September 17, 1984 12:00 PM

Anyone who has ever wished it were possible to videotape dreams and keep them to view at leisure should appreciate this compact, imaginative fantasy thriller. Dennis (The Right Stuff) Quaid plays a psychic who makes his living by betting on horses. Then he gets shanghaied into a research project that involves sending people who are awake into the dreams of those who are asleep—via telepathy. Max von Sydow is the relatively benevolent scientist heading the project, but Christopher Plummer, as the head of a supersecret government agency, sees the research as a possible weapon. All of this could have done nothing more than remind people of the 1940s song popularized by Artie Shaw and Hot Lips Page, Take Your Shoes Off, Baby (And Start Running Through My Mind). But the effects and hysterics are kept so well under control by director Joseph (Joyride) Ruben, and the film is so well acted, that it is easy to muster 98 minutes’ worth of suspended disbelief. Quaid is especially engaging. He works up some nice romantic byplay with Kate (Indiana Jones) Capshaw; their love scenes are old-fashioned, which is to say clothed, yet sexy nonetheless. Plummer adds sublime villainy as the spymaster with the smile and heart of a crocodile. The attempts to portray what a dream would look like from the outside are intriguing too. This is not sheep-jumping-over-fences stuff, but Daliesque nightmares full of eerie light, smoke, endless caverns and strange creatures. Somebody connected with creating this film obviously has spent a few troubled nights. It may be going too far to have the climactic battle fought inside the nightmare of U.S. President Eddie Albert, who is being haunted by specters of a nuclear holocaust. In the old days the basic idea of this movie would have been condensed into a half-hour Twilight Zone. But this is a rare, modern science-fiction film: It neither insults the intelligence nor upsets the stomach. (PG-13)

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