Courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment, CultureMob is holding a very special Blu-ray giveaway package.  This month, the studio is offering HD upgrades of its catalog titles, including a sampling of its 1980’s science-fiction forays.  Post-Star Wars, most of the major Hollywood studios were scrambling to throw up similar attempts at space operas, usually with diminishing results (case in point: Disney’s The Black Hole).

What made Warner Bros. stand out was how the studio used this sci-fi trend to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.  Rather than ape the fantasy-sci-fi template, Warner went more hard sci-fi, looking to logic and reality instead of to lightsabers and Luke Skywalker.  Put it another way: if everyone else wanted to be Star Wars, Warner wanted to be 2001.

Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner is probably the most famous example of Warner’s work in this field, but it is not the only example, or even the best one.  In particular, three titles stand out (to me, at least): Altered States, Brainstorm, and Outland.

An adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s novel, Altered States finds the trippy “head” cinema of the 1960’s colliding head on with the science-fiction genre; it plays like the end of 2001 stretched out to two hours.  The film stars William Hurt (in his feature-film debut) as a scientist who believes that hallucinogenic drugs contain the key to our genetic makeup….and he quickly discovers how right he is, in the worst possible fashion.   Director Ken Russell gives Altered States the flavor of a screwball nightmare; the characters spout rapid-fire banter at each other and then transform into energy beings.  A great, loopy experience.

Brainstorm definitely takes inspiration from Altered States; like the earlier film (Altered States was released in 1980; Brainstorm in 1983), it deals with a brilliant-yet-tortured scientist (Christopher Walken, in a rare sympathetic performance) who finds a way to experience other people’s higher brain functions.  Brainstorm isn’t quite as preoccupied with the Big Questions like Altered States is – at a certain point, it jettisons the interesting moral questions that accompany experiencing another person’s most intimate mental recesses in favor of more rote conspiracy thriller material – but that lack of depth doesn’t matter, considering how terrific the special effects are.  Director Douglas Trumbull was also the head FX supervisor on 2001, and his work here is even more visceral and exciting.

Outland puts further emphasis on entertainment, though it never tips into Star Wars-esque pulp; director Peter Hyams’ creative spark comes not from the skies but from the Old West.  The setup is pure High Noon: a proud, decent space marshal (Sean Connery) discovers massive corruption on one of Jupiter’s moons, and he vows to stand against it, even as the corporation perpetrating the crimes sends an army of killers after him.  This Western-sci-fi hybrid is so much better than it should be – the effects are great, the action scenes are brutal and suspenseful, and Connery makes a wonderful Gary Cooper proxy.

And I have one Blu-ray prize package that includes all three films.  Yep – that’s three for the price of….well, of nothing, should you win the giveaway.  It’s very simple.  To qualify for the disc, email me at, put “Warner Bros Sci-Fi Blu-ray Giveaway” in the email subject line, provide your first and last name, and correctly answer the following question.

  • Altered States heavily inspired which of the following television shows (hint: both the film and the TV program feature Blair Brown)?
  • A) “Dollhouse”  B) “Fringe”  C) “Alcatraz”  D) “Lost”

I’m going to stop taking entries at 8 PM EST next week on Wednesday, July 18th, so get your answers in before then.  Only contestants within the United States and Canada are eligible, and entering the same name under multiple email addresses will get you disqualified.  P.O. box addresses will not be accepted.  If you win the giveaway and send me a P.O. box, you will be disqualified.

The winner will be informed privately on Thursday, July 19th.  For anyone who doesn’t win, the three Blu-rays street today – July 10th – and have Amazon listings HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Home Culture CultureMob Giveaway: Win Three Warner Bros. Sci-Fi Thrillers on Blu-ray