July 11, 2012

Movie Review: Android (1982)

Here is a movie that I just happened to stumble across. I cannot say I had ever heard of it before, but the title seems to be right up my alley, plus it has Klaus Kinski in it. Hard to go wrong there, right? Well, maybe, but fortunately not this time. It turns out, Android was a production of New World Pictures, a company founded by B-movie legend Roger Corman and was made on repurposed sets from other movies. The reason for this was to gain the maximum value out of said sets. Seems to make sense when you make movies on small budgets. It is hardly a new phenomenon, but it is one that makes sense. If you have the sets, use them!

Android is a science fiction tale that plays a little like a coming of age story. It is centered on a character who is not quite human, but is fascinated by humanity, Earth, and the idea of love and becoming something more. It is all wrapped up in a small story set on a desolate space station in deep space with a population of two, who are visited by a trio of ne'er do wells.

As the movie starts we are introduced to Max (co-writer Don Keith Opper credited as Max). He is listening to music as he watches a rudimentary sex-ed video. It is not long before he is interrupted by the eccentric Dr. Daniel (Klaus Kinski), who tells him he is going to sleep. Max then turns his attention to a rudimentary video game (it is the early 80's, nothing terribly complex yet). He is then interrupted again by a distress call. Max is immediately intrigued as the voice is that of a woman. Max has never seen a real woman before. So, without bothering to tell the good doctor, he gives permission to dock at the station.

The trio who come aboard from the damaged ship are fugitives on the run from the law. Maggie, Keller, and Mendes (Brie Howard, Norbert Weisser, and Crofton Hardesser) are a rather ragtag group who barely seem to get along. As they try to figure out their net step, both Max and Dr. Daniel have ideas of their own.

Apparently androids are not allowed on Earth, there is mention of an uprising. I guess they gained sentience and started a war with humanity. No matter, this android and the doctor are conducting their illegal experiments in deep space, far away from everyone.

In any case, Max's research and fascination with Maggie has pushed him to make a decision for himself, something that Dr. Daniel forbids. Max wants to go to Earth and sees Maggie as his one and only opportunity. Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel needs Maggie to power his latest experiment, a female android, made to be so close to the real thing as to be impossible to tell it apart from a real person.

Things come to a head as everyone's motives start to become clear. Max caught in the middle, finds death and redemption as the conclusion bears down on us.

Android is a pretty interesting movie. It has a strange visual aesthetic, very 70's looking with the colors and shapes. It definitely looks dated. You know, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be repurposed sets, but I am not sure from where they come, but they do give Android a distinctive feel. Granted, the lighting is less than elegant and does not help matters. The lights are bit overdone and make it look like a television production. Still, I like the way it turned out.

In all seriousness, the thing that makes this work so well is Don Keith Opper. His performance is captivating. He is sweet, innocent, curious, and without the restrictions of morality. It is quite interesting. You watch him and you know something is off, but you keep watching. Then you have the scene where he is afraid he is going to be deactivated, and the rest that goes with that. There is a lot going on behind the eyes. Max is really a child, having spent his whole existence on the station with no company other than Daniel. He wanted to spread his wings and experience new things. It is a really good performance. I daresay that if not for his performance, this movie would not have worked.

It has corny elements, clunky dialogue, poorly acted scenes, and some other questionable elements, but it is still worth seeing for the great (and uncredited) lead performance. It may not be one I visit often, but I am better for having seen it.


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