Radio Free Albemuth (film)

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Radio Free Albemuth
Radio Free Albemuth FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by John Alan Simon
Produced by
Screenplay by John Alan Simon
Based on Radio Free Albemuth 
by Philip K. Dick
Music by
  • Patrice Lucien Coche
  • Jon Felix
Edited by Phil Norden
  • Open Pictures
  • Broadstroke Entertainment
  • Discovery Productions
  • Rhino Films
Distributed by Freestyle Releasing
Release dates
  • February 25, 2010 (2010-02-25) (Sedona)

June 27, 2014 (Limited/VOD)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9,365[1]

Radio Free Albemuth is a 2010 American film adaptation of the dystopian novel Radio Free Albemuth by author Philip K. Dick, which was written in 1976 and published posthumously in 1985. The film is written, directed, and produced by John Alan Simon and stars Jonathan Scarfe and Shea Whigham.


The story is set in an alternate reality America circa 1985 under the authoritarian control of President Fremont. It makes liberal references to the collected works of Philip K. Dick.

Berkeley record store clerk Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) lives modestly with his wife Rachel (Katheryn Winnick) and their infant son. Nick has been experiencing strange visions and dreams. He confides in Rachel and his best friend, science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick (Shea Whigham). Nick calls the source of his visions VALIS (Vast Alien Living Intelligence System).

One recurring symbol that he has been seeing is an ichthys. While he and Phil sit at a table, an orbiting satellite shoots a pink laser directly into Nick's head. He rushes his son to the ER, convinced that he has an inguinal hernia. The skeptical doctor is stunned to find that Nick is right. Nick has subsequent visions that tell him that he should relocate to Los Angeles, where he lands a job at a record label.

Philip gets visited by two members of FAP (Friends of the American People). They press him for information about Nick's visions. The female FAP agent returns and sleeps with Philip. After their liaison, she pretends to be underage, hoping to coerce him into revealing what Nick is seeing from VALIS. Philip refuses to divulge anything about Nick.

Meanwhile, Nick has a dream where a woman (Alanis Morissette) is singing. During the dream, someone comments that there is something about her singing that seems subversive. Eventually, the woman turns up at Nick's record label, looking for a clerical job. She introduces herself as Sylvia, and Nick just assumes that she is a singer. Sylvia gradually reveals that she also receives visions from VALIS. She explains that there are several thousand people who receive transmissions from the orbiting satellite, and they are very loosely organized as a secret society.

The Russian government blows up the orbiting VALIS satellite, and Sylvia explains that it will take another 100 years for a replacement satellite to arrive. She writes a song with subliminal lyrics about VALIS. Nick forces The Fisher Kings to record the song, despite their total disinterest in it. When they debut the song at a club, Nick explains to Philip how the subliminal messages are encoded in the recording.

FAP arrest Nick and Philip. They waste little time in executing Nick, as well as Sylvia. The film ends with Philip in prison, writing about Nick's VALIS experience. While he is working in a field one day, some teenagers gawk at the prisoners and laugh. Their boombox is playing Sylvia's subliminal song, and Nick realizes that the secret society found a way to get the song out, despite FAP's best efforts.



In February 2004, Utopia Pictures & Television acquired the rights to three novels by science fiction author Philip K. Dick, including the 1985 novel Radio Free Albemuth, considered to be a semi-autobiography of the author. Producer John Alan Simon was attached to produce film adaptations based on the novels, including Radio Free Albemuth.[2] Simon became the writer and director for the film adaptation for Radio Free Albemuth, and filming began in October 2007 in and around Los Angeles.[3]

Simon said that the film may be titled VALIS upon release. He explained, "The script is based at this point almost entirely on Radio Free Albemuth. The financiers like the title VALIS better - so that's the tentative title. Since Radio Free Albemuth is essentially the first draft of VALIS, we ended up with rights to both from the estate of Philip K. Dick." He further commented that "if Radio Free Albemuth is successful, VALIS the book would form the basis for the sequel to VALIS the movie. In other words, the story of VALIS would form the basis for VALIS 2."[4]


The film screened as a work in-progress on February 27, 2010, at the Sedona International Film Festival.[citation needed] The world premiere was at the Gotham Screen International Film Festival in October 2010.[5]

A trailer for the film was released on March 2, 2011.[6]

The film was released in select cities (in addition to VOD) on June 27, 2014, by Freestyle Releasing.[7][8]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 36% of 11 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.4/10.[9] Metacritic rated it 35/100 based on six reviews.[10] Jeanette Catsoulis dismissed the film's "stiff staging and so-so special effects" in the The New York Times before concluding, "The excellent Shea Whigham, as a science-fiction writer, is our guide and narrator, but even his gravitas won't keep you from laughing at an extraterrestrial who thinks that hiding subliminal messages in pop songs is the way to start a revolution."[11] Richard Kuipers of Variety called it "an engrossing adaptation" that "operates successfully as a study of enlightenment and a straight-ahead conspiracy thriller".[12] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Though it echoes A Scanner Darkly in a few pleasing ways, Albemuth is a substantially less satisfying affair, one whose longueurs and (deliberately?) cheesy effects work will alienate all but Dick's hardcore devotees."[13] Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times called it "a sluggish, often cheesy sci-fi thriller".[14]


  1. ^ "Radio Free Albemuth (2014)". Box Office Mojo. 2014-07-03. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  2. ^ Dana Harris (2004-02-01). "Utopia picks Dick works". Variety. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  3. ^ Gregg Goldstein (2007-10-30). "Morissette a novel vision for 'Radio'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2007-11-20. [dead link]
  5. ^ Rugarber, Laura A. (2010-10-08). "Gotham Screen International Film Festival 2010 Kicks Off With Philip K. Dick Adaptation". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  6. ^ "First trailer for Philip K. Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth with Alanis Morissette". 2011-03-01. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Michelle McCue (2014-06-09). "First Poster For Philip K. Dick's RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH Debuts". We Are Movie Geeks. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  9. ^ "Radio Free Albemuth (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  10. ^ "Radio Free Albemuth". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  11. ^ Catsoulis, Jeanette. "Secrets of the Universe, Embedded in Pop Ditties", The New York Times. June 26, 2014.
  12. ^ Kuipers, Richard (2011-08-02). "Review: 'Radio Free Albemuth'". Variety. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  13. ^ DeFore, John (2014-06-27). "'Radio Free Albemuth': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  14. ^ Goldstein, Gary (2014-06-26). "Review Convoluted 'Radio Free Albemuth' succumbs to dated sci-fi plot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 

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