Brilliant computer scientist Harry Benson (George Segal) suffers from blackouts during which he becomes extremely violent. Since orthodox medication has no effect on his Acute Disinhibitory Lesion (ADL) syndrome, he agrees to a radical surgical procedure, conducted by the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit (NRU).
Forty electrodes are inserted into the damaged section of his brain and a nuclear power pack into his shoulder. A computer implanted in his neck will detect the onset of a seizure and abort it with a shock through one of the electrodes.
Psychiatrist Janet Ross (Joan Hackett) considers Benson an unsuitable candidate for this procedure.
Dr Manon (William Hansen) is also opposed to the operation since it will do nothing to cure Benson’s psychosis, but the ambitious Dr Ellis (Richard Dysart) justifies his decision to proceed on the grounds that it will at least stop Benson’s seizures and the accompanying violence.
On the eve of the operation, a young woman called Angela Black (Jill Clayburgh) visits Benson.
Soon after the operation, Ross notices the increasing frequency of stimulations as Benson starts to deliberately initiate seizures in order to experience the pleasurable shocks. A computer projection indicates that within hours he will be receiving almost continuous stimulations, making him uncontrollably violent.
Benson escapes from the hospital and the medical staff set out to find him. Shortly after the tipping-point passes, Angela is found murdered, her skull crushed and her body repeatedly stabbed post-mortem.
Benson attacks Dr Ross in her home but she defends herself and he runs away, wounded. He ultimately stumbles into a newly-dug grave, has a seizure, and is shot to death by a hovering police helicopter.
An extraordinarily intense performance from the usually laid-back Segal nicely matches the desolation of this futuristic thriller.
Adapted from a novel on the Frankenstein theme by Michael Crichton (before Crichton’s Jurassic Park was a twinkle in Steven Spielberg’s eye), writer/director Mike Hodges brilliantly creates a hi-tech parable in which meddling scientists get a moral comeuppance.
The film was only patchily shown in cinemas on its original release, but deserved better. Its implications are as thought-provoking as they are scary.
Dr Janet Ross
Dr John Ellis
Detective Captain Anders
Dr Arthur Mcpherson
Dr Robert Morris
Michael C Gwynne
Dr Ezra Manon
James B Sikking