Looker (1981) – Michael Crichton


I love when a movie I’ve never heard of at all comes along on the lists I am working through, and as I dove into the Sci-Fi Chronicles book today, I learned Michael Crichton’s films were next on the list. He only wrote and directed a few and this one is one of them, Looker, released in 1981, and I didn’t know a thing about it.

“Persuasion without coercion” is what James Coburn’s character John Reston calls television in this modern riff on the naked lady in the ice cube.

The film centers on beautiful models who undergo plastic surgery to add millimetres of perfection, murder, and plans to control the viewing public.

Albert Finney plays Doctor Larry Roberts, a cosmetic surgeon who finds himself caught up in a web of murder and conspiracy as well as some strange technology including a light gun that, like the advertising going on at Digital Matrix can put you into a hypnotic state, or simply cause you to black out.

Joining Finney is Susan Dey as Cindy, a beautiful model who wants just a little bit of work done to be a successful commercial actress. The suggested work is brought to Roberts who learns that three of the women he previously worked on are now dead, and Cindy may be next in line!


While Crichton may not have been the best director, he’s always been a competent and fun storyteller marrying possible science with a rapid-pace plot, and while the look and gadgets may be fairly dated it’s an interesting tale. In fact I think this one would make a prime remake.

Finney is convincing as the unlikely hero, and Dey is as lovely as ever and while there are a few moments where she could be portrayed as the damsel in distress she looks out for and takes care of herself.

Despite Coburn’s villainous turn, the real enemy is television, as he and his cohorts simply exploit it to get their message and their control out to the public.

Tim Rossovich, recognizable as the baddie in dozens of 80s television programs serves as Reston’s muscle and wields the light gun that causes so many problems.

The climax of the film takes place on a ‘high-tech’ grid with moving sets that computer generated actors are then placed into, which strikes me as weird because if they could create photo-real actors can’t they create photo-real sets?

I’d never heard of this one, and it ended up being a very interesting if dated looking watch, though the subject matter couldn’t be more relevant. Crichton told some great stories and made a few interesting films, and now I can check this one off the list.


One Comment Add yours

  1. John Reston says:

    Crichton’s primary message with Looker in 1985 – that light and imagery can be used buy faceless multinational corporations and political parties to manipulate society in diabolical ways could not be more trenchant today. While the original film seems like it was rushed the screenplay, it’s underlying theme and overarching message provide an outstanding remake option – given the right reimagining a second treatment if this script could finally achieve the commercial success it deserves.

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