The Terminal Man (film)

The Terminal Man is a 1974 film directed by Mike Hodges, based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It stars George Segal. The story centers on the immediate dangers of mind control and the power of computers.

The Terminal Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Hodges
Produced byMike Hodges
Written byMike Hodges
Based onThe Terminal Man
by Michael Crichton
StarringGeorge Segal
Joan Hackett
Richard A. Dysart
Donald Moffat
Michael C. Gwynne
William Hansen
Jill Clayburgh
CinematographyRichard H. Kline
Edited byRobert L. Wolfe
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 19, 1974 (1974-06-19)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States


Harry Benson, an extremely intelligent (IQ 144) computer scientist in his 30s, suffers from epilepsy. He often has seizures that induce blackouts, after each of which he awakens to unfamiliar surroundings with indications of violent behavior on his part. He also suffers from delusions that computers will rise up against humans.

Benson suffers from Acute Disinhibitory Lesion syndrome and is a prime candidate for a psychosurgical procedure known as "Stage Three". Stage Three requires surgeons to implant electrodes in his brain, which will detect the onset of a seizure and then use an electrical impulse to stop it. The surgery initially appears to be a success.

Benson's psychiatrist, Janet Ross, is concerned that once the operation is complete, Benson will suffer further psychosis as a result of his person merging with that of a computer, something he has come to distrust and disdain. Two days after the operation, it becomes apparent that his brain is now addicted to the electrical impulses. The seizures are initiating at increasingly short intervals. When they become continuous, Benson will be in a permanent blackout, with the violent behavior that goes with it.

Just before Ross realizes what is happening, Benson escapes from the hospital. He does become unpredictably violent, but his intact intelligence allows him to evade the police for a considerable time, at one point confronting Ross in her home.



Crichton was originally hired to adapt the novel himself, but Warner Bros. felt he had departed from the source material too much and had another writer adapt it.[1] "I don't think they [Warner Bros] gave it a chance," said Crichton later.[2]

When preparing the film, Hodges originally wanted to shoot in black and white but the studio would not let him. The shape rather than the tone of the film was influenced from another source. “The American painter Edward Hopper was relatively unknown here in those days. I certainly had never heard of him. Something made me pick up a book of his paintings in Pickwick's bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard. I opened it and there was my film. There was the loneliness of urban America on every page. I can remember snipping my film down to match the loneliness that Hopper had captured."[3]


The Terminal Man, though not released in the UK, was successful in Japan and, according to Hodges, it was dumped when it came to US screenings. "We had one terrible preview. They projected it without sound for the first 10 minutes, which was excruciating. American audiences found the film too uncompromising, too tough to take. The reviews were dire. I think people had a problem accepting George Segal in the lead role. At that time he was known as a light comedian, but I wanted him for the film. I liked the fact that it was unusual casting. He is terribly good in it and, now that his career is not too top heavy with comedy, you can see him purely as an actor – and a good one."[3]

Nora Sayre gave the film a negative review in The New York Times, describing it as dull and slow: "George Segal's resilience, humor, and versatility have redeemed quite a few bad scripts. But this role gives him little chance to act, beyond making like a Zombie and rolling his eyeballs back..."[4]

Stanley Kubrick was also a Hodges admirer – “Any actor who sees Get Carter will want to work with him.”[5]

When Mike Kaplan, a Warner Bros international marketing executive, attempted to override Warner Bros' decision not to release the film in Britain, he sought Kubrick’s help. After explaining the situation, and how the film required a different marketing campaign, Kubrick interrupted with, “I’ve already seen it and it’s terrific.”[5]

The director Terrence Malick wrote to Hodges expressing how much he loved watching The Terminal Man, saying "I have just come from seeing The Terminal Man and want you to know what a magnificent, overwhelming picture it is. You achieve moods that I’ve never experienced in the movies before, though it’s only in hope of finding them that I keep going. Your images make me understand what an image is, not a pretty picture but something that should pierce one through like an arrow and speak in a language all its own."[5]

Alternate versions

On its release at the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival, there was a "director's cut", which Hodges edited himself by removing the self-contained opening expository scene of the doctor looking at photographs of Harry Benson (production studio notes had insisted the scene would give the audience “someone to root for.”).[5]

See also


  1. Owen, Michael (January 28, 1979). "Director Michael Crichton Films a Favorite Novelist". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  2. Gorner, Peter (June 24, 1987). "An author of pleasurable fear: Michael Crichton takes fiction where you wouldn't want to go". Chicago Tribune.
  3. Mike Hodges (Pocket Essentials: Film) Mark Adams
  4. Sayre, Nora (June 20, 1974). "Segal Heads the Cast of 'Terminal Man'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  5. Kaplan, Mike (March 22, 2013). "Encounters With Mike Hodges' The Terminal Man Via Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and Terrence Malick". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
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