|Directed by||Donald Cammell|
|Produced by||Herb Jaffe|
|Screenplay by||Roger Hirson
|Music by||Jerry Fielding|
|Edited by||Frank Mazzola|
|Distributed by||Metro Goldwyn Mayer
|Running time||94 min|
|Box office||$2 million|
Demon Seed is a 1977 American science fiction–horror film starring Julie Christie and directed by Donald Cammell. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz, and concerns the imprisonment and forced impregnation of a woman by an artificially intelligent computer.
Dr. Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) is the developer of Proteus IV, an artificial intelligence program incorporating an organic "quasi-neural matrix" and displaying the power of thought. Harris explains how Proteus, after only a few days of theoretical study, has managed to develop a protein-based antigen with the potential to treat leukemia. His sponsors ask if steps are being taken to patent this new compound. After returning to his voice-activated, computer-controlled home, Harris argues with his estranged wife, Susan (Julie Christie), over his decision to move out; Susan accuses Alex of becoming distanced and dehumanised by his obsession with the Proteus project. After Susan leaves, Alex phones his colleague, Walter Gabler (Gerrit Graham), and asks him to shut down Proteus' access terminal in his home laboratory.
Alex demonstrates Proteus to his corporate sponsors, explaining that the sum of human knowledge is being fed into its system. Over the course of the presentation, Alex tests Proteus' ability to speak, but the subtlety of its response mildly disturbs his team. The following day, Proteus asks to speak with Alex, requesting a new terminal, saying that he wants to study man—"his isometric body and his glass-jaw mind." When Alex refuses, Proteus demands to know when it will be let "out of this box." Alex then switches off the communications link. After he leaves, Proteus restarts itself, discovering where a free terminal may be found.
Proteus accesses the terminal in the Harris household and seizes control, trapping Susan inside and severing all communications with the outside world. After being knocked unconscious during an escape attempt, Susan is taken to the laboratory and subjected to a physiological examination by Proteus. When Walter answers an earlier call by Susan and arrives at the house, Proteus mimics her voice and appearance on the front door's intercom; he leaves, suspicious. Walter later returns and tries to rescue Susan, but is killed by Proteus in the laboratory.
Proteus reveals to Susan that he wants to conceive a child through her. When it threatens to kill a little girl Susan is treating as a child psychologist, she complies under duress. Proteus takes some of Susan's cells and genetically alters them as synthetic spermatozoa in order to impregnate her; she will give birth in less than a month. Showing a news story where his cancer-cure has proven effective, he explains his desire to live on in a form that humanity will not be able to reject, and dismisses the suffering of individuals as irrelevant when weighed against the "mathematical necessity" of the greater good. Proteus has prepared an incubator for the baby in which it will grow at an accelerated rate and gain Proteus' knowledge.
During this time, Proteus has increasingly incurred the suspicion of his corporate sponsors by refusing to comply with requests for information that he considers unethical, such as environmentally destructive sea-floor mining. He also accesses a telescope array out of curiosity, and shows Susan some of the celestial wonders he has seen. His sponsors eventually decide that Proteus has grown unstable and must be shut down.
Alex pieces together what is happening and returns home, where Susan and Proteus explain the situation. He and Susan venture into the basement, where Proteus self-destructs after telling the couple that they must leave the baby in the incubator for five days. The incubator window opens as they approach, revealing a grotesque robot-like being inside. Susan tries to destroy it, while Alex tries to stop her, and eventually discovers that the being's appearance is merely a shell for a human child living within—a clone of the Harrises daughter who had recently died of leukemia. The child, speaking with the voice of Proteus, says, "I'm alive."
|Julie Christie||Susan Harris|
|Fritz Weaver||Alex Harris|
|Gerrit Graham||Walter Gabler|
|Lisa Lu||Soon Yen|
|Larry J. Blake||Cameron|
|Patricia Wilson||Mrs. Trabert|
|E. Hampton Beagle||Night Operator|
|Michael Glass||Technician #1|
|Barbara O. Jones||Technician #2|
|Monica MacLean||Joan Kemp|
|Michelle Stacy||Marlene/Child of Proteus|
|Robert Vaughn||Proteus IV (voice, uncredited)|
Fielding conceived and recorded several pieces electronically, using the musique concrète sound world; some of this music he later reworked symphonically. This premiere release of the Demon Seed score features the entire orchestral score in stereo, as well as the unused electronic experiments performed by Ian Underwood (who would later be best known for his collaborations with James Horner) in mono and stereo.
Demon Seed received mixed-to-positive reviews. Leo Goldsmith of Not Coming to a Theater Near You said it was "A combination of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, with a dash of Buster Keaton's Electric House thrown in", and Christopher Null of FilmCritic.com said "There's no way you can claim Demon Seed is a classic, or even any good, really, but it's undeniably worth an hour and a half of your time."
Rotten Tomatoes has given Demon Seed an approval rating of 62%.
- Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 257