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June 27, 2011

Demon Seed

(1977, Dir. by Donald Cammell.)

Oh, Demon Seed.  You're one of those movies that makes me wonder just how crazy movie makers can get. did you happen?  Where did you come from?  You just baffle me.

Oh, sorry readers, I suppose I should talk to you all about Demon Seed.  Ummmm...Demon Seed is a movie about a computer raping and impregnating Julie Christie.  There, I said it.  OK, I'll put it more tastefully.  Demon Seed is a movie about a computer raping and impregnating Oscar winning actress Julie Christie. 

I'm serious.  Look at the poster.  See?  It really exists.

Now that we've established the fact that Demon Seed exists - really people, it does! - I can start telling you why I kind of fell in love with Demon Seed yesterday.  Like you, I initially saw Demon Seed for what it was - a computer rape movie - back when it came out on DVD in 2005.  I got the flick from Netflix, told my roommate I had a movie about a computer raping a woman, and we spent the next 94 minutes laughing.  It was a great time - but I didn't really watch the movie or think about the movie.  I just wanted to laugh at it, so I did.

But like any movie that's worth its weight in laserdiscs, Demon Seed stuck in my mind.  It wasn't in the front of my mind, but it was in there.  Every once in a while I'd be doing something mundane, and suddenly the memory of a movie in which a house controlled by a computer made a baby with Julie Christie would bring me excitement.  I might have forgot the details - but I knew the most important part, and that was what mattered to me.  So it was destined that Demon Seed and I would reunite, which brings us up to now. 

Demon Seed may star Christie and Creepshow's Fritz Weaver and Gerrit freakin' Graham (of Phantom of the Paradise and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. fame!), but really it's the story of Proteus.  Proteus is the computer that Weaver's scientist invents, which is designed to think independently and have all the knowledge that humans possess.  It's kind of like that computer that teaches Leeloo everything in The Fifth Element - except that it talks.  And is evil.  And is obsessed with understanding humans.  And wants to become a human.

Proteus was created in a secret lab in some giant facility, but Weaver - a dedicated man of science, mind you - simply had to have a terminal installed in his home.  And he put it in control of the house, too.  Because clearly, nothing could go wrong when the computer is given control, right?  I mean, computers are always going to listen to us, right?

Demon Seed, of course, owes a lot of Proteus' personality to 2001: A Space Odyssey and HAL, and there are certainly a few "I'm afraid I can't let you do that" moments peppered throughout the film.  But while that computer was based entirely on reason, Proteus takes on a mind of his own and kind of gets philosophical at times.  For example, Proteus likes to look at the stars, and he can create strange laser shows that are meant to represent sex.  Despite Proteus' understanding of their evils - at one point he declines to follow an ocean mining directive because he knows it will kill innumerable sea creatures - he still has this craving to understand humanity....and he knows that the only way to do that is to become human.

Thus, he sets his sights on Christie's Susan, his creator's estranged wife, who lives and works out of the home that Proteus was installed in.  Since Proteus has total control of the domicile he has a lot of power over Susan.  He can control the phones and security cameras, he can lock all doors and windows, and - in one of the film's better moments - he can even control the heating system under the kitchen floor.  The perilous events that occur to Susan are certainly cringe inducing, particularly once Proteus gets her in the lab in the basement - where our friendly scientist has conveniently created a motorized wheelchair with a robot arm. 

Goddamnit scientists!  Don't you understand what you're doing when you create all these self-aware machines and robots that are capable of inserting things in orifices!  You're not making anything better, you're getting Oscar winning actresses raped!

All kidding aside, I'm obviously fond of Demon Seed.  It's utterly ridiculous, sure, but it kind of feels like it's Soylent Green's hot cousin.  It's not one of those seedy (sorry, that was a poor word choice) '70s flicks that goes for shock, it's one of those studio-produced flicks that pretends it means something.  Hell, who knows...maybe it does mean something?  Maybe it's a commentary on our need to take the work out of everything in our daily life.  Maybe it saw into the future and knew that someday we'd be sitting here typing away at keyboards, putting all our faith in the machine that was paying our bills and delivering our mail and renting our movies and buying our music.  Maybe Demon Seed knew something we don't know.

Or maybe not.  But it seems like it's more something than nothing these days.  Christie's performance shows that she believed in it, Weaver's crazed and bearded performance shows that he believed in it, and Graham...well, if you've seen Gerrit Graham in anything you know that he'll buy in to any role.  It's well put together, it's got some creepy imagery, and it at least makes you think.  I keep repeating how much I love ridiculous films that take their plot far too seriously on this blog - but I really love when a ridiculous film takes its plot way too seriously.  Good show, Demon Seed.  You'll always have a home at FMWL.


ZedWord said...

Yet nothing about a demon or seed, I see.

They should have titled his movie Rape-a-tron or Computerape, or Rape ex Machina.

Any of those would be less misleading.

therealphoenixanew said...

I swear I once saw a made for TV movie that had almost the same exact plot, minus the raping since it was on television. I thought it starred Timothy Hutton, but I can't find anything in his IMDB list to match it. But it was definitely about a scientist who had built a computer that controlled his home, and the computer fell in love with the scientist's wife.

This is gonna bug me all day.

The Mike said...

Zed - Well, the seed comes from the pregnancy part (I really didn't get far enough into this movie, for which I apologize). But yeah, there's no Demonness, really, which is sad.

Syrin - I don't know what that is, but it sounds awesome!