Film Review: The Lathe of Heaven

I remember hearing about LATHE OF HEAVEN many years ago. It was broadcast on PBS back in 1980, and was actually the first production effort for WNET/Channel 13. It was alleged to be very tough to find until it was released on DVD several years ago, and I’ve finally gotten the chance to see it.

Based on a novel by noted science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin, it focuses on George Orr (Bruce Davison), a man plagued by his dreams in a somewhat dystopian future. For when he dreams something it often turns out to come true, a very powerful and potentially dangerous gift. He goes to see a dream specialist named Dr. William Haber (Kevin Conway), who realizes how lucrative and limitless the possibilities are. In the guise of helping to “cure” George of his “problem”, Dr. Haber turns him into his slave, making him will up grandiose solutions to the world’s problems, only to find that these solutions cause even more crises. Dr. Haber isn’t a bad man, but he is certainly misguided! Attorney Heather LeLache (Margaret Avery) is drawn into this inner circle when she comes to observe the increasingly higher stakes therapies, and falls in love with (or at least grows sympathetic towards) George.

Despite the limited budget of this production, it looks quite good as photographed by Robbie Greenberg, with clever use of futuristic looking buildings in Dallas TX. The special effects range from trippy to silly, but as someone who’s grown weary of slick CGI I do appreciate the optical and in-camera effects shown here, especially during a climactic laser lit showdown between George and Haber.

And I must mention the aliens. Yes, at one point aliens, no doubt drawn to Earth after witnessing several radical and frightening dream-scapings, arrive on the scene. And as featured in the last shot of the film they were the best source of comedy by far! I’ll never forget seeing George and Heather going to get a hot dog from an alien vendor, it was so cute and ridiculous I couldn’t stop laughing with joy! Ah, science fiction. The possibilities!

Viewed on June 13th 2012 on DVD in Fort Wayne IN

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