The Lathe of Heaven (1980)

Actors: Bruce Davison, Peyton E. Park, Niki Flacks, Kevin Conway, Vandi Clark
Fred Barzyk, David R. Loxton
Color, NTSC
Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs: 1
Run Time: 100 minutes

DVD Features:

  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Bill Moyers interview with Ursula K. Le Guin


Proof that good stories can survive almost anything you can throw at them, in this case a low budget and a bad DVD transfer.

Based on a novel of the same name by science fiction luminary Ursula K. le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven is a made-for-American-public broadcast TV movie first broadcast in 1980.

In a near future Oregon a man finds that whatever he dreams becomes true in the real world. One evening for example he dreams that his aunt was killed in a car accident, and the next morning the phone call comes that this has indeed happened! The young man's power is almost God-like in its scope: in one dream he dreams that it is a sunny instead of a rainy day, and indeed the weather clears up for the first time in several weeks.

Nobody seems to notice these abrupt changes however, except for the man's shrink, who decides to use the young man's powers to improve the world and under hypnosis suggests that his patient literally dream the world into becoming a better place.

The road to hell is however paved with good intentions as they say, and the dreams never have their desired effect. When the young man for instance imagines a world without any conflict, the Earth is invaded by aliens against whom the nations of the world then unite. Hardly the ideal solution . . .

THE DISC: Unfortunately the original film materials of this almost two-hours-long movie got lost and this belated DVD release consists of a new digital master created from the surviving 2? tape which was then color corrected. Unfortunately image colors still have that washed out look. The sound, while not great, is perfectly serviceable. However, a problem seems to have gotten in with the compression as the image quality never seems to transcend that of a VCD as some scenes are incredibly grainy and there are even motion blurs and trails whenever there are movement in any dark scenes.

Not much in the line of extras though: just an interesting fifteen minute long interview with author Ursula K. le Guin on whose novel the movie is based.

WORTH IT? The movie is well-acted and despite the low-budget makes some clever use of 1970s architecture. Even though it was only made in 1979, the movie feels much older - like some pre-Star Wars science fiction made in 1971 or even earlier. Part of the problem is some of the Logan's Run-style zipper costumes. The movie's strength however lies in its story, one which keeps one spellbound for most of the running time or at least towards the end when the movie lapses into obscurity and it is difficult to figure out just what exactly is going on.

RECOMMENDATION: Literary hard science fiction types who read a lot will find lots to appreciate as it is one of the few pure SF novels to have been diligently adapted to an audiovisual format. ?Seventies sci-fi geeks will love it to bits.



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