BrainWaves (1982)


USA. 1982.


Director/Screenplay/Producer – Ulli Lommel, Photography – Jon Kranhouse, Music – Robert O. Ragland, Special Effects – NHP Inc, Art Direction – Stephen E. Graff. Production Company – Cin America Pictures.


Keir Dullea (Julian Bedford), Suzanna Love (Kaylie Bedford), Tony Curtis (Dr Clavius), Nicholas Love (Willy Meiser), Paul Willson (Dr Schroder), Vera Miles (Marion Noonan), Ryan Seitz (Danny Bedford), Corinne Alphen (Celia Adams)


After being hit by a car, housewife Kaylie Bedford is rushed to hospital with critical brain damage. Her husband agrees to allow neurosurgeon Dr Clavius to enact an experimental procedure where the damaged parts of her brain are electronically corrected. As Kaylie slowly recovers, she is haunted by horrifying memory flashes. She discovers that the impulses Clavius used to heal her have been taken from the brain of a murdered woman. Determined to solve the killing, she and her husband start their own investigation. However, this serves to alert the killer.

Ulli Lommel (1944-2017) was a former associate to Rainer Werner Fassbinder who went onto become a director. Lommel has had a chequered career that has gone from arthouse horror – The Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) – to Andy Warhol exploitation movies like Cocaine Cowboys (1979). During the early 1980s, Ulli Lommel relocated to the US where he made a career as a low budget horror director. BrainWaves, which came during that period, is a better than average film, even if there is nothing about it that truly stands out.

The central concept behind BrainWaves is a science-fictional reworking of inherited memory clairvoyance films like Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) and Sensation (1994), although the idea of transplanted memories was first used in the tv movie Hauser’s Memory (1970). The script never deals with any of the science-fictional concepts associated with its technological extrapolation, instead it merely turns the idea towards thriller ends. Ulli Lommel plays everything with a conviction that is sufficient to ride over the fuzziness of the details (not) given about the brain operation. (Although there is the wonderfully absurd moment where Suzanne Love undergoes a brain operation that fails to even disturb her hairstyle).

Keir Dullea sits at wife Suzanne Love's hospital bedside in BrainWaves (1982)
Keir Dullea sits at wife Suzanne Love’s hospital bedside

The length of the film is surprisingly brief (77 minutes) – it is abruptly over just when the reasonably absorbing thriller aspect starts to kick in. Suzanne Love (Mrs Lommel) manages to give the film a great deal of warmth and vulnerability in the scenes showing her hesitant struggle to regain her faculties.

Ulli Lommel has directed a large number of genre films. These include:- Haytabo (1971), The Tenderness of the Wolves (1973), The Boogey Man (1980), Olivia/Double Jeopardy (1981), Boogey Man II (1982), The Devonsville Terror (1983), Strangers in Paradise (1984), Identified Flying Object (1985), Bloodsuckers (1998), Zombie Nation (2004), The Raven (2006) and The Tomb (2007), as well as a subset of these that exploit often very loose connection to true life serial killers with B.T.K. Killer (2005), Green River Killer (2005), Killer Pickton (2005), The Zodiac Killer (2005), Black Dahlia (2006), Cannibal (2006), Borderline Cult (2007), Curse of the Zodiac (2007), Baseline Killer (2008), Dungeon Girl (2008), Killer Nurse (2008), Son of Sam (2008), Nightstalker (2009), D.C. Sniper (2010) and Manson Family Cult (2012).

Trailer here

Actors: , , , , ,
Themes: , , ,