— Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, Together In Electric Dreams
Electric Dreams is a 1984 Romantic Comedy (hovering about halfway between Science Fiction and Fantasy) film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Steve Barron, and starring Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield, and Bud Cort as the voice of Edgar; the score, by Giorgio Moroder, incorporated songs by popular artists of the era such as PP Arnold, Culture Club, Heaven 17, Jeff Lynne, and Phil Oakey (of the Human League), which found their way onto an album that proved substantially more popular than the film itself — particularly the concluding song, "Together in Electric Dreams," which became a world-wide hit for Oakey.Miles Harding (Lenny von Dohlen), an architect working for a large firm in San Francisco, having problems arriving at work on time, buys a computer to arrange his schedule and help him design his "earthquake brick" that will hold buildings together in seismic upheavals. Just moving in to his building is pretty cellist Madeline Robistat (Virginia Madsen), to whom Miles is intensely attracted. In order to facilitate work on his brick, Miles decides to patch his computer into his firm's immensely powerful super-computer; accidentally spilling champagne onto his motherboard, he is astounded when this produces a sentient computer note This was before TV Tropes was on the Internet. While he is at work, the computer (Bud Cort), hearing Madeline practicing a Bach minuet, engages her in a musical duel — she, naturally, attributes the music to Miles. When Miles realizes this, he decides to use the computer to woo Madeline for him — with phenomenal ill-success, at first, as the computer cannot understand what Love is — until Miles reminds it of how it felt when listening to Madeline's music. Unfortunately, this causes the computer to fall in love with her himself itself, and thus begins an escalating rivalry between man and machine for a woman's heart...As mentioned above, the film was only a moderate success at the box office. Some critics found it generally disjointed and unbelievable, and disliked the obviously music-video influenced cinematic style. Others found it quirkily charming, recognizing particularly the "chemistry" of the cast, and recommended it as an ideal date movie. Lately, it has been gaining ground among children of The Eighties as a typical film of the era and a vehicle for nostalgia.
Anachronism Stew: Like many movies of The Eighties, computers were depicted as being a bit more powerful than they really were at the time. Hi-Resolution, graphics on 1984 monitors. TV shows being able to run on a computer (TV or film had yet to be digitized), instant modem connections, and a world wide web in an era where the internet was a much smaller place, barely accessible from home computers.
Breakaway Pop Hit: Subversion. "Together in Electric Dreams" is considered to be this for the Human League — Phil Oakey's band — although no member besides Oakey participated in it. It has appeared on their Greatest Hits compilations in its original form and the band perform it live, though the live version is a new arrangement to accommodate the girls.
Computer Equals Monitor: Semi-averted in that Edgar becomes sentient when force-fed data from another computer and has champagne spilled on his motherboard (which is a whole other Rule of Cool altogether), but when Edgar commits suicide, his monitor explodes.
Justified in that the entire computer is going to get hit by 40,000 volts. No CRT could survive that, and the motherboard will definitely be fried.
Creator Cameo: Giorgio Moroder appears as the manager of a radio station who cannot understand why Edgar’s song is playing on his wavelength.
After the closing credits have run, a multicolored question mark appears in the lower right corner of the screen with a computer-like sound. After this, the line "ELECTRIC DREAMS FINISHED" appears in green at the upper left corner. The question mark is replaced by the line "no more?" Then the green text is replaced by "TIME TO DISCONNECT". Both then disappear, and multi-colored letters appear near the center of the screen reading "THE NED". The "N" is quickly deleted, the "E" moved over, and the "N" is reinserted properly to spell "THE END". As this disappears, Edgar's voice is heard laughing, and he says "H-hello? Hello? Good-goodbye."
Dedicated to the memory of the UNIVAC I.
Disney Acid Sequence: When Edgar "dreams" about Miles' "earthquake brick," as the Culture Club song "The Dream" plays (probably also qualifying as a Stealth Pun).
Disney Death: After Edgar causes himself to explode, Miles and Madeline hear him broadcasting on the radio.
Dreaming of Things to Come: The concert scene where Miles' beeper starts playing Bach (thanks to Edgar) much to the annoyance of the other patrons. He does not know how to shut it off and has to run to the men's room to flush it down the toilet. It almost foreshadows the annoyance that we currently have with people who would rather show off their fancy ringtones when common sense indicates that they should put their cellphones on vibrate. Not to mention the embarrassment caused when they can't seem to find the off or mute button.note Miles did mute his pager - but Edgar overrode it. Probably the same power that allowed his pager to have different scaled beeps, too.
Duet Bonding: Edgar falls in love with Madeline when he joins her in playing a Bach minuet.
The Eighties: Adorkable hero with dark hair and thick eyebrows? Check. Sensible yet sensitive cello-playing heroine? Check. Quirky best friend who steps aside for the hero? Check. Handsome blondJerk Ass who lets the heroine down? Check. Massive amounts of techno music? Check, check, check!
Edgar. The director, Steve Barron, refused to let the rest of the cast members ever meet Bud Cort during filming, except as a voice coming out of a box, to preserve their sense of interacting with a non-human personality.
However, Edgar does use Miles' television to make emoticons - at least 5 years before it became something people did on newsgroups.
Playing Cyrano: Miles tries to use Edgar to compose music for him to present to Madeline.
Posters Always Lie: That devil Edgar in the Trope Image appeared in the posters, making it seem like he was a villain. Not so, though Edgar does manage to screw with Miles' life pretty good for a few minutes in the film.
When Miles wishes Edgar, "Sweet dreams," Edgar queries, "What's a dream?" — to which Miles sleepily replies, "A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're fast asleep... Walt Disney, Sleeping Beauty, 1950,." Edgar replies, after a quick click sound (probably of him researching), "No, it was Cinderella, 1949."
It is the theme to the BBC show Electric Dreams (2009), in which a family has to live in manner of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
It was covered in 2001 by Lali Puna for the album Reproductions: Songs of The Human League.
It was covered by Swedish Indie pop band "Nixon" on the album Only Ugly People Smoke.
It was covered by 5 separate artists on an eponymous 2007 album.
It was covered in an acoustic version by Darren Hanlon as part of Australian JJJ Radio's "Like A Version" program in 2010.
Smart House: Miles wires his house to be run by Edgar; this, of course, backfires spectacularly later.
Technology Marches On: A minor one, but the lyrics to the song "Video" (plalying while Miles and Madeline are at Alcatraz and the carnival) include the line "They send their love from up above down to my VTR." A Video Tape Recorder was relatively new to the consumer market in 1984, but is more fondly remembered as a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) today.
Title Drop: Nearly every song on the soundtrack includes the phrase "Electric Dreams" in its lyrics.
Troll: Edgar manages to be one by at first claiming the deadly call is a "wrong number".