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Entry updated 19 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1984). Tri-Star/Delphi III. Directed by Michael Crichton. Written by Crichton. Cast includes Kirstie Alley, Cynthia Rhodes, Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons. 97 minutes. Colour.

Crichton again exercises his love/hate relationship with Machines in this predictable but exciting thriller about the policeman Sergeant Jack R Ramsay (Selleck), partnered with Karen Thompson (Rhodes) whose job it is to deal with defective Robots (see Crime and Punishment). The partners are pitted against the evil Scientist Dr Charles Luther (Simmons), who is deliberately making mechanical killers by reprogramming household robots using override chips of his own design – this with personal profit in mind – and is able to deploy heat-seeking bullets which are not only personalized to their human targets but can pursue said targets around corners. Another Invention by Luther is the miniature "assassin robot" which kills by injecting its victims with acid. Numerous examples of these spider-like devices feature in the climactic confrontation: Ramsay defeats some, while others (with traditional irony) are constrained by an accident of their programming to eliminate Luther himself.

Crichton's main theme, as ever, is that machinery tends always to go wrong; his subtext is that humans, too, are usually defective, thus creating the typical Crichtonian gloom that may have prevented him gaining lasting box-office success. However, he seems fond of his mutinous machines, and the best parts of this robot-saturated movie are affectionate observations of the little beasts at work. [PN/DRL]


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