It would probably be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I’m obsessed with trying to find 80s movies I’ve never seen before or even heard of. The problem with that is that some directors had such a large and varied output that you often find yourself watching something that was directed by either Niko Mastorakis or Ulli Lommel. The latter, in this case. But I was just going through a playlist on YouTube and found this, and enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t say it was good. It was made in that part of the 80s that was basically the 70s, so it had that 70s haze about it combined with the 80s insincerity that just makes most low budget movies from that era just wash over you. Maybe Lommel was trying to Say Something about unethical doctors experimenting on patients, but more likely he was just working on his pet theme of consciousness being transferred from one body to another. Which is right up my street. Ugh, I guess I have to write a synopsis.
A husband and wife in San Francisco are trying to conceive a child even though they already have a perfectly good one sitting right over there. But first the wife has to go out and get chocolate to put in the brownies, and since it’s San Francisco and we want to get a look at the city she’s going to walk. Only she’s going to walk out in front of a streetcar, twice, but not get hit. Nope, she’s going to step out from behind the second streetcar into the windshield of an actual car and end up in a coma.
And that’s where we realize someone has been reading too many Michael Crichton books, because the hospital where she is marinating in a nice balsamic dressing is also peopled by a coked-out Tony Curtis who hasn’t quite discovered his final form of waxing his brows to kingdom come but still scares the shit out of me. And he has discovered a way to transmit the brain of a dead person into a live person’s body using a computer. How does he do that? Well, it involves sticking a lot of cotton balls onto the recipient’s head. But it’s not really a brain that gets transferred, just some graph lines on paper using an old computer which we never really see.
The new problem is that the brain he’s using was from the body of a woman who was spectacularly murdered by a radio being dropped into her bathtub full of bubbles at the beginning of the film, and now the main character keeps remembering the murder every time she gets into her own tub full of scrubbing bubbles. There’s an easy solution here, and it’s stop taking fucking bubble baths because they serve no purpose other than to give you a UTI and murder flashbacks. But it’s the 80s, and we have to partially cover all horror movie boobs in soap for some reason.
So the husband starts running around trying to solve the mystery just so his wife can take a bath again, but because he’s an architect and not a detective he confronts the murderer in the clumsiest and most clueless way possible, and then somehow this murderer is completely on board with a woman who is a complete stranger having the memories of his victim and now he has to kill her too. Worst of all, most of the movie is spent watching people cook dinner, argue, and painstakingly do rehab to recover from a coma. So the pacing is mindblowingly bad and only part of the last act is spent on the murder memory plot.
Then why do I like this so much? Well, Keir Dullea as the husband is really likable. And I like Lommel’s other films just like this one in which his real-life wife Suzanna Love gets possessed by the memories of a dead person, The Boogeyman and The Devonsville Terror. All of these movies are just like spying on some selectively stupid people moving slowly about their lives, with a ghost or something. And because Love has a lot of money, they managed to rope real actors into these things, in this case Vera Miles, Dullea, Curtis, and Percy Rodrigues who you may know and love as the guy who voiced all the horror trailers in the 80s waaaaayyyy before the “in a world” guy came along. Who can explain it. This is objectively the most boring of the three Lommel movies I have mentioned, and yet I enjoyed the process of watching it. It has the right look and tone, and makes you feel like you’re in another world, similar in world-building and sheer inscrutability to another low budget movie I won’t name that was set in San Francisco and directed by a German guy.
I don’t know how to wrap this up. I remain very grateful that movies like Brainwaves are out there hanging around on YouTube for someone to find. I will say that there’s a song that figures into the movie, and the killer mentions that it was the victim’s favorite song, and when you hear it you will wonder who the hell was listening to that song. If you’re the type of person who likes to watch low budget movies with your soulmate and make smart remarks the whole time, this is a movie for you.