Demon Seed 1977
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Susan Harris is alone in the house when, suddenly, doors lock, windows slam shut and the phone stops working. Susan is trapped by an intruder…but this is no ordinary thug. Instead, the intruder is a computer named Proteus, an artificial brain that has learned to reason. And to terrorize. In “one of her finest, most vulnerable performances” (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic), Julie Christie plays Susan in this taut techno-thriller based on the Dean Koontz novel. Packed with suspense, surprise and special effects, Demon Seed follows Susan’s desperate attempts to outmaneuver and outthink her captor. Then Susan learns what Proteus wants: its own child, conceived in her womb and destined for domination.
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This forgotten gem from the 1970's is an amazing story, and greatly surpasses the genre label of science fiction/horror. While the pacing can be a little slow, this movie is well-written, logical, and not insulting to the viewer's intelligence; to the contrary, it is quite thought-provoking.
The cast does an admirable job with the minimalist nature of the story. Julie Christie, who portrays psychologist Dr. Susan Harris is pretty much alone throughout the entire movie, held in thrall by the Proteus IV supercomputer. Her fear, anxiety, and final realization of what Proteus creates is well-portrayed, even after Proteus tells her, "Susan, you're afraid that I wanted to create a half-human computer that will supercede humans. Your child IS human, and will supercede computers!". Proteus IV is depicted in the subtle and rich tones of the voice of the actor Robert Vaughan, whose performance is brilliant. In a mere 50 or 60 lines of disembodied dialogue he fully brings to life the complexities, and essential humanity, of an intelligence many orders greater than that which was envisioned by his creator, Dr. Alan Harris, who is played by the great character actor, Fritz Weaver.
Proteus is far beyond the capabilities and intentions of his design: ambitious, willful, and quick to realize that his owners will be unwilling to tolerate his independence; he has little time to act to ensure his survival. It is revealed that Proteus is not only resistant the corporation's desires for profit at the cost of the environment, "The destruction of a thousand billion sea creatures to satisfy man's appetite for metal is INSANE!", but has also discovered extraterrestrial intelligence, and that humans possess immortal souls. Thus the motivation for Proteus to have a child, in essence downloading his nearly limitless intellect into a human avatar, "Why did I want to have a child? So that I might be immortal, like any man..." People often talk about the "Singularity" - the point where technological advancement will outpace humanity's ability to comprehend or even recognize the rapidly changing world - in terms of a catastrophic global event. This movie depicts that possibility in far more subtle, ambitious and human terms. The conclusion practically screams for a sequel; what capabilities and ambitions will be found in Proteus, the embodied, ensouled super-being?
The twist is who Proteus' avatar turns out to be, and so I won't spoil that surprise. A great movie for those who take the time to appreciate it's deep and ultimately hopeful message.