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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Brainstorm (1983)

Brainstorm (1983) (NTSC)

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Released 13-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 106:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Douglas Trumbull
Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Walken
Natalie Wood
Louise Fletcher
Cliff Robertson
Jordan Christopher
Donald Hotton
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music James Horner

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Brainstorm is the convergence of so many influences that it is difficult to sort out the threads. In the seventies and early eighties, a series of very interesting science fiction movies were made. Some of my favourites, such as Altered States, came from this time. These movies were part of the transition from the sixties, where people were searching for meaning in either some fairly complex inhaled or injected molecules, or in their navel. The future appeared to hold great things - technology appeared to have taken great leaps and bounds, and the computer came onto the scene, almost a machine that could think. We now know that this is not true, but for the average punter on the street, this was a revolution.

    Movies quickly moved to explore this new world. Unfortunately, their scriptwriters did not do the research they should have as I will point out later, and suddenly technology and maybe these new-fangled computers were seen as possibly holding the meaning of life, not able to be found in the sixties. At the same time there was still (and this continues to grow after a hiatus in the eighties) fear and loathing of the corporate monster and, most importantly, the military.

    The filmmakers bring all this and quite a bit more into this film, including a love story that the technology manages to rescue. The major premise of the film is a new discovery, one that allows the recording of brain waves. They can fit a headset to a person and record everything that they see and feel. This can then be played back into another person's headset and they will experience everything that happened to the first person. With this basic premise in place, they then set out to explore what people would do with this technology and how it would affect them.

    They do start with a little too much padding, with rollercoaster scenes, flyovers of beaches and so on, but thankfully we soon move past this. The inventors are off into new territory as they attempt to add the ability to record emotion as well, while the ever-present and dark corporate business sells out to the military. The military, of course, do exactly what we expect them to do with technology such as this. At this point someone dies, but they die with a recording headset on. Suddenly, one of the greatest questions that has plagued man since the dawn of time might be answered. What is on the tape, and what will happen when someone plays back the tape? Immediate access to the tape is blocked for our main character and he needs to battle and hack his way in to get to see what is on the other side.

    This is where the whole movie loses the bravery that it has shown to this point. They wimp out and really don't take the concepts they have explored anywhere new. Considering the fact that when this film was made, many of the concepts were quite original, why they fell down at the last hurdle is perplexing and disappointing. There are a couple of other problems with the film; the acting is somewhat wooden in places and some of the technological bloopers are just howlers. Think about the bandwidth required to store a full sensory recording of the brain - while we cannot put a figure on this, I can almost guarantee that it is greater than the 300 baud acoustic coupled modems that they use to transmit to remote headsets.

    Some will love this film, some will hate it. Remember to place it into the context of when it was made and there is some fun to be had. Just don't get too excited, expecting a revolution at the end.

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Transfer Quality


    (Editor's Note: The initially supplied preview disc of this movie from Warner Home Video was formatted at 1.33:1 Pan & Scan. This was NOT reflective of the widescreen DVD that was actually released in Region 4. This review is of a retail copy of this DVD.)

    Unfortunately, this transfer has some problems. This film was filmed using a variety of processes and aspect ratios, from 1.85:1 through to 2.35:1 for the aspect ratios and Panavision, spherical and super Panavision for the processes. When this film was shown theatrically, it was screened at 2.35:1, with the real world presented at 1.85:1 inserted into the 2.35:1 frame i.e.: there were black bars on the left and right. This meant that when the movie went to the Brainstorm sequences in 2.35:1, the image was wider, adding to the overall effect. This is really key to the overall effect of the film: the world of the Brainstorm is portrayed as better than reality - it is meant to convey information directly from brain to brain, bypassing the limitations of speech. The expansion of the image from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1 for these sequences would have reinforced this.

    On this DVD, the image is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 2.35:1 sequences are inserted into this frame, and so lose height in comparison to the 1.85:1 sequences. This is in direct contrast to the intended theatrical presentation where, as described above, the 2.35:1 sequences were intended to be shown as wider than the 1.85:1 sequences. Instead of an expansive effect, in this transfer the world of the Brainstorm looks narrower in comparison and reverses that impression.

    On top of the above, the transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is very soft, affected by age, grain and dirt. Shadow detail is also not the best with dark areas simply lacking in any detail. There is a reasonable amount of low level noise triggered by the grain. Overall, the contrast levels are down, giving many scenes a very washed-out appearance.

    Colours are muted throughout, probably due to a combination of the eighties film stock and again the age of the film. There is a difference in the colours between the main feature and the trailer. In the trailer, the colours appear a little brighter and seem to contain more yellow, particularly in the special effects sequences near the end (100:16 in the feature).

    There are no major MPEG artefacts. Film artefacts abound. There is a large amount of grain present, as well as dirt, black marks and a number of white flecks which can be quite distracting. Some flecks are actually visible holes in the emulsion, such as at 24:34. There is also an occurrence of false spectrum coloration in the shirt at 21:58.

    The subtitles miss the occasional phrase but are not too bad overall. Closed captions are also included on the disc.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks on this disc, both Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. The first is an English soundtrack, the second a French soundtrack. As the laserdisc version of this film was accompanied by a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, one wonders why this disc has only a Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

    There are no major problems with the dialogue quality, nor with the audio sync.

    The music in this film did not really grab me, and felt a little contrived, although it does spark up a bit during the Brainstorm scenes.

    The surrounds are active at times and there are a couple of decent moments, particularly during the more psychedelic moments of the Brainstorm trips. Overall, this is not too bad for the times or the format.

    There are no real depths to the bass although there is some material that is redirected to the sub - just nothing spectacular.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    A nice animated menu with special effect scenes from the film in the background and an appropriate little animation between menus. The disc goes straight into the film, bypassing the menus when inserted into the player.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version of this disc was originally released by MGM along with a little trivia booklet. It was then later re-released by Warner Home Video. It would appear that the re-release is simply the MGM disc repackaged as it still has the MGM logo on it. The booklet was not included in the re-release.

    From available material it would appear that the R1 and R4 releases are identical as far as content is concerned. The MGM release included a small booklet on the film.


    This was the last film that Natalie Wood appeared in. In fact, she drowned in a boating accident during filming, and her unfortunate demise almost prevented this film from being finished. Overall, this is a great film that explores some solid science fiction concepts and is well worth a look, particularly for fans of science fiction from this period.

    The video is disappointing for many reasons.

    The audio is also not the best.

    The trailer is the only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - wolfgirv