Electric Dreams (film)

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Electric Dreams
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve Barron
Produced by Larry DeWaay
Rusty Lemorande
Richard Branson
Written by Rusty Lemorande
Starring Lenny Von Dohlen
Virginia Madsen
Maxwell Caulfield
Bud Cort
Music by Giorgio Moroder
Jeff Lynne
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Editing by Peter Honess
Studio Virgin Films
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • July 20, 1984 (1984-07-20)
Running time 112 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million
Box office $2,467,664

Electric Dreams is a 1984 British-American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film set in San Francisco, California, that depicts a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a home computer. It stars Lenny Von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, and the voice of Bud Cort and was directed by Steve Barron. It was the first film released by the Virgin Films production company.

The film's credits dedicate it to the memory of UNIVAC I.


The story opens with Miles Harding, an architect who envisions a brick shaped like a jigsaw puzzle piece that could enable buildings to withstand earthquakes. Seeking a way to get organized, he buys a home computer (made by the fictitious Pinecone Computers) to help him develop his ideas. Although he is initially unsure that he will even be able to correctly operate the computer, he later buys numerous extra gadgets that were not necessary for his work, such as switches to control household appliances like the blender, a speech synthesizer, and a microphone. The computer addresses Miles as "Moles", because Miles mistyped his name during the initial set-up. When Miles attempts to download data from a mainframe computer at work, the computer begins to overheat. In a state of panic, Miles pours a nearby bottle of champagne over the machine, which then becomes sentient.

The remainder of the film deals with a love triangle between Miles, his computer (who later identifies his own name as "Edgar"), and Miles' neighbor, an attractive cellist named Madeline. Upon hearing her practicing a piece from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach on her cello through an air vent connecting both apartments, Edgar promptly elaborates a parallel variation of the piece, leading to an improvised duet. Believing it was Miles who had engaged her in the duet, Madeline begins to fall in love with him in spite of her ongoing relationship with fellow musician Bill.

At Miles' request, Edgar composes a piece of music for Madeline. When their mutual love becomes evident, however, Edgar responds with jealousy, cancelling Miles' credit cards and registering him as an "armed and dangerous" criminal. Miles shoves the computer and tries to unplug it, getting an electric shock. Then the computer retaliates by harassing him with household electronics.

Eventually, Edgar accepts Madeline and Miles' love for each other, and appears to commit suicide by sending a large electric current through his acoustic coupler, around the world, and back to himself. In the final scene, a pop song written by Edgar (who has somehow survived his apparent destruction) as a tribute to Miles and Madeline plays on radio stations across California.



Virgina Madsen later recalled she "was very spoiled on that movie, because it was such a lovefest that I now believe that every movie should be like that... I had a mad, crazy crush on Lenny Von Dohlen. God, we were so… we were head-over-heels for each other. Nothing happened, and at this point, I admit it: I wanted it to happen.... He’s still one of my best friends."[2]


The soundtrack features music from prominent popular musicians of the time, being among the movies of this generation that actively explored the commercial link between a movie and its soundtrack. The soundtrack album Electric Dreams was re-issued on CD[3] in 1998.[4]


The film received a mixed critical reception, with some critics praising it for its overtly MTV-influenced style and others criticizing it for the same reason.[citation needed] Popular American TV critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film two thumbs up on their TV show At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.[citation needed] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 43% ("Rotten") based on 14 reviews.[5]

It received a generally negative review in The New York Times, which said that the film failed to "blend and balance its ingredients properly," and that it lost plot elements and taxed credibility.[6]

Home media[edit]

Electric Dreams was released in 1984 (VHS) and again in 1991 (VHS), but has not been manufactured since the mid-1990s. MGM Home Video released a Laserdisc in America in 1985, and Warner Bros. released a Video CD version for the Singapore market in 2001, but both are out of print. The film was released to Region 2 DVD on April 6, 2009,[7] however the initial Virgin Films animated logo and opening lines of 'Electric Dreams' sung by P.P. Arnold were removed (20 seconds). It has never been released on Blu-ray and there is only one publicly rentable print of the original 35mm film available, as shown at the Prince Charles Cinema in London on 9 August 2012 and previously in Birmingham and Indonesia.


  1. ^ "ELECTRIC DREAMS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1984-04-16. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  2. ^ Will Harris, "Virginia Madsen on smelling Christopher Walken, getting tax advice from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and more", Random Roles - AV Club, 19 July 2013 accessed 26 July 2013
  3. ^ "Electric Dreams" Soundtrack on Amazon.com
  4. ^ "Electric Dreams" Soundtrack releases on Allmusic.com
  5. ^ "Electric Dreams (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2012-06-31. 
  6. ^ "Electric Dreams" Review, Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times, July 20, 1984
  7. ^ "Electric Dreams" Region 2 DVD on Amazon.com

See also[edit]

External links[edit]