Suspect Device (1995)

A young man wakes from a nightmare about masked men murdering everyone in his office to find everyone dead.  When he calls his emergency number, a team of assassins try to kill him.

His wife doesn’t know him, his friends all seem to be working for whoever is trying to get him, and his bullet wounds heal rapidly, pushing the bullets themselves out!

As I have noted before, while Roger Corman’s early films — even those he merely produced — all seem to have some quirk that lifts them out of the ordinary, by the Eighties and Nineties they had become increasingly routine.

By the mid-Nineties, he still hadn’t reached anything like the current depths of his endless cycle of SyFy Originals with various oversized critters, and could still turn out a few interesting films here and there.

However, this one isn’t too far from his later SyFy (and SciFi) work as it was the first of the Roger Corman Presents films he did did for Showtime, which were made on a budget even he would describe as cheap and on a tight schedule.  But after a start that suggests something a little more routine — a brainwashing thriller, perhaps, or a super soldier story like Universal Soldier or 1991’s Timebomb — it takes an unexpected turn and goes off into stranger territory.

Unexpected, that is, unless you watched the trailer.  Which, yes, reveals the twist we only learn about an hour into the film!

Now I’m a little amused by IMDB’s suggestion that this one is a remake of Three Days of the Condor.  There are a few broad similarities, with the hero on the run from assassins with a kidnapped girl in tow, but Three Days of the Condor has no secret research programs, no weird twist in the last reel, and Robert Redford doesn’t have to fight superpowered cyborgs.

However, there is a lot stronger resemblance to a certain short story by Phillip K. Dick, strong enough (and weird enough) that I’m surprised no one sued.

C. Thomas Howell, after a promising start as a teen actor, ended up doing a lot of cheap SF back in the Nothings, although lately he seems to have graduated to slightly better material — and a lot of TV work.  He brings a certain likable vulnerability to his character, who is more “average guy” than the bulked out Schwarzenegger or Lundgren we might expect.  About the only other (mildly) noteworthy actor on board is Stacey Travis, who battled an out of control battlefield robot five years earlier in Hardware.

What is true, however, is that this one is a solid piece of B Movie entertainment, made with a certain amount of proficiency and a few interesting twists.  It isn’t great art, but then, we knew that when we saw Roger Corman’s name, now didn’t we? (well, except for that package of great foreign films he released to art house theaters back in the Seventies and Eighties.  But that’s another story).

So add this one to your midnight movie marathon and you won’t be too terribly disappointed.

Unless, of course, the popcorn runs out.

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