Cast & Crew
Jim Grayam, a research analyst in California, rescues his boss's wife, Lorrie Benson, from a car stalled on a railroad track. He discovers that the accident was really a suicide attempt made because Cort Benson is so cruel to her. Lorrie, afraid to leave her husband out of concern for their child, starts an affair with Jim. Cort discovers the affair and also learns that Jim was once treated for mental illness. Cort attempts to avenge himself on Jim by framing him on charges made by Angie DeWitt, but police Sergeant Dawes spoils this attempt. Cort next takes advantage of Jim's mental history to convince others that Jim is going mad. Jim and Lorrie grow closer and evolve a plan whereby Jim will study the symptoms of mental illness and then pretend to be insane, finally murdering Cort. He will be able to plead not guilty at his trial by reason of insanity and after acquittal will be reunited with Lorrie. The plan works up to a point; Dr. Larstadt agrees that Jim is insane, but after the trial she refuses to release him from institutional care. Jim cannot adjust to the asylum, and when he finds out that Lorrie has another boyfriend, he goes completely insane.
Lawrence B. Marcus
M. A. Merrick
Jean Burt Reilly
Charles W. Short
William A. Thompson
James T. Vaughn
At one time the voice of Marshall Matt Dillon for the radio run (1952-1961) of Gunsmoke prior to its long tenure (1955-1975) as a network TV series, Conrad was by this time dividing his time between acting assignments (including voiceovers for the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle) and helming episodes of Route 66, Have Gun, Will Travel and 77 Sunset Strip. He directed his first three features in quick succession; Two on a Guillotine, My Blood Runs Cold and Brainstorm were all released between January and May 1965. Conrad's films for Warners followed a basic template, triangulating a pretty blonde (Connie Stevens, Joey Heatherton, Anne Francis) and an appealing leading man (Dean Jones, Troy Donahue, Jeffrey Hunter) with a considerably older character actor (Cesar Romero, Barry Sullivan, Dana Andrews). Though she remains off screen more than on, Francis is the key to Brainstorm, in the role of a seemingly fragile heroine whose psychological complexities are revealed through the planning, execution and aftermath of a crime of passion.
Brainstorm had been announced in the Hollywood trades as early as January 1962, at which time producer Gordon Kay and director Harry Keller owned the property, with Robert Taylor attached, presumably in the Dana Andrews role (Taylor's own series, The Detectives, was wrapping up its three season run on ABC at the time). When Variety reported the sale of Larry Marcus' original script to Warners in October 1964, Larry Cohen was announced as screenwriter. (Then a writer-for-hire with some episodes of The Fugitive to his credit, Cohen would create the like-minded The Invaders for ABC and direct such cult films as It's Alive! (1974), God Told Me To (1976) and 1982's Q: The Winged Serpent.) Shortly thereafter, Cohen was out and the shooting script was credited to science fiction and mystery writer Mann Rubin. By then, Brainstorm's principal players were in place. Director Conrad had worked with Francis and Hunter on episodes of Warners' Temple Houston series (which also lasted a single season). Francis had appeared onscreen twice before with Dana Andrews, in The Crowded Sky (1960) and The Satan Bug (1965), while fourth-billed Viveca Lindfors had supported Hunter's dreamy Jesus Christ in Nicholas Ray's King of Kings (1961) as the wife of Roman prefect Pontius Pilate.
The Old Home Week ambiance of shooting Brainstorm on the Warner lot in Burbank (and on location at a computer facility owned by the Bunker Ramo Corporation in the San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park) made for a pleasant work experience for Anne Francis, who had just divorced her second husband. (Already the biological mother of one daughter, Francis would adopt another girl in 1970 but remained unmarried up until her death from pancreatic cancer in January 2011.) In a career-spanning interview with Tom Weaver conducted in the 1990s, Francis had nothing but praise for William Conrad, whom she short listed as "one of the brightest directors I've ever worked with in my life... Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant." Paired with the British import The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (1965) for theatrical play dates in the United States, Brainstorm garnered mixed reviews from the critics, with the balance of the notices weighted toward the negative. Dissenting voices included Variety, which proclaimed the production "a smash suspenser," and Film Daily, which trumpeted a "thriller with mass appeal."
Though Warner Brothers gave Brainstorm only a standard theatrical roll-out, studio ballyhoo was going great guns in press releases promising to knock viewers off their rocker "with (the film's) high-tension thrills, whirlwind climaxes and startling ending." The Warners publicity machine seemed to see in William Conrad a potential rival for Columbia's William Castle. "Produced and directed by William Conrad," trumpeted one studio announcement, "Brainstorm is his third hit chiller in a row and tops the thrills of Two on a Guillotine and My Blood Runs Cold. It definitely establishes Conrad as filmdom's Sultan of Shock." Disappointingly, Conrad's promise as a fright-maker went unfulfilled and he never again directed another feature. His gravelly voice was, however, used to good effect for the 1973 children's album Spirits and Spooks for Hallowe'en Summoned by William Conrad and as the narrator of Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, which lasted for just seven episodes on NBC in 1977.
Producer: William Conrad
Director: William Conrad
Screenplay: Larry Marcus (story); Mann Rubin
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Art Direction: Robert Smith
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: William Ziegler
Cast: Jeff Hunter (Jim Grayam), Anne Francis (Lorrie Benson), Dana Andrews (Cort Benson), Viveca Lindfors (Dr. Elizabeth Larstadt), Stacy Harris (Josh Reynolds), Kathie Brown (Angie DeWitt), Phillip Pine (Dr. Ames), Michael Pate (Dr. Mills), Robert McQueeney (Sgt. Dawes), Strother Martin (Mr. Clyde).
by Richard Harland Smith
Anne Francis: The Life and Career by Laura Wagner (McFarland & Company, 2011)
Anne Francis interview by Tom Weaver, They Fought in the Creature Features (McFarland & Company, 1995)
Dana Andrews: The Face of Noir by James McKay (McFarland & Company, 2010)
Voices from Home: An Inner Journey by Anne Francis (Celestial Arts, 1982)
Copyright length: 105 min. Location scenes filmed in the San Fernando Valley and at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California.
Released in United States Spring May 5, 1965
Completed shooting February 19, 1965.
Released in United States Spring May 5, 1965