Dreamscape (1984 film)

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Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byJoseph Ruben
Screenplay byDavid Loughery
Chuck Russell
Joseph Ruben
Story byDavid Loughery
Produced byChuck Russell
Bruce Cohn Curtis
CinematographyBrian Tufano
Edited byLorenzo DeStefano
Richard Halsey
Music byMaurice Jarre
Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 15, 1984 (1984-08-15)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[1]
Box office$12.1 million[2]

Dreamscape is a 1984 American dark science-fiction adventure film directed by Joseph Ruben and written by David Loughery, with Chuck Russell and Ruben co-writing.[3] It stars Dennis Quaid, Kate Capshaw, Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer.


Alex Gardner is a psychic who has been using his talents solely for personal gain, which mainly consists of gambling and womanizing. When he was 19 years old, Alex had been the prime subject of a scientific research project documenting his psychic ability but, in the midst of the study, he disappeared.

After running afoul of a local gangster and extortionist named Snead, Alex evades two of Snead's thugs by allowing himself to be taken by two men: Finch and Babcock, who identify themselves as representing an academic institution. At the institution, Alex is reunited with his former mentor, Dr. Paul Novotny, who is now involved in government-funded psychic research. Novotny, aided by fellow scientist Dr. Jane DeVries, has developed a technique that allows psychics to voluntarily link with the minds of others by projecting themselves into the subconscious during REM sleep. Novotny equates the original idea for the dreamscape project to the practice of the Senoi natives of Malaysia, who believe the dream world is just as real as reality. The project was intended for clinical use to diagnose and treat sleep disorders, particularly nightmares; but it has been hijacked by Bob Blair, a powerful government agent. Novotny convinces Alex to join the program in order to investigate Blair's intentions. Alex gains experience with the technique by helping a man who is worried about his wife's infidelity and by treating a young boy named Buddy, who is plagued with nightmares so terrible that a previous psychic lost his sanity trying to help him. Buddy's nightmare involves a large sinister "snake-man".

Alex and Jane's growing infatuation culminates with Alex sneaking into Jane's dream to have sex with her, though she protests when she wakes up. He does this without technological aid, which no one else has been able to achieve. With the help of novelist Charlie Prince, who has been covertly investigating the project for a new book, Alex learns that Blair intends to use the dream-linking technique for assassination, as people who die in their dreams also die in the real world.

Blair murders Prince and Novotny to silence them. The President of the United States is admitted as a patient due to recurring nightmares. Blair assigns Tommy Ray Glatman, a mentally unstable psychic who murdered his own father, to enter the president's nightmare and assassinate him. Blair considers the president's nightmares about nuclear holocaust as a sign of political weakness, which he deems a liability in the upcoming negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

Following Alex's escape from a car with Blair and his goons, Alex flees on a motorcycle and ends up at the racetrack where Snead's thugs work. He makes a deal with them to call five winners at the racetrack, in exchange for their distracting Blair's goons as he escapes back to the institution, with Jane letting him sneak in. He discovers Novotny's dead body and forces one of Blair's goons to tell him about the plan to kill the President. Alex projects himself into the president's dream— a nightmare of a post nuclear war wasteland— to try to protect him. After a fight in which Tommy rips out a train conductor's heart, Tommy attempts to incite a mutant-mob against the president, and battles Alex in the form of the snake-man from Buddy's dream. Alex assumes the appearance of Tommy's murdered father in order to distract him, allowing the President to impale him with a spear. The president is grateful to Alex but reluctant to confront Blair, who wields considerable political power. To protect himself and Jane, Alex enters Blair's dream and kills him before Blair can retaliate.

Jane and Alex later board a train to Louisville, Kentucky, intent on making their previous dream encounter a reality. They are surprised to meet the ticket collector from Jane's dream, but they decide to ignore it and keep on.



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 1966 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.[4] The music score is by French composer Maurice Jarre.

Principal photography began 3 February 1983 in Los Angeles, CA. Locations included Union Station, Los Angeles, Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos, CA, and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.[5]

Release and reception[edit]

Dreamscape was released on August 15, 1984. The film was a box office success grossing 12.1 million dollars on a 6 million dollar budget. 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 film was released on DVD on June 6, 2000, January 4, 2005, and April 7, 2015.[6]

Dreamscape has a 79% 'Fresh' rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 critics, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The critics consensus reads, "Dreamscape mixes several genres—horror, sci-fi, action - and always maintains a sense of adventure and humor".[7] On Metacritic - which assigns a weighted mean score - the film has a score of 63 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989), Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, p. 260
  2. ^ "Dreamscape (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  3. ^ "Dreamscape". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "...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.
  5. ^ AFI Catalog
  6. ^ Dreamscape. Chatsworth, Los Angeles: RLJ Entertainment. ASIN 6305869103. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  7. ^ "Dreamscape". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-08-02.
  8. ^ "Dreamscape Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved December 1, 2022.

External links[edit]