The Terminal Man
Author Michael Crichton was a Harvard MD who never practiced medicine, choosing instead to launch a lucrative career penning techno-thrillers and their cinematic adaptations. The Terminal Man is British writer-director Mike Hodges’s fascinating adaptation of Crichton’s 1972 novel. Harry Benson (played with Jekyll/Hyde flair by George Segal) is an A.I. programmer prone to seizures in which he becomes extraordinarily violent. He voluntarily submits to experimental neurosurgery (performed by character actors Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, and Michael Gwynne) that implants a computer in his body in hopes of forestalling the seizures. But in typical Crichton fashion, the technology sets off unintended consequences. Stanley Kubrick was reportedly an admirer of the film, and it’s easy to see why: Hodges’s exacting direction (a clinical black-and-white color scheme, the virtual absence of any score, and simmering, controlled performances) fashions a chilling vision of modern, mechanized society. Like a missing link between A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, the film explores the interface between humans and machines with a creeping, deliberate pace that only gradually reveals its horrors. (Its intertitles identifying the days of the week and a terrifying bathroom invasion are particularly clear antecedents of Kubrick’s latter film.) Hodges also makes great use of Los Angeles locations, from the Ennis-Brown House to a memorably surreal climax in Forest Lawn cemetery. The film also counts Terrence Malick among its admirers: writing to Hodges personally, he described the film as "magnificent, overwhelming" and went as far as to say, "your images make me understand what an image is."
Bing Theater | Included with admission to THX 1138; $5 for The Terminal Man only. | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.