Brainstorm is a 1983 American science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull, and starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson. It follows a research team’s efforts to perfect a system that directly records and replays the sensory experiences and emotional feelings of a subject, and the efforts by the company’s management to exploit the device for military ends. After a researcher records her own death from a heart attack, her colleagues join forces to retrieve the information and play it back.
The film was nearly scuttled by Natalie Wood’s death during a production break in November 1981. By this time, Wood had already completed all of her major scenes, but due to mounting financial problems, MGM took Wood’s death as an opportunity to shut down the already troubled production. “When she died,” said Trumbull, “all the sets were locked and frozen on all the stages. No one could get in or out without special permission while all the negotiations took place.
rainstorm was finally released on September 30, 1983, almost two years after Wood’s death. However, it opened on a small number of screens and with little publicity, despite being trumpeted unofficially as “Natalie Wood’s last movie”. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 55% of 20 critics have given the film a positive review with an average rating of 5.69/10.
Brilliant researchers Lillian Reynolds and Michael Brace have developed a system of recording and playing back actual experiences of people. Once the capability of tapping into “higher brain functions” is added in, and you can literally jump into someone else’s head and play back recordings of what he or she was thinking, feeling, seeing at the time of the recording. The applications for the project quickly spiral out of control.
While Michael Brace uses the system to become close again to Karen Brace, his estranged wife who also works on the project, others start abusing it for intense sexual experiences and other logical but morally questionable purposes. The government tries to kick Michael and Lillian off the project once the vast military potential of the technology is discovered. It soon becomes obvious that the government is interested in more than just missile guidance systems. The lab starts producing mind torture recordings and other psychosis inducing material.
This was Natalie Wood’s last movie before she died. Coincidentally she was with Christopher Walken and Robert Wagner when she supposedly drowned.