Thursday, September 9, 2010


In the DVD version of the The Lathe of Heaven, there is an introduction that precedes the start of the movie. It goes that in 1979, PBS produced a televised film version of the Ursula K. Le Guin novel of the same name, The Lathe of Heaven. Unfortunately, after its premiere on TV, the materials were lost forever and the film was in limbo for years. Finally, recovered was a videotape of the film and from this tape, the movie was carefully color corrected and refined into the current version on DVD. It is a poor edition of the film, and in this day and age, it might even turn some people off. However, the film itself is a masterpiece, and perhaps the best televised film ever made.

Set in the near future, The Lathe of Heaven centers on a young man who attempts to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills. He is unsuccessful in his attempt and is sent to do mandatory therapy. While at the therapist, he reveals to his therapist that he attempted to commit suicide because he suffers because of a strange ability that he possesses. The ability? His dreams can change reality.

The author undoubtedly was inspired by classic sci-fi novelists and writers of the 1950s and 60s like Rod Serling and George Orwell. In fact, the main character’s name is George Orr.

Starring Bruce Davison as Orr, it is a chillingly brilliant sci-fi brain twister. A thoughtless remake was made for TV in 2002 starring James Caan and Lisa Bonet. The original 1980 version still stands as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.

The only flaws of the film are the special effects, which are admittedly sub par. But considering the film was produced in the late 70s, and had a modest budget to work with in the first place, you have to forgive the filmmakers for the laughable effects.

It is a film for thinkers. It is a film for outsiders. It is a film for science fiction fans. It is a film for people who enjoy movies that think outside of the box and offer more than just casual mindless entertainment.

I’ll end with an interesting trivia bit: The Lathe of Heaven was unseen for nearly two decades because of a copyright issue. In one scene, George Orr plays a record of The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends". The film was finally allowed to be rebroadcast when The Beatles' version of the song was replaced with one sung by a different vocalist.


  1. Anonymous11/01/2010

    Agreed. Not a huge budget, but overall great performances and the author of the book was very involved in making of this film. I actually saw it when it aired on PBS in 1980 and was quite literally stunned with the story. Even then I thought it was the best Sci-fi I had ever watched.

    Another good one you should watch if you haven't already is a 1985 New Zealand film called "The Quiet Earth". Great low budget sci-fi on nearly the same caliber of writing.

  2. Anonymous11/04/2010

    The thing about Lathe of Heaven is, it was a TV movie. Not too many TV flicks see the light of day after its original broadcast.