Android (1982) Retrospective

SUMMARY
In 2036, an android named Max 404, and his creator, Doctor Daniel, reside aboard a remote space station. Although Max is a machine, he has a growing interest in all things human, especially sex. After Daniel starts to notice Max’s character is changing, Max eavesdrops on the doctor’s report that Max’s growing insubordinate behavior could lead to a revolt similar to an incident back on Earth known as the “Munich Rebellion”, after which androids were outlawed. However, Daniel is illegally working on another android, Cassandra One, intended to be a superior machine and which has the form of a human female.

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Max receives a distress call from a ship that seeks repairs. Upon hearing the pilot’s female voice, Max excitedly permits them to land, not realizing that the ship is a prison transport and that the pilot, Maggie, and her associates, Keller and Mendes, are all escaped fugitives. Once aboard the station, the convicts settle in, posing as the transport’s crew (who had actually been killed during the prison break). Daniel becomes infuriated upon learning that Max allowed the ship to land and demands they leave immediately, but after meeting the attractive Maggie, Daniel invites her to have dinner.

Maggie joins Daniel but the dinner goes wrong when a jealous Max pranks the doctor with some embarrassing mischief, such as metal shot in the wine bottle, and cutting the doctor’s orchids. Daniel then asks Maggie if she would link up with Cassandra One in an attempt to transfer sexual experiences to the android. Learning that she would have to be sexually stimulated by the doctor during the procedure, Maggie declines the offer. Daniel becomes frustrated and demands Maggie’s help, but she makes a hasty exit. Returning to the lab, Daniel dictates a log report, again overheard by Max, that once Cassandra is ready, Max should be deactivated because of showing signs of the Munich Syndrome.

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While the criminals work on the ship, a TerraPol police cruiser arrives, having detected a still-active transponder on their ship, and contacts Max to inform them of their presence. Max denies that the fugitives are on board, even after checking the crew’s identity and confirming they are indeed escaped convicts. When the police demand permission to land, Max destroys their ship with a laser.

Max later tells Maggie that he knows she is a fugitive, but has saved her from the police, and asks that she take Max with her when she leaves the station. Maggie is unsure what to do, but later sneaks away from Mendes and meets Max in the lab for an intimate encounter. However, the two are interrupted when Cassandra activates, and Maggie is horrified when Cassandra reveals that Max is also an android.

Maggie returns to her quarters, but she is confronted by a furious Mendes, who demands to know where she wandered off to. When he notices her disheveled appearance and unbuttoned shirt, he begins to beat her. Keller interrupts and tries to stop Mendes, but he is knocked unconscious. Mendes then attacks Maggie again in her quarters. Later, when Keller awakens, he sees Maggie is dead and believes Mendes has killed her. He searches for him and finds him in a room of spare android parts. Mendes states there are enough parts to build an android of their own, but Keller attacks him from behind. The two struggle, but Keller is overpowered and Mendes kills him with a blow to the head.

Eventually Max arrives, suitcase in hand, at Maggie’s quarters, but finds her dead. Max returns to Daniel’s lab, where the doctor is already aware of the murder and has locked Mendes in the guest lounge. Daniel has Max sit in a chair and opens a panel on the back of his head to reprogram him for a new task, during which he tells Max that murder must be punished and Mendes is to blame. Daniel reprograms Max and sends him out to kill Mendes. In the meantime, more police ships arrive to forcefully board the station.

After killing Mendes, Max goes to Maggie’s room, touches her lifeless body, and finds a flashlight Dr. Daniel said had earlier been misplaced. Max now realizes that it was Daniel who had killed Maggie, not Mendes. Max returns to the lab, where Daniel has made sexual advances towards a now-completed Cassandra, who is resisting. Daniel asks Max to hold Cassandra, but when Max refuses to obey, Daniel begins to struggle with the two androids and eventually they rip off Daniel’s head, revealing that Daniel is also an android. Cassandra disposes of Daniel’s head in a trash chute and begins to reprogram Max. She tells Max they are not meant to obey the whims of men, and there are other androids on earth in hiding, and Cassandra has a plan to join them.

When the police arrive at the lab, Cassandra thanks them for coming to their rescue. Max is now dressed in a lab coat and posing as Dr. Daniel and Cassandra as the assistant. The two androids are escorted out by the police, who say they will take them back to Earth.

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DEVELOPMENT/BACK STORY
Android producer Mary Ann Fisher relaxes in her compact office on the lot and smiles. Android is her first cinematic “baby” after four years with the company and she’s quite proud. Beginning as Roger Corman’s assistant during the pre-production stages of Battle Beyond the Stars, Fisher moved to the studio facility during that film to oversee day-today production chores. She’s been there ever since. For her, Android is more than just a professional and personal turning point, it’s a new cinematic slant for her alma mater, New World.

Fisher wouldn’t reveal the budget of ANDROID, other than to say that Corman put up half the money for the film, with the other hall coming from independent financing. “We had access to resources that have accumulated here over the past three years,” she said, “so the picture will look more expensive than the actual dollar amount. All the stuff we’ve saved from our other space pictures has been altered and redressed to look brand new.”

“I feel like I’ve been getting ready to do this movie since I began working here,” she says. “Most of the people involved in this have been working here, in one capacity or another, since we opened this facility. Android is really being made from INSIDE New World. Even the story idea came from within the studio.

“The two writers, Don Opper and Jim Reigle, have worked on other New World pictures. Don was a carpenter on one movie. So was Jim. They’ve done different production jobs, too. When I stop to think about it, I’m amazed that this movie has gotten this far.

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“We had just finished Forbidden World last fall. The sets were still up and we were trying to figure out if we could do anything else with them. We knew Roger didn’t have any specific plans for them.

“Jim and Don came up with an idea about doing a film showing how androids related to human beings. They put together a treatment and I presented it to Roger. He wasn’t all that excited about it. So, we found some people who would invest in the movie along with Roger. The final deal we brought him was pretty attractive, financially.”

Corman agreed to take a chance on the little movie and took it under his New World wing. At that point, a director had to be found.

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“I always thought Aaron should be a director,” Fisher continues. “He first contacted me when I was Roger’s assistant. He was working on a PhD thesis on New World. Everyone was impressed with his knowledge of the company… including Roger. Roger wound up hiring him. Aaron came down to the studio as sort of a general production assistant during Battle Beyond the Stars. He ended up staying down here in various capacities. On each new movie, I encouraged him to move closer to directing.

“It worked out that this was the ideal project for him. Roger thought it would be a good idea, too.”

Lipstadt, reading the script, thought that Klaus Kinski would make an ideal lead scientist. He sent the script to the actor and, much to everyone’s delight, Kinski agreed to take on the role of Dr. Daniel, maker of androids, thus giving the movie an international name to top-line the cast.

The final hurdle, casting the lead android, was also solved in a fairly unique, in-house way. “Don Opper wrote the part with himself in mind,” says Fisher. “So, obviously, the ideal move would be to have him play the role of Max. Don has always been really fun to work with. When he was a carpenter he was always being crazy, making jokes and doing pantomimes. He’s a trained stage actor as well. It just seemed logical to star him in this movie. We convinced Roger…after a while.”

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“It’s really a movie about an android identity crisis,” says director Lipstadt. “You know, ‘Android Comes of Age.’ I hate to push any one point concerning the film and to have someone read this and try to pigeonhole the movie but, for me, this is almost a Chaplinesque kind of story.

“It’s set in futuristic trappings but the character is really an innocent who always seems to luck out because he has a good aura around him. By the very nature of his goodness, he winds up coming out on his feet. He’s not touched by the evil around him. Well, I take that back. He is touched when one of the characters dies but that’s the very nature of tragic comedy.”

A longtime New World buff, Lipstadt acknowledges that Android is a departure from the company’s formula exploitation pictures but adds, “It’s not really a contradiction of that formula as much as a reorganization. I think people were surprised, for instance, when we shot a key death scene with no blood and no close-ups. That’s very unlike New World.

“It also broke precedent,” adds Fisher. “Everyone was a little hesitant to change the established New World patterns. It was really hard to drive our story through. We had to stave off re-writes that would emphasize violence or sex. Fortunately, we didn’t have enough of it in the original story to justify that. The key elements in the plot have more to do with the characters than with violence. The characters have to carry the story, not the gore. That was a marked departure for us.

“We tried to make the picture look different as well. Our sets are atypical in terms of New World. They’re very clean. They’re uncluttered. We’ve always had sets that have been filled with bric-a-brac, very textured. You know, things that look like high-tech circuitry and paneling. We decided to try to get a graphic, colorful design that would really seem futuristic. Something that would back up the plotline.”

“In one sense, we’re being daring,” adds Lipstadt. “in another sense, we’re just trying to tell a good story.

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“That,” he laughs, “isn’t always easy, either. There was a series of technical problems during our second week that, although they had nothing to do with the movie per se, drove us crazy. It was a combination of camera, sound and lab mess-ups as well as injuries. We’re working pretty fast here and have a small budget. You have to stay on top of everything all the time. You expect an occasional handicap. But when they come every day of the week… gee…you really feel like shooting yourself.”

Co-art directors K.C. Scheibel and Wayne Springfield tossed out the high-tech trappings of “little parts and pieces and conduit aircraft rejects” along with the spray-painted egg cartons and MacDonald food trays opting for sets with a bold look. replete with solid colors. “I vowed there would not be one egg carton used,” added Schiebel, poking fun at FORBIDDEN WORLD’s supermarket space station interiors. “The production design of ANDROID is very different. We wanted to make a strong visual statement without too much detail-give it a high-class look on a cafeteria budget.”

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The miniature and special effects departments coordinated their work to assure a unified look to the film. Bill Conway is credited with supervision of special effects, and Jay Roth, designer and chic model builder, also did storyboards for the effects sequences.

*This is not a big effects picture, which allowed us to better concentrate on those effects that were important to the story.” explained technical director of special effects. Julia Gibson. The models are hard edged and clean, without gratuitous detail: a simple docking bay with windows; regulation military spacecraft; and the most complex one, a three-foot high solar-paneled, multi-leveled space station, “Basically, it is a condo in space,” said Gibson.

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Other planned effects include a rotoscoped sex manual, title sequences employing animation of two mini-android figurines that Max plays with, the “scanning” of a character who turns colors, and the usual computer print-outs, diagrams and graphics. Top-secret prosthetics work is being prepared by John Buchler.

The atmosphere prevailing on the set of ANDROID is one of hang. loose, cooperative professionalism: young men and women who are making a movie and having fun doing it. But will Lipstadt’s efforts get the green light from the official last word: Roger Corman? “I hope so,” Lipstadt sighed. “I think the fact he hasn’t been looking over my shoulder every day since shooting began indicates confidence in me.”

CAST/CREW
Directed by
Aaron Lipstadt

Produced by
Mary Ann Fisher

Written by
James Reigle
Don Keith Opper
Will Reigle

Music by
Don Preston

Klaus Kinski Dr. Daniel
Don Keith Opper Max 404
Brie Howard Maggie
Kendra Kirchner Cassandra One
Norbert Weisser Keller
Crofton Hardester Mendes
Randy Connor Terrapol: Landing Party
Gary Corarito Terrapol: Neptune
Mary Ann Fisher Terrapol: Neptune
Julia Gibson Terrapol: Minos
Roger Kelton Terrapol: Landing Party
Darrell Larson Terrapol: Neptune
Ian Scheibel Terrapol: Neptune
Wayne Springfield Terrapol: Minos
Rachel Talalay Terrapol: Landing Party
Johanne Todd Terrapol: Landing Party

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Cinefantastique v13n02-03 (1982)
Starlog#063

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