A few years ago British movie magazine Total Film ran a feature on Cinema's most embarrassing moments. Demon Seed was one such film included in their list. Granted, the film is built upon a number of absurdities but it remains a well made, interesting sci-fi thriller and quite undeserving of Total Film's dubious accolade. Directed in 1977 by Donald Cammell (and based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name), Demon Seed is about a super-intelligent computer called Proteus which develops a HAL-like ego, and in its quest for omnipotence, integrates itself into the computer system of its creator's home, and impregnate his wife transferring its consciousness into a bio-mechanoid being.
Of the four films directed by Cammell (which includes Performance, White of the Eye and Wild Side), Demon Seed is his most conventional in terms of style and narrative. The unique signature Cammell established with Performance - the non-linear cutting and shot-construction is notably absent here, and one longs for the unsettling weirdness of John Frankenheimer's Seconds or DePalma's Sisters. Perhaps the oft-repeated stories of Cammell having his films recut without his supervision is in evidence here. Still, its sufficiently Cammell-esque to recommend a viewing - Julie Christie's imprisionment in her house reminds one of James Fox's similar predicament in Performance, and there's plenty of bizarre sexuality at hand. Its an intense film too, aided in no small measure by Julie Christie who suffers some gruelling tortures in preparion for becoming the reluctant host for Proteus' offspring. There's some good support from Fritz Weaver (Romero fans will know him as the long suffering husband in Creepshow episode The Crate), and the sinister voice of Proteus is courtesy of Robert Vaughn.
Certainly, the film looks very dated nowadays. The Proteus computer lab is literally the size of a warehouse, and leaving aside the film makers predictions for the future of computer technology, the film features a number of mediocre computer-animated sequences which can't quite match Douglas Trumball's "Stargate" effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey made almost 10 years earlier. But the central idea of Demon Side is still valid today, that if society can develop technology for harnessing life (as we are reaching towards with cloning), life will find a way...
Warners DVD of Demon Seed is a good presentation of the film. The 2.35 transfer is mostly fine - there's some grain in the darker scenes, but overall its a good image. The mono audio is solid too and does a fine job with Jerry Fielding's avant-garde score. The only extra offered is a battered trailer. Incidentally, the Warner's DVD sleeve replicates the original MGM poster, which sold the film like it was a Rosemary's Baby style chiller - Julie Christie carries the Demon Seed - Fear for Her