Electric Dreams (1984)

The early 80′s was the golden time for movies to explore how a more connected world, filled with computers coming into our personal lives, was going to impact us.  This era inspired a generation to grow up and take their place in shaping this new world.  I was one of those that looked upon the likes of WarGames and the like with complete wonderment egging my humble ZX Spectrum into areas only limited by imagination.

When Richard Branson was expanding his Virgin empire into a whole manner of different industries, the film industry came in on his radar and for a short time, Virgin Films attempted to break into Hollywood.   Credited as Executive Producer Branson, gave until then, music video director (you can start to see the Virgin Music tie in’s already can’t you?) 

Steve Barron an opportunity to direct a love triangle, between two people and a PC.

Lenny von Dohlen plays Miles (or Moles as he is known by ‘Edgar’ the PC throughout the movie due to a typing error at the start – i know that feeling, I am forever to be known as Allen by Verizon – which seems to present a bigger problem to change than you would first think).  His fellow upstairs apartment dweller, Madeline, played by Virginia Madsen is the beautiful professional musician who is serenaded by Edgar over the air ducts in the building, thinking it is Miles.


On one level the movie is a wonderful trip down technology memory lane.  The setup is simple at the start, showing Miles late for a meeting and through some dialogue this isn’t the first time, so it is recommended he go and get a Casio planner.  Reluctantly Miles heads down to the nearest computer store (and set in San Francisco the heart of Silicon Valley, there are many to chose from) and he is amazed at the choice when he is up sold a full a PC.

Sales Person: Which is your preference? Apple, Hair, Wang.
Miles: Listen, I don’t know anything about computers!
Sales Person: Nobody does!

Having purchased a discounted PC because it fell from the shelf we know we have something special here.  Then we are treated to what is probably the first unboxing video as he painstakingly puts all the pieces together.  Edgar (the name we don’t learn until the last scene in the movie) is quite advanced for 1984, given it can render live video, advanced graphics (with light pen) yet still presents the user with a good old console input to type in commands.   Though this is the not the end.  

31 years ago the idea of your computer controlling your house was space age thinking, yet here we have Miles plugging in wireless devices to all the electrical outlets so Edgar can take control.   The connected home that is being much hyped today by the likes of Samsung and Google was so accurately portrayed in 1984!   It was like seeing the first tablet computer used in the 1960′s in 2001 movie.

Edgar, much like

Daryl Hannah in Splash, learns all about the modern day world through watching day time television.  Interestingly Splash was out in the same year, so maybe great minds think a like? (or fools seldom differ).

The story is a far fetched as you can take it, though no more silly than Spike Jonze’s latest Her reincarnation.  But trundle along it does at a steady pace with no major shocks or surprises.

Knowing the director mastered his craft directing 3 minute music videos, you will spot a pattern as the movie unfolds.  Especially when you add in the fact that this was a vehicle to promote a number of artists on Virgin’s music label, including Culture Club and the Human League.   There is a number of  scenes that are simply music videos inserted into a movie.   They aren’t too offensive but don’t really add much to the story line.

That said, the title track is very good and deserves at least a reminder play.

A wonderful jaunt down memory lane and while no where near as impactful as “shall we play a game?”  of WarGames it is deserving of a rewatch.


Viewing Date
Sunday, 13th September 2015


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Author: Alan Williamson

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