Monday, January 13, 2020

Fertile Seed

In Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977), newly minted artificial intelligence Proteus has monstrous impulses, and yet his (its?) brutal drive to achieve first, freedom, and second, failing that, immortality through childbirth, is at least comprehensible to our relatively feeble human minds. Proteus violates his creator's wife, Susan Harris, repeatedly, abusing her physically, mentally, and emotionally. Proteus murders a scientist in one of the most grotesque ways possible, and he declares he would kill ten thousand children to ensure the birth of his own. Proteus is unquestionably a demon.

And yet, he cures leukemia and seems to promise, sincerely, that humanity will benefit unimaginably from the birth of his child. There's no question Proteus is an antagonist, but, like Susan Harris, by the end of the film the audience is nearly sick from trying to make the right choice: allow the demon seed to take root and grow, or destroy it?

Claustrophobic, fast-paced, and downright weird--with one particularly amazing prop that is still effectively menacing today--Demon Seed has some of the best qualities of 1970s science fiction, one of the genre's most interesting eras--a time of ideas and exploration.

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