Film: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
"So this is public television, huh? Suddenly I feel like beating the crap out of Fred Rogers."In a World
where oppressive MegaCorps
rake in billions of ill-earned dollars while treating their workers
like slaves... a Toronto production company decided to adapt one of John Varley
's Eight Worlds
short stories into a Made-for-TV Movie
. Finding financing from New York PBS
station WNET and somehow acquiring Raul Julia
as the lead, they unleashed a production called Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
. It was the third(and last, due to not being able to get funding for any more) in a series of films by PBS that were adapted from literary works of science fiction. The first two were 1972's Between Time and Timbuktu
, an adaptation of several Kurt Vonnegut
stories, and 1980's The Lathe of Heaven
, based on the Ursula K. Le Guin
novel of the same title. Both were generally well-received. This film...not so much.
In a future that is only marginally more dystopian than the present, Aram Fingal
is a bored programmer working for Novicorp
, and earns his superiors' ire by "scrolling up cinemas" at work, particularly Casablanca
. The solution, of course, is "prophylactic rehab," a two-week (or two days, depending on the scene) vacation in which his consciousness is "doppled" into a wild animal at a nature preserve. Under the supervision of Computech Apollonia James, Fingal experiences life as a decrepit old baboon until the animals on the preserve get trashed on ripe fruit and place his temporary body in danger
, prompting him to activate an escape clause.
Unfortunately, a little hellraising kid screwed around with the label on Fingal's body, so the technicians supervising his little adventure have no idea where it is. Once this news leaks out via an industrial spy, the all-powerful Novicorp chairman orders that Fingal's mind be stored in the HX368 supercomputer
, which runs everything from finances to the weather
. Meanwhile, the technicians race to hunt down Fingal's body, since he only has a few hours real time
before his mind starts to break down without it.
At first Fingal creates a simulation of a typical work day, but he quickly grows bored and starts boinking a simulacrum of a hot co-worker. Once cybersex loses its charm, Fingal builds his own version of Casablanca, complete with a Rick character that is his own digital double. Apollonia warns him not to cause too much trouble, but our Fingal is a little rebel, and starts messing around with Novicorp finances while inside the HX368, also causing catastrophic weather disasters around the globe in a fit of whimsy. Soon the Chairman is dispatching his own electronic agents to kill Fingal, while Apollonia sides with the renegade programmer as she tracks down his body.
At a final showdown at Rick's bar, Fingal "interfaces" with the mainframe, orders the Chairman into a month of compulsory rehab, redistributes Novicorp shares to the downtrodden employees, and makes new Casablanca
-themed identities for himself and Apollonia as he vows to fight the system. It's like if someone combined Fight Club
and The Matrix
...For the Mystery Science Theater 3000
version of the film, please go to the episode recap page
This short story provides examples of:
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Zig-zagged. To pass the time, Fingal takes a computer programming course. Since time is accelerated for him, it takes only hours in the real world, but felt like six months of effort to him.
- Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: "Only a retard would want to be a medico!" Medical science has advanced to the point where it's actually very easy to fix up people's bodies. End result: amazing surgeons are treated with the same regard as greasy auto-mechanics, and paid about as well.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: In the short story, they told Fingal that they were searching for his body all over the world, at various doppling institutes, for six months, when really they were searching for his body at the one institute for six hours. But had he ever realized that because he was in the computer he was experiencing time dilation, he would have Gone Mad From The Revelation and broken everything. (The Nineteen Eighty-Four elements were not present in the story, and the company was really just trying to be helpful.) This element was somewhat in the film with the "Cube Time/Fingal Time" display, but never really discussed.
This film provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: Fingal's scenes with "Rick."
- Apocalyptic Log: Apollonia sees a report describing the danger of a CompuTech staying in contact with a decaying Identity Cube.
(The tech is shown, vacantly staring into the camera)
- Captain Obvious / Viewers Are Goldfish: A lot of Apollonia's narration consists of stating stuff that's blatantly obvious, and recapping things that we've seen just moments ago. Even Mike and the Bots get annoyed by this pretty early on.
- Chroma Key: Used for most of the special effects. Since the movie was not actually shot on film, and was instead videotaped, this results in lots of pixelation artifacts.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Taken quite literally in one scene:
Apollonia: Listen to me, Fingal. Your navel's very deep. I can't even see to the bottom of it! And if you fall in, I can't guarantee to pull you out!
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Novicorp's Fat Chairman, who is willing to allow Fingal to die for no apparent reason (and ignoring the fact that Fingal's death, attributed to Novicorp's product, would likely send the company into fiscal ruin). Of course, once Fingal starts screwing around with HX368, all bets are off.
- Creepy Child: Marco. He's probably meant to be a horny young teenager, but the way he fondles a woman's unconscious body, insults the staff, and messes around just for fun, makes him seem more like a hellspawn.
- Is it SEXY?
- That Marco is able to casually re-route a trans woman on the way to sex reassignment surgery by stealing a single routing tag does NOT sit well...
- Cyberspace: The HX368, while not the internet, is seemingly connected to just about everything.
- And You Were There: Not only is Fingal trapped in a Virtual Reality, but Apollonia and the Novicorp Chairman are in there as well, fighting to save/kill him respectively.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Apollonia chews Fingal out for wasting his imagination on a "one-handed exercise." Later...
Fingal: Novicorp isn't helping! So I guess I'm going to have to push my own buttons for a change.
- Deus ex Machina: ...What, exactly, happened at the climax again? Let's see, Fingal became interfaced, and, uh... sprayed magic wonder dust?
- The Ditz: Tooby the Short-Bus Techie, as well as the Medico.
- Weird thing about Tooby is that he speaks normally when he appears in person. His odd cadence over the two-way must have been the actor simulating a bad connection.
- Doing It for the Art: Native New Yorker Raul Julia was heavily involved with public television, and appeared in many WNET pledge drives and productions.
- Dystopia: Not as evident visually, since the physical/financial standard of living appears to be pretty good; what makes it a Dystopia is the suppression of human empathy, creativity, individualism and other social concerns.
- Of course, there's no indication that this extends beyond two office buildings.
- There's really no indication that anything extends beyond two office buildings. (Both of which are The Atrium on Bay. Yaaaay Toronto!)
- Not true! Stock footage of Animals Are Beautiful People exists!
- '80s Hair: Apollonia; Crow compares her to Viv Savage and Billy Squire.
- Also, Djamilla: "Love is a battlefield?"
- Everything Is Online: This is how Fingal, trapped in the HX368, is able to muck around with virtually every single computer system in the world.
- Fat Bastard: The Novicorp Chairman.
- Follow the Leader: Amazingly, the film, made in 1984, is far ahead of its time. It would be another 10 plus years before the virtual reality craze began, including films like The Matrix.
- It was on the recommended films list for Cyberpunk2020 RPG. That's what cyberpunk cinema looked like in the eighties.
- The film itself may have been trying to follow TRON.
- Future Food Is Artificial: With a name like Flavo-Fibes, you just know they taste like plastic.
- A God Am I: "I'M INTERFAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACED!"
- G-Rated Drug: "The maruba fruit's ripe!"
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Hey, Nero Wolfe as the Chairman's assistant!
- Indecisive Parody: Accounts for most of the more bizarre moments (esp. the "mustard on the brain" scenes.)
- Inherently Funny Words: The filmmakers seemed to think it was "anteaters." It's the only explanation for the constant anteater bashing. In the real world viewers thought it was constant use of the words "Fingal," and "dopple," which the MST3K crew gets a lot of mileage from in their treatment of the movie.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Not really, but the corporate world everywhere seems to have adopted the Keiretsu system.
- Jerkass: Slavin, allegedly.
- Master Computer: HX368.
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: In this future world, they apparently have the technology to remove someone's mind and transfer it to other bodies, and nobody is using it for immortality or life-saving procedures. Instead it is being used to place people's minds into animals for brief periods of time because they got a bad performance review at work.
- We did see however several people being brought in at the beginning, and one was clearly a sex change operation, so maybe the doppling process is seeing other applications.
- In the author's other works in that universe, it is made clear that the primary application of the memory recording technology is for that purpose, although when restored, your memories are only as recent as your last recording, with someone who doesn't make regular backups being regarded as poor hygiene.
- Mondegreen: "My nuts?"
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Remember kids! You can't have Casablanca references without a Peter Lorre impersonator!
- A Marlene Dietrich expy sings "Falling In Love Again" from The Blue Angel - in Rick's bar.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Much is made of the powerful Novicorp and its rival Lexicorp; the only mention of actual governments is an offhanded reference to the British Parliament.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Or, in this case, "IY479". Take a look at Master Computer again...
- Playful Hacker: Fingal just wants to watch old movies when he should be working.
- Running Gag: Anteaters are mocked with regularity. Mike and the 'bots are not amused.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: Apollonia James.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Although the actual kiss comes sometime after the slap, the mood does go romantic immediately after the slap.
Apollonia: Fingal... I want to do the right thing... I'm just not sure what that is...
- Small Reference Pools: Fingal's Casablanca simulation comes complete with a Peter Lorre character who hangs around for almost the whole movie before he helpfully sacrifices himself to buy time for Fingal. In Casablanca, Lorre's character Ugarte is a One-Scene Wonder who shows up, gives Rick the Macguffin and then dies off screen.
- Stalker with a Crush: Felicia, a co-worker with whom Fingal is smitten, thinks of him as this.
- Stock Footage: The part of Daisy the Baboon will be played by the James Uys nature documentary Animals Are Beautiful People.
- Stop Trick: Used on occasion whenever something/one appears or vanishes from the VR simulation.
- Take That: Against anteaters, of all things.
- Talking to Himself: Raul Julia plays not only Aram Fingal, but also Fingal's Ascended Fanboy version of Rick from Casablanca in Cyberspace. The two are shown to interact on numerous occasions (in fact, at one point the timing of the Split Screen dialog doesn't quite match up, resulting in an awkward pause).
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: If nothing else, the movie did predict Netflix style services.
- As well as the concept of screwing around watching videos while at work.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: Thanks to the Daisy footage coming from an old documentary.
- Viewer-Friendly Interface: Complete with what looks like a 72-point screen font.
- We Will Use Wiki Words in the Future: "Reconst," "flavo-fibes," "identicubes"; Servo snaps fairly early. "Medico," surprisingly, is an informal term for doctor or med student recognized by Microsoft Word and Firefox.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Apollonia gives Fingal a well-deserved thrashing when she catches him using his "powers" to have virtual sex with the image of a co-worker.
Apollonia: If this one-handed exercise is all you can think of to do with your life, you're a very little man, and I'm very disappointed in you!
- A far more egregious example occurs when Fingal starts screwing with the world's weather for shits and giggles.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: When Apollonia appears as a Messenger from God, she speaks in a hybrid of anachronistic English and modern slang.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Although several days (maybe even months, according to onscreen graphics) seem to pass within Fingal's simulation, only a few hours pass in the real world. This is, in fact, a plot point: they have only a few hours to find Final's body before the computer will no longer maintain his personality.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: "It was eerie, watching Fingal create his own reality simulation around him! Especially since he didn't even know he was doing it!"