Director/Producer – John G. Thomas, Screenplay/Music – Bishop Holiday, Photography – Virgil Harper. Production Company – John G. Thomas-Aaron Biston Production/Westcom
Timothy Bottoms (Casey Kane), Deana Jurgens (Marcia), Troy Donahue (Lester Timms), Gerry Black (Gene Maddox), John Philip Law (Dr Edison), Richard Stahl (Carl Tyson)
Deaf-aid therapist Marcia takes her car into a garage for repairs and discovers that one of the mechanics Casey Kane is deaf. However, when she tries to discuss his disability with him, Casey proves reticent and unwilling. In trying to get him help, Marcia inadvertently ends up getting Casey fired. Visiting his home, Marcia discovers that Casey has invented a computer that can translate text to sound and vice versa. She is able to persuade Casey to receive treatment and then undergo an operation to receive an implant that allows him to hear again. She is also able to introduce Casey to an old boyfriend that owns an electronics firm and he agrees to buy up the patent for Casey’s invention and other ideas. During all of this, Casey and Marcia fall for one another. Casey then moves on to his most ambitious project – the development of an artificial intelligence that he calls Osgood.
Tin Man is a nicely earnest film that never saw much business when it came out or since. It was never widely distributed – it is not available on video/dvd, for instance. For the most part, Tin Man is a film about the prickly and difficult relationship between a deaf-aid therapist (Deana Jurgens) and a deaf man (Timothy Bottoms) who comes to be able to hear for the first time. Of interest to us here is a secondary science-fictional plot about Timothy Bottoms’ development of a number of technological inventions. Although ironically today much of this is no longer science-fiction – a program that converts text to speech and a program that converts speech to text – as well as those that will probably always remain technologically impossible – the development of artificial intelligence.
The main story of Tin Man has fairly much been borrowed from Charly (1968). It is really a Charly for the hearing impaired – the tragic arc of a handicapped man who gains a surgical procedure that allows him to hear, who undergoes radical life changes before it is discovered that the operation is failing and he is reverting to what he was before. It is earnestly told. That said, Tin Man is a film whose failing is, for once, its sincerity. This leads to an approach that is so low key it fades away into a stultifying bland niceness. There is a particularly overblown score and all the soft-focus niceness of the exercise moves slowly. The scenes with the AI Osgood prove interesting – for once, computer intelligence is presented on screen with a degree of credibility. However, the main story is primarily focused on the relationship between Timothy Bottoms and Deana Jurgens, Bottoms’ struggle to adjust to changes and his fight to retain control of his patents. Timothy Bottoms certainly plays with a singular determination, while all others prove capable in their roles.
Director John G. Thomas has made a handful of other films, none of any distinguished note or having ever achieved wide audiences. These include Banzai Runner (1987), Arizona Heat (1988), Healer (1994) and Hamal_18 (2004).
Full film available online here:-