THE TERMINAL MAN
In most of the above-listed Michael Crichton films of the 1970s/80s, either Crichton or the director attached has adopted a singular look that of a white, clinical antisepticism that seems to completely alienate the humans within the frame. In The Terminal Man, Mike Hodges does the same with a deliberate effect that becomes chilling. The operation where the surgeons are decked out in what seems like spacesuits and diving gear could almost be taking place in a far-flung future. Hodges even stacks the dehumanisation to the extent of having all the doctors in the film played either with a superciliousness or a cool aloofness, while George Segal, their helpless pawn, is allowed to give the only warm and human performance in the film. There is one unnerving shot with power drills and wires being inserted into Segals head where Mike Hodges then pulls back and has one of the doctors address a question to Segal where we suddenly realise that he is still conscious. The eeriest scene in the film is one where Joan Hackett sits interviewing George Segal while behind a mirrored window technicians activate the various implant nodes and are able to induce tastes, bladder relief signals, childhood memories and even make Segal come on to Hackett a scene that is disturbing in its implication that all human behaviour can be reduced to a series of electrical impulses.
Unfortunately, Mike Hodges makes a major mistake. The antiseptic clinicism, while making a striking effect in the first half of The Terminal Man, ends up stifling it in the second. While it makes startling point to deck the hospital out in pure white-on-whites, Hodges makes the mistake of dressing the real world scenes in exactly the same way. All the apartments are clean, futuristic and dehumanised with the inhabitants improbably wearing white negligees and robes there is no humanity there for the monster unleashed by science to ravage. Where The Terminal Man should have been a tense and exciting thriller as we watched sciences Frankensteinian creature loosed in the real world, the effect of letting it take place inside ultra-clean apartments is to stifle a potentially intense thriller. The film was not a major success, never receiving a proper cinematic release in the UK. The Terminal Man is one film that would be well served by a modern remake.
Other films adapted from Crichtons books include:- the extra-terrestrial virus film The Andromeda Strain (1971); Jurassic Park (1993); Rising Sun (1993), a superior adaptation of Crichtons blatantly racist book about Japanese business practice; Barry Levinsons adaptation of Disclosure (1994), Crichtons novel about sexual harassment, which contains some sf elements; the lost world film Congo (1995); The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997); Levinsons underrated Sphere (1998) about the investigation of a crashed UFO; John McTiernans The 13th Warrior (1999), an historical epic about the meeting between Vikings and Neanderthals; Richard Donners dull adaptation of Crichtons Timeline (2003) about time travel to Mediaeval France; and the tv mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain (2008). Michael Crichtons other works as director include: Westworld (1973) about an android amusement park that goes amok; the medical conspiracy thriller Coma (1978); The Great Train Robbery (1979) about a Victorian train heist; Looker (1981) about virtual models; Runaway (1984) about a police force to stop amok robots; and the courtroom thriller Physical Evidence (1989). Crichton also created the hit hospital drama ER (1996-2009) and wrote the original screenplay for Twister (1996) about tornado chasers.
British director Mike Hodges first made distinction with the original Get Carter (1971). Mike Hodgess other genre films are the script for Damien: Omen II (1978) (which he was originally set to direct), the remake of Flash Gordon (1980), the genre parody Morons from Outer Space (1985) and the superbly underrated clairvoyance thriller Black Rainbow (1989). For television, Hodges has also made The Healer (1992) about a faith healer and Murder By Numbers (2004), a documentary about the screen portrayal of serial killers. Hodges also co-wrote the afterlife film The Breakthrough/The Lifeforce Experiment (1994).