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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Overdrawn at the Memory Bank'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'Overdrawn at the Memory Bank' - 1985, Directed by Douglas Williams

This movie is apparently part of the 'American Playhouse' series; a PBS program featuring made-for-TV movies that aired from the mid-80's to the early 90's. Although some of their releases are 'classics' of the TV movie genre (if there are such a thing), this is NOT one of them.

That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable, it is just extremely silly. For one thing, it definitely has that 'TV movie' look...which I would define as being CLOSE to a 'real' movie, but not quite there. It was clearly filmed in some TV studio, and the acting is very hammy. But, being a sucker for anything vaguely cyberpunk, I gave it a shot anyways.

So, it's your classic dystopian story...a guy decides to fight against a totalitarian system after being stuck in a useless job. It even borrows the idea of a person becoming a purely computerized personality, and wreaking havoc from within a computer system. What was interesting, however, is that the basic plot is that a computer technician gets in trouble for watching movies ('cinemas') while he's supposed to be working, which is an eerily current scenario considering the release date of the film.

In this version of the future, though, movies have been banned for being counterproductive. And, instead of being fired, the man (Aram Fingal) is sentenced to 'mandatory rehabilitation' which involves having his personality transferred digitally into an animal's body(!). This struck me as quite an interesting concept for a low-rent TV movie, and led to a whole lot of stock footage of gorillas.

Predictably, Novicorp (the all-seeing, all-everything company where Fingal 'works') loses his body, and he gets trapped in their computer system. He has to be recovered before the 'memory cube' deteriorates, losing his personality for good.

The one qualm I have with the movie is that it definitely overdoes references to Casablanca. I guess it ties in with the Aram getting in trouble for watching movies, but nonetheless, one reference would've been fine.

Regardless, this is inoffensive 80's sci fi fun with a few genuinely strange scenes. It's definitely silly, but without being a total waste of time.

...and you can watch it NOW:

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.