Monday 7 August 2017


A love story between a boy, a girl and a computer (but not as kinky as it sounds); making its blu-ray debut this week is one of the 1980's most memorable tie-in theme songs. Oh, and the movie it comes from.
Miles (Lenny von Dohlen) is an architect, constantly running late for meetings due to his completely unorganised nature. Taking advice from one of his co-workers, he decides to invest in one of those new fangled "home computers" to help get his life in order. Kitting out his entire apartment with interconnected gadgets, he soon finds he is able to use this new technology to help woo the beautiful cellist Madeline (Virginia Madsen) who has moved in upstairs.

I'm not even going to try and sugar coat it; Electric Dreams is top of the list of films that are less famous than the theme song attached to it (Chariots of Fire, raise your hand too). But that's not to say that this is a completely forgotten film, as there are many devoted fans that adore its slightly goofy '80s charm. Any film warning of the danger on our over-reliance on technology but only featuring quaint 1980s technology has to be treated with a degree of kindness, and although looking back it would be easy to scoff at the innocence of Lenny's technophobe, in a pre-internet (as we know it) world envisioning an inter-connected network of gadgets and appliances that control every aspect of Miles' lifestyle and hear his every command, Electric Dreams is a film that can be seen as fairly prophetic.

With its themes of AI running wild and increasingly dumb life choices (his computer starts to overheat so Miles pours WINE on it), the setup could quite easily have come from a Stephen King horror novella. But rather than becoming the deranged killer Jobe in The Lawnmower Man, the sentient computer Edgar (voiced by Harold and Maude's Bud Cort) is a romantic at heart. Fancying himself as a musician, Edgar seemingly invents Garage Band to impress Madeline's classically trained cellist, although only hearing it through the walls she obviously believes Miles to be the maestro in a Cyrano de Bergerac/Roxanne-esque twist. When Miles starts to take the credit in order to advance his relationship with Madeline, that's when things between them turns sour.

With music playing such an integral role in the story, you'd hope for a banging soundtrack (which it certainly has), nothing more so than Giorgio Moroder/Phil Oakey's song, Together in Electric Dreams. Director Steve Barron cut his teeth directing music videos (including A-Ha's legendary Take on Me video) so it's no surprise that at times his feature debut resembles a collection of videos. It's built into the narrative of the film to make sure a sudden fast edited musical interlude doesn't seem out of place, and the relationship between Miles and Madeline is encapsulated in the flirty montages that pepper the film, such as their trips to Alcatraz and the fun fair.

It's pretty clear from the start what journey Lenny von Dohlen's character is going to go on. I mean, he's no Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2 forever), but when he walks on screen with his bow tie he looks like he's been cast as the geek in a Madonna video, just waiting to be given a makeover and start wooing the ladies. Von Dohlen is best known for playing socially awkward weirdos (see also, Twin Peaks), but he's a charming enough screen presence and shares enough chemistry with Virginia Madsen to make this an almost impossibly sweet trip down random access memory lane.


Bonus Features:
Miles and Madeline - New interviews with Lenny von Dohlen and Virginia Madsen that make it clear how close the pair became during production and have remained friends ever since.
Is This a Story? - New interview with director Steve Barron
Electric Dreaming - New interview with writer Rusty Lemonade

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