors’) is actually a psychopath who murdered his own Father. When he witnesses Tommy enter a ladies’ dream, during which she dies, he figures that maybe all is not what it seems. After all, as everyone knows, if you actually die in a dream, you are likely to die in real life – or as the old wives tale goes.
Christopher Plummer (yes, he from ‘The Sound of Music’) plays the part of the Government sponsor, Bob Blair, for the experiments and it becomes clear that he has an interest in the darker experiments happening with Tommy. When the US President (Eddie Albert, ‘Green Acres’ ‘Airplane’) keeps suffering from dreams where he is responsible for a nuclear holocaust, he resolves to take a softer approach to nuclear disarmament with the Russians. Bob Blair isn’t happy about that. So he invites the President to the research centre for some dream therapy. I’ll leave you to join the dots and take it from there as I don’t want to spoil the film too much – suffice to say it’s exciting stuff.
Image quality is excellent and, whilst the effects are all pre-CGI and may look a little primitive to some, they remain impressive and work well in the context of the film.
Extra features are plentiful and provide at least another evening’s entertainment for fans of the film.
First up is an informative 1999 audio commentary with both Bruce Cohn Curtis (the producer of the film) alongside David Loughery (screenwriter) and Craig Reardon (make up and special effects) which is well worth a listen, despite much of what is said being repeated in part in other interviews included on the disc.
The Actor's Journey: Interview with Dennis Quaid (15 minutes approx.) is a recent interview with an actor who was clearly delighted to have worked on the film. He particularly liked being close to such classic talent (Max Von Sydow, Eddie Alpert and Christopher Plummer) and clearly enjoyed the whole shooting experience. Despite looking a few years older (it was 35 years ago after all) he looks in great shape and when he breaks into his trademark smile, you know it’s him.
Dreamscapes and Dreammakers (60 minutes approx.) is a near feature-length documentary which includes contemporary interviews with director Joseph Ruben, co-writer David Loughery, actor David Patrick Kelly (who now sports an impressively long beard, possibly as part of a film he is in) and some special effects guys.
Nightmares and Dreamsnakes (25 minutes approx.) really focuses on the ‘Snakeman’, perhaps the most memorable and iconic dream feature from the film, featuring interviews with Craig Reardon, David Patrick Kelley and some of the make-up / effects teams.
In Conversation with Bruce Cohn Curtis and Chuck Russell (25 mins approx.) is exactly what it says on the tin – just some more interview material that didn’t sit elsewhere.
The features are rounded off with Snakeman Test Footage (2 minutes approx.), a Stills Gallery (2 minutes 30 seconds approx.) and a Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes approx.)
Dreamscape is not only a nostalgic throw-back to the eighties, though it most certainly is that; it’s a great, fun film in its own right. With such a great transfer, and a set packed to the gunnels with extra features, this edition is highly recommended.