Dreamscape (1984 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Produced by Chuck Russell
Bruce Cohn Curtis
Screenplay by David Loughery
Chuck Russell
Joseph Ruben
Story by David Loughery
Roger Zelazny
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Brian Tufano
Edited by Lorenzo DeStefano
Richard Halsey
Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • August 15, 1984 (1984-08-15)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $12,145,169[2]

Dreamscape is a 1984 science fiction adventure horror film directed by Joseph Ruben and written by David Loughery, with Chuck Russell and Ruben co-writing.


Psychic Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) was the 19-year-old prime subject of a scientific research project documenting his psychic ability, but in the midst of the study he disappeared and has since been using his talents solely for personal gain, which lately consists mainly of gambling and womanizing. After running afoul of a local gangster/extortionist named Snead (Redmond Gleeson), Gardner evades two of Snead's thugs by allowing himself to be taken by two men, Finch (Peter Jason) and Babcock (Chris Mulkey), who identify themselves as being from an academic institution. At the institution, Alex is reunited with his former mentor Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow) who is now involved in government-funded psychic research. Novotny, aided by fellow scientist Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw), has developed a technique that allows psychics to voluntarily link with the minds of others by projecting themselves into the subconscious during REM sleep (i.e., while they are dreaming). Novotny equates the original idea for the dreamscape project to the practice of the Senoi, who believe the dream world is just as real as reality.

Alex is blackmailed into joining Novotny’s project that he (Novotny) intended to use for a benevolent purpose as a clinic to diagnose and treat sleep disorders, particularly in the form of nightmares, but the project has been hijacked by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), a powerful government agent with possible CIA ties, though it is never clearly revealed in the film. Alex eventually discovers that he is actually involved in a U.S. government-funded project to use this dream-linking technique for assassination. Before the plot is revealed, Alex gains experience helping a man worried about his wife’s infidelity and taking over the case of a young boy named Buddy (Cory Yothers) who is plagued with nightmares so terrible that a previous psychic lost his mind in an attempt to help Buddy. Buddy's nightmare bogeyman involves a large snakeman which later becomes a weakness for Alex.

Alex is caught invading Jane's dream.

A subplot involving Alex and Jane’s growing infatuation culminates with him sneaking into Jane's dream without the use of the machine that is a part of the process, a point Jane does not realize at first because she is too angry that Alex was able to have sex with her in her dream. With the help of a novelist named Charlie Prince (George Wendt), who has been covertly investigating the project for the basis of a new book, Alex learns of Blair’s sinister intentions.

Tommy Ray Glatman, dream assassin.

Prince and Novotny are both murdered to silence them; things get worse when the President of the United States (Eddie Albert) is admitted as a patient and Alex’s colleague Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly), a psychopath who (as Alex discovers) shot and killed his own father, is sent into the President's nightmare by Blair in an attempt to assassinate the President. Blair considers the President a threat to national security due to the President's nightmares of a post-apocalyptic world, which represent his fears and becomes cause for his wishing to enter unfavorable negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

Alex and Jane manage to get close enough to the President’s room for Alex to project himself into the President's dream and save him: after a fight in which Glatman rips out a police officer's heart, attempts to incite a mob of nuclear attack victims to attack the President, and battles Alex in the form of the snake-monster from Buddy's dream, Alex assumes the appearance of Glatman's murdered father (Eric Gold) in order to distract him, allowing the President to ram a spear into Glatman's back, killing him. The President is grateful to Alex but reluctant to confront Blair, who apparently holds a truly powerful position in the government. To protect himself and Jane, Alex enters Blair’s dream and murders him before Blair can bring about any sort of retribution.

The film ends with Jane and Alex boarding a train to Louisville, Kentucky, intent on making their previous dream encounter a reality. Encountering the ticket conductor from Jane's dream gives them a moment of pause.



According to author Roger Zelazny, the film developed from an initial outline that he wrote in 1981, based in part upon his novella, "He Who Shapes", and novel, The Dream Master. He was not involved in the project after 20th Century Fox bought his outline. Because he did not write the film treatment or the script, his name does not appear in the credits; assertions that he removed his name from the credits are unfounded.[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Dreamscape was released on August 15, 1984. This was the second film released to movie theaters that was rated PG-13 under then new MPAA ratings guidelines following Red Dawn, which had come out five days prior. The Flamingo Kid was the first film to receive the rating, but was not released until December 1984.[citation needed]

Dreamscape has a 75% 'Fresh' rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes from 28 critics. The RT consensus is "Dreamscape mixes several genres – horror, sci-fi, action – and always maintains a sense of adventure and humor."[4] The film is ranked #93 on Rotten Tomatoes' Journey Through Sci-Fi (100 Best-Reviewed Sci-Fi Movies).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  2. ^ "Dreamscape (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  3. ^ "...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 4, by Christopher S. Kovacs. In: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 4: Last Exit to Babylon, NESFA Press, 2009.
  4. ^ "Dreamscape". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ "ROTTEN TOMATOES: RT's Journey Through Sci-Fi 93.) Dreamscape". Rotten Tomatoes. 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 

External links[edit]