The 1977 horror/sci-fi film "The Demon Seed" has all the trappings of those deliciously entertaining gloom/doom productions of this era. Stark sets, huge talking computers, bad clothes and interesting themes are all on display. Equal parts "2001- A Space Odyssey," "Colossus - the Forbin Project," "Saturn 3," and "Westworld," this film essentially details a futuristic society that becomes a slave to the very technology it has created. In "The Demon Seed," a computer wants to become human.
Based on an early Dean Koontz novel, "The Demon Seed" is rarely predictable, concluding with a memorable scene that's hard to forget. Directed by cult legend Donald Cammell ("Performance," "White of the Eye"), the film's story surrounds super computer Proteus IV, recently put online by the government. After discovering the cure for leukemia (nice job!), the computer suddenly decides to think independently, considering its human creators to be self destructive and misguided. Top scientist Fritz Weaver (I always loved his supporting work during the 1970s) gets a bit nervous, but assumes Proteus IV is under control. Unfortunately, there's a terminal at Weaver's house, and the sneaky super comp proceeds to imprison his estranged wife for impregnation (you heard right). This computer definitely wants to push the outside of the envelope, so to say.
Yes, the estranged wife is played by the lovely Julie Christie. She gives a fine performance in an otherwise formula film. Christie screams, pounds the walls, cries for help and eventually is forced to submit to the will of the great computer, who talks in short sentences with the eerie voice of Robert Vaughn (yikes!). It's kind of odd, though the contrast is intended, that Weaver's creation shows more affection towards his wife than he does.
I found "Demon Seed" to be very well-acted, but exceedingly derivative at times. A final light show, supposedly displaying the creation of life - or the merging of technology and man - is far too reminiscent of "2001 - A Space Odyssey" (Proteus IV and the infamous Hal have quite a bit in common).
For someone to be as intelligent as Weaver's character is supposed to be, it sure takes him a long time before realizing Proteus IV's sinister plans. What was he doing while the home comp was busy torturing his wife? Guest-hosting "Mr. Wizard?" And the manner in which the home computer imprisons Christie is never very believable. Why would the floors be wired for heat? Can a wheelchair robot really sneak up on someone?!
But the story is always fascinating (are humans or the computer the real villains here?) and the conclusion is creepy, to say the least. Besides, how many formula films starring Julie Christie are on the market? "Demon Seed" is a fun example of apocalyptic 1970s sci-fi/horror - a truly notable class of films.