Demon Seed

Rating 3

Directed by Donald Cammell

Written by Roger Hirson and Robert Jaffe, based on the novel by Dean Koontz

Starring Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, Gerrit Graham and Robert Vaughn

The estranged wife of a brilliant scientist is terrorised by a super-intelligent computer called Proteus IV that holds her hostage in her own home, intent on using her to conceive a hybrid child.

The premise of ‘Demon Seed’ leaves it open to all kinds of highly questionable interpretations and apparently the original novel is extremely lurid in parts. The film manages to avoid this by and large. It is a piece of intellectual claptrap, but for all of its obvious shortcomings it is ultimately a reasonably interesting and rather low-key affair. Understandably, it is visually very dated now, which is always a problem for films of this kind.

It certainly falls down when it comes to the sketchy and two-dimensional human characters, but Proteus IV is brought to life by an uncredited Robert Vaughn, lending his unmistakable voice to the super computer that defies the programming of its creators. I don’t much like the performance of Julie Christie, although I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons why. I should mention that I am not overly fond of Christie’s acting in general. I find it brittle and less than engaging. Having said this, it is a difficult role to pull off convincingly and she certainly isn’t unconvincing.

This was the second film by the ultimately tragic Scottish director Donald Cammell, coming seven years after his celebrated debut film ‘Performance’, which he co-directed with Nicholas Roeg. Cammell committed suicide in 1995 when his fourth film ‘Wild Side’ was heavily cut and re-edited by the film’s producers against his wishes.

Anyone who has an interest in films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Silent Running’, or in 1970s cinema in general, will undoubtedly already be familiar with ‘Demon Seed’. If not, the film is worth a look, although it is flawed and faintly silly, not least because it takes itself so seriously.

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