In one of his interviews, legendary TV producer Dan Curtis talked about how easy it was to produce a TV movie in the Seventies: he would pitch his idea to, perhaps, two people, and would get an answer on the spot.
The result was what seems to have been the Golden Age of the TV movie, with classics like The Night Stalker and Duel. True, there were a lot of duds, as well, but it also allowed a lot of creativity – and a few efforts so strange they would never have survived a huge committee.
Something similar seems to have happened on Cable in the Nineties. Perhaps they never produced anything in the same class as Duel, but one can point at some truly strange and unique offerings from HBO, Showtime and others, movies as odd as Cast a Deadly Spell, When Time Expires, and Carver’s Gate.
Menno’s Mind was a Showtime original, and it deals with many of the trendy ideas which were floating around at the time: virtual reality, downloading minds, and mind control. They even manage a few somewhat unique ideas, such as the notion of “The Resort,” a government-run virtual reality reward for those who’ve earned enough points for their work to get a chance to live out their desires. However, for the most part, this one explores the more familiar territory of a thriller. Even if, this time, the MacGuffin is the information downloaded into Menno’s Mind.
Still, it’s always fun to see a film loaded down with an iconic crew of SF actors, including The Rocketeer‘s Billy Campbell, Star Trek regulars, Michael Dorn and Robert Picardo, cult icon Bruce Campbell, and even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. himself, Robert Vaughn.
This isn’t a great movie, but it moves reasonably well, plays around with a few noteworthy SF ideas, and manages to stay interesting for the most part. You could do a lot worse, and it is entertaining in a modest sort of way.
Even if it isn’t The Night Stalker.
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