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Brainstorm is a 1983 science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson. It was Wood's final film appearance, as she died during production. It was also the second and final major motion picture to be directed by Trumbull.

The film follows a research team's efforts to perfect a system that directly records the sensory and emotional feelings of a subject, and the efforts by the company's management to exploit the device for military ends.


A team of scientists invents a brain/computer interface that allows sensations to be recorded from a person's brain and converted to tape so that others may experience them. The team includes estranged husband and wife Michael and Karen Brace, as well as Michael's colleague Lillian Reynolds. At CEO Alex Terson's instruction, the team demonstrates the device to investors in order to gain financing.

One team member, Gordo Forbes, has sexual intercourse while wearing the recorder, and he shares the tape with colleagues, including Hal Abramson. Hal splices one section of the tape into a continuous orgasm, which results in sensory overload, leading to his forced retirement. Tensions increase as the possibilities for abuse become clear.

Karen dons the recorder while working with Michael and Lillian. When Michael plays the tape back, the group realizes that emotional experiences are also recorded. Michael tapes his memories of times with Karen, which he shares with her, and it leads to their reconciliation.

Lillian is pressured by backers to admit a former colleague, Landon Marks, whom she sees as part of the military-industrial complex. She disagrees with their plan to have the invention developed for military use. Already suffering from heart problems and a constant cigarette smoker, Lillian suffers a heart attack while working alone. Realizing that she is about to die, Lillian records her experience.

Following her funeral, Michael decides to experience Lillian's recording, but he nearly dies when the playback causes his body to simulate the sensations and effects of a heart attack. Michael modifies his console to censor the physical output, and he replays the tape. Viewing Lillian's death experience, he sees "memory bubbles" — moments from Lillian's life. Michael experiences Lillian's memories of a humorous exchange with Michael as he plays with an industrial robot, a surprise birthday party, and being devastated when Alex tells her that an earlier project has been cancelled.

A team of scientists wanting to discover the machine's military capabilities is monitoring the equipment as Michael plays Lillian's final tape. They have Gordo also experience the tape, but they neglect to modify the machine as Michael did; Gordo is killed when he experiences the unfiltered tape.

Michael's playback is cut short by Hal, but having witnessed a digital near-death experience makes Michael curious to see the entire tape. Alex has the recording locked away and tells Michael he will not be allowed to view it. When he returns to work, Michael walks in on Landon Marks and a team of outsider technicians going through his research records and protests to Alex who responds by firing Michael and Karen.

Michael attempts to hack into the lab's computers. Hal advises him to look under "Project Brainstorm", a program the military has created to re-develop their invention for torture and brainwashing. Michael and Karen's son Chris, wanting to experience the special device, is inadvertently exposed to one such tape, causing him to have a psychotic experience which results in his hospitalization.

Rather than see his creation perverted, Michael vows to destroy his work and enlists the help of Karen and Hal. Michael and Karen head to the Pinehurst Resort and, realizing they are under surveillance, stage a fight that results in Karen leaving for Hal's house. As the two feign reconciliation over the phone, Michael accesses the Brainstorm computer via another phone line, while Karen hacks into the system and sabotages the robots that manufacture the interface terminals.

Karen shuts down the security system, locking the staff outside and enabling Michael to load Lillian's tape and experience it uninterrupted. With the plant in chaos, Robert Jenkins orders Michael's arrest. Michael escapes their agents and drives to a phone booth at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. He reconnects with the computers and accesses the final part of the tape, beyond the point of Lillian's physical death.

Karen leaves the house to meet with Michael. Hal and his wife, Wendy, send the last of Karen's commands to the company computers, shutting down the plant.

Karen arrives at the Wright Brothers Memorial while the tape is playing. Michael bears witness to the Afterlife, experiencing a brief vision of Hell before traveling away from Earth and through the universe, even after the tape ends, ultimately witnessing visions of angels and departed souls flying into a great cosmic Light. Michael then collapses. Karen sobs, believing him dead. She pleads for Michael to stay alive. Awakening from the experience, he weeps with joy and embraces Karen.


During the making of the film Brainstorm, Wood drowned while on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island. Many facts surrounding her drowning are unknown because the way she entered the water was never discovered. She was with her husband Robert Wagner, Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern, on the evening of November 28, 1981. Wood's body was discovered by authorities at 8:00 AM on November 29, one mile away from the boat, with a small inflatable dinghy found beached nearby. According to Wagner, when he went to bed, Wood was not there. The autopsy report revealed that Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as an abrasion on her left cheek.

Posted by George Freund on May 29, 2016 at 6:45 PM 1920 Views