Dreamscape: Special Edition
One thing I like most about DVDs is that the studios have chosen to revisit old favorite movies. Sure the digital format is best with newer films that were originally designed fir such features but the older movies also benefit form such enhancements. One such movie is Dreamscape. Even back in 1984 when it was first released this was never a major film but it demonstrates flair, imagination and pretty good acting. The story follows a young man Alex (Dennis Quaid), a man of somewhat dubious work ethic. He is gifted with the mental ability to foresee a short way into the future. Leaving a university study run by Dr. Paul Novotny (Max Von Sydow) in order to pursue the use of his abilities in picking race horses, Alex soon finds himself in trouble with the local bookies. He allows himself to become part of a new program that is designed to take his mental ability to the next level, to place himself into another persons dreams where he can interact with the dreamer. Helping to administer the program is a young research scientist Dr. Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw Speilberg). Also in the program as a dream invader is Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly). While his gift is perhaps stronger than Alexs Tommy Ray is a deeply disturbed person, one that has murdered his own father. Add to the mix a political ploy by a high government official (Christopher Plummer) to kill the President (Eddie Albert) in his sleep and you have a mixed genre work that is more entertaining than it might sound.
While many of the names noted above are better than average, perhaps even noteworthy actors, the skill level presented in this film is not up to their usual standards. Quaid is fine in his typical role of the carefree, in trouble, handsome young man. He manages to bring some life to the role but the script is lacking what he needed to add a bit more depth to the character. Capshaw moves through her role with ease but her talent seems to never come fully out, it is always just below the surface. The one character that steals center stage is that of Tommy Ray. Kelly is perfect as the homicidal telepath. He truly seemed to have enjoyed the role and the enthusiasm comes out in the performance. Unfortunately, such great actors as Plummer and Von Sydow are too restricted in their roles to really shine. With all of this, why then do I enjoy this film so much, simply put, its fun to watch. Not every film has to be profound, deep and thoughtful. I think all of us like to kick back with some friends and just watch a good old fashion B movie like we used to watch in our youth. Yes, the script is lacking, the acting just par but the film is fun to watch and enjoy. Just right when you are not in the mood for something heavy. The plot holds your attention if you dont fight it. Sit back and enjoy.
The director of this film is Joseph Ruben. While his career never did move beyond the B films like The Step Father and Sleeping with the Enemy, he can actually direct. The scenes demonstrate imagination and a sense of design and placement not usually found in this genre. His use of lighting and musical score helps to define a mood and plays nicely against the action on the screen. Considering how long ago this film was made the special effects are a joy to watch. Many filmgoers are a bit jaded by the dazzling effects found in most films today. Dreamscape is like a history lesson on the foundation films like this provided for those modern effects.
The disc is well made and has more features than usually found in DVD releases of older films. First, there is an audio commentary featuring the director, producer, writer and FX supervisor. It is a good look at the earlier days of FX driven films. The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 and DTS six channel. The remix loses a bit in the rear channels but it good considering the age of the source material. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video is relatively free of defects, again rare for older movies. Dont come into this films to compare it to modern Sci-Fi wonders of today. Enjoy it for what it is, a fun films to watch and a look at the older methods of special effects.