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I can't be absolutely certain of this, because I am making a guess based on the information I have here, but I believe this could be the first "virtual reality" film ever made. It stars Jack Palance and Keir Dullea who played Dave Bowman in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and takes place in a future world which might as well be where we could potentially live right now, or at the very least, within a few short years. This movie unfortunately has an extremely low budget, probably that of a TV movie in the 70s, so the production value is not so good, the DVD version I watched is even worse, possibly the worst transfer of a movie I have ever seen, but I have to say that I still actually liked this movie!

This movie is not what I expected at all. What I expected from the description was some sort of rip-off of WESTWORLD, and I have to be honest, if this movie had been given the budget of WESTWORLD, it would be the classic that WESTWORLD is, even better. The story opens with Dave Bowman waking up with a group of prisoners who assume they're all killers, and have been sent to this place as punishment. It appears to be some bizarre western town, full of crazy cowboy wackos who all kill eachother to 'get ahead.' The story follows Dullea as he slowly learns the rules of this bizarre western town, which seems to be some kind of future prison where the prisoners run the camp. We find out eventually that Dullea is actually in a lab somewhere in the future, strapped to a table, and somehow plugged into a computer simulation. (The word 'virtual reality' had not been invented yet, but this movie proves that people were thinking about it.) He is essentially a lab-rat of the government, and he is completely unaware he's 'in the Matrix.' He has some flashbacks, as do some of the other characters, including Jack Palance.

This movie surprised me, it actually has a pretty intelligent story, and the 'western town' isn't really a gimmick, there's a point to that setting, and I kind of wish there was a superior copy of the film out there somewhere, the acting was actually pretty decent, not what I expected, and the script was actually pretty good, and as soon as it got going, I was totally into this movie and wondering where it was headed. This movie is like a TV movie with swearing, and some bloody violence, but it actually has a story which makes you think about some things. Everything about the sets, the wardrobe, and effects are basically substandard, but like watching a play, and the actors are doing their jobs, the background slowly doesn't matter, this could be a decent play.

It has a solid 'western' plot, but mixed with this futuristic political overtone, and the drama works, I know a lot of people won't last through the first 15 minutes of this movie, especially if they are watching it on the "Sci-Fi Invasion" 50 Movie DVD set which one can find it on, because of the absolutely terrible quality of the picture and really bad formatting, sound, etc, and the actual production values of the sets, and wardrobe, but this really is a pretty good story with some decent acting which is too bad. If you want to experience what could be, in my mind at least, so far, until I gain more info, this "first" virtual reality film, you may be pleasantly surprised if you give it a chance.

I liked the progression of events, and the characters, and I liked the point of the drama, and the ending is much like a Twilight Zone episode, or something from the Outer Limits, this movie reminded me of either watching a play, or reading a clever science fiction short story. I bet a lot of people pass this movie up and write it off for a lot of reasons, but if you've seen "MIND SNATCHERS" with Christopher Walken, and didn't mind the production value, and thought it was a decent sci-fi B movie, you can definitely sit through this one, to enjoy the story, which is kind of similar, at least the message.

While this is another 'government brainwashing' movie, it is also this futuristic concept which suggests that the government will be so immoral and based on creating efficient killers, who will be sent out to all parts of the world to kill as many third world people as possible, that it pretty much classifies as a 'dystopia' film as well. The added surprise of a 'computerized' simulation, in which the subjects have no idea they're in 'the Matrix' was fascinating to me, this movie came out 5 years before TRON, and while the simulation itself has no suggestion of anything computerized, the people believe they are in this western town, there are characters who show up in both worlds, from the lab, and inside the simulation.

This could be one of those stories that could possibly either be done as a play, or remade entirely because it has some stuff that makes you think about a few things you might not have thought about before. There were many movies like this in the 70s, and ultimately, a great set of these movies could be made on DVD, which contain these films which really are about making the audience 'think.' It doesn't fail at that, or barely succeed at it, it succeeds, it is just unfortunate that the production value was so cheap. This, MIND SNATCHERS, BRAVE NEW WORLD with Bud Cort, CLONUS, ACCESS CODE, among several others should be released perhaps in a set of these really low budget 'intelligent' movies which are practically entirely about 'making people think.' There is actually quite a few of these with really terrible production values which end up being pretty good. I liked this movie, didn't think I would, and if you can find a decent copy of it, perhaps it will take you back to those days when even some TV movies were fairly well done, and solid science fiction thinking-person's stories. These kinds of films illustrate the difference between the idiots with just a little more money who made really bad films like FUTURE HUNTERS and WIRED TO KILL, and filmmakers who had some decent scripts with no money at all. These people were at least trying to make people think, and as cheap as their movies were, they kept it together, and put those stories out there.

1 comment:

  1. Not the first virtual reality movie. It is probably William Castle's Project X (1968).