TNB Night Owl–Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

Maasdam Swiss cheese. Photo by Arz.

Sometimes a title just jumps out at you. Such is the case with the movie I originally wanted to write about–MICROSCOPIC LIQUID SUBWAY TO OBLIVION (1970). With a title like that, it had to be something worth watching and writing about. Unfortunately, the only copy available online is a horrible Greek-subtitled transfer on YouTube and random “copies of questionable origin” (aka bootlegs) for sale across the web. I haven’t ordered the bootleg yet, and I just could not make it through the warped visuals and audio of the streaming one. If you want to give it a shot, you can here.

This got me thinking of other crazy titles I’d heard of. First one to come to mind was CAN HEIRONYMOUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPEE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS? (1969). It’s a semi-autobiographical flick by songwriter Anthony Newley about an underappreciated songwriting genius and the undeserving people in his life. Newley wrote it, starred in it, directed it, produced it, and composed the music. It should come as no surprise that it was so self-indulgent I only made it through a half hour before having to turn it of. Not even Newley’s then-wife Joan Collins in the role of “Polyester Poontang” could save it (according to Collins, this movie was directly responsible for their divorce). If you want to watch it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Which leads us to this Friday’s movie: OVERDRAWN AT THE MEMORY BANK (1983). It first aired as an episode of PBS’s “American Playhouse” series, was based on a John Varley short story, and starring Raul Julia. It could have been great. And, compared to HEIRONYMOUS MERKIN, it was. But that’s like saying a root canal is better than having your foot amputated. The movie is of the dystopian automated future genre, where everyone is forced to conformity and stuck in front of computer screens. Our hero, Aram Fingal (Julia) gets busted for watching illegal “cinemas” at work (in this case CASABLANCA) and is forced to take a virtual reality vacation as punishment. His personality is cloned directly through his brain and locked in a plastic cube while he lives life as a virtual reality monkey.

That sequence was the most amusing part of the movie. They got a hold of stock footage from some sort of nature program which Julia narrates as if he’s living as the money. However, the animals end up eating fermented fruit, so their human hosts get drunk.

While this is all going on, an obnoxious kid on a visiting field trip switches Fingal’s name tag with someone awaiting a sex change operation so they lose him inside the system, while an Evil Capitalist Fat Man wants to kill him so his company can make more money. Can the lowly vacation operator save Fingal before its too late? Another question is, do we care?

The answer, probably not. None of the characters are particularly likable. When Fingal first learns his brain is trapped in a computer which can now become any world he wants, instead of saving himself and others, he uses his newfound powers to force a resistant co-worker to sleep with him. The rest of the characters are either spineless, pointless, or obnoxious. The cheap Commodore 64-level computer graphics were probably outdated even in 1983. The suspension of disbelief just asks for way too much from us.

Why do I recommend this title? As I said before, the nature sequence was vaguely entertaining and the movie’s not as bad as having your foot cut off. As an added bonus, there’s also a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring it.

Here’s the original version:

and the vastly superior MST3K version:

Question of the night–what’s the best title you’ve ever heard of?

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