Film: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
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:
- Easy Sex Change: One of the staples of Varleyverse; people are actually considered a bit weird if they don't at least try out both genders at least once, and it only takes a few hours to complete. So Fingal's really, REALLY lucky he got his body back unchanged...
- 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 1984 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:
- 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 actually on the recommended films list for the Cyberpunk2020 RPG. That's what cyberpunk cinema looked like in the eighties.
- Future Food Is Artificial: With a name like Flavo-Fibes, you just know they taste like plastic. Not to mention Reconst, a drink whose name just screams "I'm made of faecal matter!" note
- G-Rated Drug: "Marula Fruit" (called "maruba" in the film, for some reason), which apparently makes the animals used by the dopplers drunk. note
- Indecisive Parody: Accounts for most of the more bizarre moments, for example the Creepy Children who almost get mustard on someone's exposed brain.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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". It gets worse. Once the Chairman learns Fingal knows the password, he changes it to something extremely stupid:
Fingal: Wait a minute! Why didn't I think of that before. Its so simple. Reverse the access code. He probably thought I'd never try something so simple.
- Playful Hacker: Fingal just wants to watch old movies when he should be working.
- Pragmatic Villainy: In a scene deleted from the MST version, The Chairman decides to immediately terminate Fingal and send his family a telegram and a bouquet, but he's talked into retrieving Fingal instead when Appolonia points out that letting someone die as a result of doppling would shake consumer confidence in NoviCorp's products so severely that it could bankrupt the company.
- Running Gag: Anteaters are mocked with regularity.