Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
|Overdrawn at the Memory Bank|
VHS cover for Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
|Directed by||Douglas Williams|
|Produced by||Robert Lantos
Stephen J. Roth
|Written by||John Varley (short story)
Corinne Jacker (teleplay)
Donald C. Moore
|Music by||John Tucker|
|Editing by||Rit Wallis|
|Distributed by||Public Broadcasting Service
New World Video (VHS and Laserdisc)
|Running time||83 min.|
Overdrawn at the Memory Bank is a 1983 made-for-television movie. It was produced by Canada’s RSL Productions in Toronto. Financing was provided by WNET and New Jersey Public Television (NJPTV), which had hoped to create an entire science fiction series adapting famous works, but due to lack of funding this was the last of three such productions, the other two being The Lathe of Heaven and Between Time and Timbuktu.
The script was based on a 1976 John Varley short story. The production was not a critical success and was satirized by Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) in 1997, complete with a spoof of a public television pledge drive.
Overdrawn at the Memory Bank was not shot on film, but rather was videotaped, with extensive use of chroma key and blue screen special effects. Pixelation artifacts are clearly visible in many of the effects.
In a future dystopia, Aram Fingal (Raúl Juliá) is a lowly programmer working for Novicorp. Arts are prohibited and he is caught watching the classic film Casablanca (“scrolling up cinemas”) on his workstation. To rehabilitate him, the company transfers his mind (“doppels” him) into a wild baboon (a process which has become routine, with people buying "doppeling vacations"). For a few minutes, Julia narrates over footage of wild animals (actually taken from the documentary Animals Are Beautiful People). Eventually, Fingal begins to enjoy his baboon existence until he finds his peaceful perch in a tree threatened by an elephant shaking it for fruit. He then activates an escape clause that is supposed to return his mind to his original body. Unknown to Fingal, however, his body has been accidentally tagged for transfer to separate wing for a sex change, and with the computer unable to return him to his body, Fingal’s mind must be kept active by storing it in Novicorp’s central computer — the HX368, which controls everything from finances to the weather — until his body is located. His mind can only be maintained in such a way for a limited time before it is destroyed, forming one of the central plot points of the film.
Fingal's disappearance is reported to a rival corporation. The news is broadcast worldwide, causing Novicorp's share price to crash. Majority shareholders force Novicorp's Chairman (the film's main antagonist) to divert resources to keep Fingal alive and find his body. Apollonia (Linda Griffiths), a computer controller, is assigned to locate Fingal and keep him from hacking into Novicorp’s mainframe. With Apollonia’s help, Fingal creates a virtual world where he encounters characters from Casablanca, including a version of Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick (played also by Raul Julia). Over time he grows bored (while only minutes pass in the real world, days pass in the virtual one) and plots to bring down Novicorp’s finances without being removed and, thus, killed. Apollonia tries to keep Fingal out of trouble, placing her in opposition with Novicorp’s leaders, especially when she finds herself falling in love with Fingal and develops a conflict of interest. With Apollonia’s considerable help, Fingal eventually “interfaces” with the mainframe and defeats his antagonists. He also returns to his body, which has been discovered before undergoing the aforementioned sex change operation. Finally corporeal and reunited with his accomplice, Fingal and Apollonia experience a traditional happy ending, with Fingal having taken complete control of the HX368. After ordering bonuses and stocks for every employee, committing Novicorp's Chairman to a month of "compulsory rehab" via doppeling and changing both his and Apollonia's identity to Rick and Ilsa (respectively), the characters from Casablanca, Fingal, who by now has absolute and total access to and control of the system, vows to fight against the dystopian government. The film ends with the new couple walking out the door and, now free from Novicorp's oppression, talk about opening a club on the other side of town: Rick's Place.
- Science-Fiction on PBS: "The Lathe of Heaven"
- Science-Fiction on PBS: "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank"