Dreamscape (1984)

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Dreamscape (1984)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:39 pm



DREAMSCAPE starring DENNIS QUAID - KATE CAPSHAW
MAX VON SYDOW - CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER - EDDIE ALBERT

co-starring DAVID PATRICK KELLY - GEORGE WENDT - PETER JASON
Arrow Directed by JOSEPH RUBEN

An innovative sci-fi thriller, if a bit outdated by today's standards. The main premise has to do with entering another person's dream and interacting with that person in the dream, affecting the dream if you have to. The film also combines this with political thriller aspects and though this stuff is on the simplistic side, it does blend well together, against the odds.
The main character is Alex (Quaid), a genius-level but immature young man who has squandered his psychic talent (telepathy, even some telekinesis, though he never shows this off) on activities like betting at the horse races. He's drawn back into some interesting experiments by his former mentor (Von Sydow), who has developed a process by which telepathic people can enter the dreams of voluntary patients. Unfortunately, the project is actually overseen by a sinister government man (Plummer), head of a covert organization of "guys which even the CIA are afraid of" (the one who states this is a writer played by George Wendt, patterned on guys like Stephen King; his research into all this does not end well for him).
Kate Capshaw plays Von Sydow's assistant; she and Quaid's Alex quickly develop a mutual attraction, though she resists this. There is an opportunity here for very erotic moments as the two interact in a dream world, but it stays rather mild (a slightly more risque version exists in foreign editions of the film).

Eddie Albert is the President; he has nightmares about a nuclear holocaust. These and other scenes in a dreamworld were very effective back in the eighties and some of them still hold up very well, especially the nightmarish, surreal sequence during a journey through a young boy's nightmare. All the scenes in a post-holocaust landscape still carry some resonance; and even the lighter scenes, like one at the top of a skyscraper, involving a fear of falling, still work well.
David Patrick Kelly, always playing a psychotic and/or scumbag during this decade-long period, plays one here - the dark version of Alex.

Some of the political elements in the film are now somewhat amusing, as we have the luxury of looking back from 25 years later. The film first came out in the middle of the Reagan era; Albert plays a more liberal version of Reagan and a much more guilt-ridden one, a more acceptable version of the tougher real-life person to those on the left. In the eighties, most on the left feared that Reagan would thrust the world into a nuclear war with his policies (we all know now how the eighties ended).
This perceived dark side of the Reagan administration is represented by Plummer's government man, a far right extremist who cannot abide a possible nuclear disarmament approach. He is the evil, while a liberal version of Reagan becomes the good. The thriller aspects do work, however. If a 'shadow ops' government needed the perfect assassins, this 'entering dreams' technique would be the best way to go; this makes perfect sense within the context of the film's plot.
Personally, I would designate Dreamscape a B+ picture (just my own label) - not in terms of quality but as compared to a 'B' picture or an A picture. Quaid & Capshaw were the brand new (if untested) stars of the time - Quaid coming off of The Right Stuff (1983) and Capshaw from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

In many ways, this is an ideal ensemble cast. It was sort of a casting coup in getting Plummer, Von Sydow and Albert for their key roles. They probably had bigger careers in the seventies but were still potent. Combine all that with the character actors here, like Kelly, and this is what probably makes the film above average and pretty memorable. BoG's Score: 7.5 out of 10

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