Dreamscape, 1984. My Journey into Science-Fiction Part:16.

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Hello and welcome back to my Journey into Science-Fiction Part:16. I was thinking of a way to watch science-fiction films that I have never watched before, plus an opportunity to learn more about ones I have already seen. It’s quite a simple idea really, but all I have to do is find a connection with each film in order to continue my journey.

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In Part:15 I watched and reviewed Enemy Mine and if you are wondering how it brought to me to today’s film please click on the link below.

Enemy Mine, 1985. My Journey into Science-Fiction Part 15.

 The film I will be looking at today is Dreamscape 1984, directed by Joseph Ruben Gorp 1980 and The Forgotten 2004 amongst other varied films in his filmography. The film was based on the novel The Dream Master 1966 originally called “He who shapes” by Roger Zelazny that won him the Nebula Award in 1966. The film cost $6 million dollars and made just over $12 million at the box office.

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When I first looked at the movie poster for Dreamscape and learned what it was about, I couldn’t wait to watch it and surprised I hadn’t heard of it before! Described as a science-fiction adventure horror film, what could go wrong?

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The main character Alex Gardener Dennis Quaid is a gifted individual with psychic abilities. As a nineteen-year-old, he explored his gift under supervision until he couldn’t take anymore and disappeared. These days Alex tries to live a carefree life of gambling and women, that’s until an inconvenient meeting with local thugs goes wrong as they want a share of his success at the racecourse. Alex’s day goes from bad to worse as he later finds himself in the back of a car with two men who are from a scientific institution and is kidnapped but surely, he should have seen that coming!


At the institute, Alex meets up with former mentor Dr Paul Novotny Max von Sydow and insults are exchanged and surprisingly resolved as the Doctor decides a quiet drink to tell Alex about his plans might be just what they need. The good old Village Pub, full of life, pretty medieval and available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and secret meetings. The Doctor explains to Alex that he has managed to place another person in someone else’s dream. Someone with strong abilities like Alex could manipulate a patients subconscious and help with whatever trauma they are facing.

A few days later . . . .

The way I normally write about the films I look at has hit a bit of a brick wall with Dreamscape. I will be completely honest; it took me quite a few viewings to get through it the first time and I’m struggling to sit through it again. There are some elements I really like about this film that I will discuss shortly but I just want to speak about the stuff that I don’t. Its a bit of a change in direction but it is what it is.

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First of all, the character development in the film really does not work at all. Alex isn’t the only person who is gifted, Tommy Ray Glatman is a psychic with different motives and a murderer. The way David Patrick Kelly plays the part is quite wonderful and slightly psychotic. The problem is that everyone else is just as creepy as him, including a little ginger kid. In the dream reality, I think the snake-man character is a hero and has been sent to destroy the little freckled chap.

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Alex has a soft spot for Jane DeVries Kate Capshaw and he enters her dream without her consent and has sex with her! Surely that’s rape? Even worse she kind of brushes it under the rug and actually enjoyed it, surely there are some serious underlying issues going on with these two somewhere. The only character I do like is Charlie Prince George Wendt but only because he was in Cheers.

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I love the idea of the President suffering apocalyptic nightmares and worrying about Nuclear War but the Director doesn’t really give it any sense of importance. I’m no filmmaker but why does he have to wake up screaming in the same bed for each scene. He could have been on a plane, at his desk or even funnier, in a meeting. like I said I’m not director but at least I’m coming up with some variety here. I do understand there are budget issues in making a film like this but they could have executed it a little better. I even think a Breaking News clip on the TV could have given it a bit more substance, maybe that was in there but I can’t remember it.

Just for the record, I never want to see that couple with the marriage issues ever again. That whole subplot is the real true nightmare of this film, kill it with fire.

Let’s get back to what I did enjoy about the film and that’s the battle inside the President’s dream at the end. The soundtrack by Maurice Jarre really sets the tone and I’m becoming quite the fan of his work after Enemy Mine. David Patrick Kelly really is a great actor and the line “Alex, have a heart” is something I have heard repeated before. The makeup used on the mutilated passengers on the train is really quite scary for a thirty-five-year-old film and the visuals effects in all the dream sequences are equally impressive. I thought the ending was a little rushed and showed no real struggle at all but when the snake-man turned in to Tommy again I was impressed. Then there is Bob Blair, just a very creepy man, only because he never shows any emotion throughout the film. I have had wallpaper with more character than him, even in death.

So I guess we have to talk about the end as Alex and Jane are setting out to recreate their dream sequence from earlier.  They somehow manage to find the same clothes and realise its the same conductor on the train, so was it all a premonition and not a dream? Whatever it is, it’s still creepy.

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I know there are going to be a lot of people who loved this film when it first came out and still think highly of it today and I get that. It’s just that I’m watching it for the first time and it hasn’t aged as well as some of the other films I have looked at. I really do love the idea of the film and I have bought the book it’s based on to see if it can deliver that little bit more for me. I actually think I will review it once I’m done so keep an eye out for that one. I really did get something from this film and it’s the reason I decided to go on this journey, to learn new things and improve my knowledge of science-fiction.

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So where can I go to next for Part:17 of My Journey into Science-Fiction? Well, this time my next choice is pretty simple Chuck Russell was the producer on Dreamscape but went on to directing. The Mask, Eraser and The Scorpion King are amongst his work but it’s his 1988 remake of The Blob that I am going with next and I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen that one previously either.

Thank you for reading. Do you agree or disagree with my views on Dreamscape? I would like to hear your thoughts about the film, so please leave me a comment.

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