Filmsite Movie Review
Sleeper (1973)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Miles' Disguise as a Robotic House Butler at Luna's House Party:

With spare parts, Miles masqueraded as one of the computerized domestic service robotic butlers (model Janus 414). When the van driver - a Domesticon Rep (Read Morgan) dressed in dark blue coveralls and a brimless cap - was stopped by the police, the back of the van was searched for the "alien." Miles ineptly pretended or impersonated a servant-robot with a silver-painted face and dome on his head (although he still retained his black-framed thick glasses), to escape detection and prevent capture and deprogramming by the government. [Note: Miles' robotic disguise looked very much like silent-era comedian Harry Langdon.]

He was delivered for employment to the household of rich, pseudo-intellectual, not very bright and clueless greeting card poetess - a flaky and vacuous socialite named Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). She was sporting a long cigarette holder, and had a green facial mud-pack plastered on her face. She was immediately disappointed by the robot's unusual facial features: ("Is this the best they could offer?"). She complained that she wanted a more attractive face for her butler - and threatened in a week to have his head replaced, but for now needed his help to prepare and serve food and drinks for the guests she was hosting at a hedonistic house party. With comedy slapstick reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Miles (calling himself "Milo") first shuffled into the kitchen, where he initiated a series of disasters:

  • in the kitchen, he produced a giant-sized, killer 'instant pudding' after spooning pudding powder into a bowl; it immediately created a menacing, dark brown viscous mass, which bubbled over and enveloped the counter; meanwhile, the doorbell sounded as guests started to arrive; eventually, he tried to beat it down with a broomstick
  • he took the guests' coats and accidentally incinerated them ("DEBRIS DISPOSED")

As Miles pretended to be a robot, the vain and mindless Luna was entertaining the futuristic, radically-chic, art-oriented party guests in her all-white living room. Painter friend Herald Cohen (Brian Avery) presented Luna with a gift - a painting of a vulnerable, doe-eyed waif peering out from behind a wooden vertical pole. Unknowingly, the vapid Luna reacted: "Oh, it's keen! It-it's pure keen! No - No, it's greater than keen, it's 'Cugat'!" [Note: Her quote referenced American painter Margaret Keane and mid-century Latin American bandleader Xavier Cugat.] One of the guests was a Jewish man (George Furth) who wore an inverted swastika on his chest that was covered by a traditional, fringed Jewish prayer shawl (a Tallit). [Note: The swastika image was dextral, facing right, while the original Nazi logo was sinestral, facing left.]

She also produced a pleasure-producing, large metal "intoxication orb" - a synthetic marijuana substitute absorbed through touch. It was passed around amongst the guests for fondling, while they lounged in white beanbag chairs. To facilitate its passing, 'Milo' helped and comically tried to pretend that he wasn't affected by the intoxicating, aphrodisiac drug hit and nirvanic state it had caused, although he clung to it possessively and lunged at one of the women to keep it. Everyone ran off when Luna suggested: "Let's all go for a swim." After the swim (off-screen) when most of the guests had left, Miles watched as Luna and Herald returned to the living room. She had considered having an orgy - but dismissed the idea: "I think we should have had sex, but there weren't enough people." Instead, he suggested that they enter a cylindrical shaped capsule "Orgasmatron", an instant substitute experience for sexual intercourse and orgasms that also included mechanical moans. After climaxing, they emerged chatting casually.

Herald off-handedly mentioned the arrest of one of their friends for being a member of the underground: "It was horrible. They tried to reprogram his mind and something went wrong. He's a vegetable." Luna was complacent and didn't want to spoil her hedonistic party vibe by hearing about real-world arrests - she mentioned how she was happy with all of the advancements of society for middle-class intellectuals, including the Orb, the two-way telescreen (a huge television), and the Orgasmatron. Herald also admitted that he was very detached from life (and the rebellion of the underground) because of his artistic hedonism:

Luna: "I absolutely do not want to hear about it, Herald. This world is so full of wonderful things. What makes people suddenly go berserk and hate everything anyway? I mean, why does there have to be an underground? After all, there's the Orb, and there's the telescreen, and there's the Orgasmatron. What more do they want?"
Herald: "It's hard for us to understand the criminal element. We're artists. We respond only - to beauty."

Then, the eccentric and talentless Luna recited her new poem about a butterfly turning into a caterpillar:

"A little boy caught a butterfly, and said to himself: 'I must try, To understand my life, And help others, Not just mothers, And fathers, But friends, Strangers too, With eyes of blue, And lips full red and round, But the butterfly didn't make a sound, For he had turned into a caterpillar, By and by."

The simple-minded Herald thought it was very "deep" and "so obviously influenced by McKuen," but then criticized the biological flaw of its premise: "Only one thing, uh, they change from caterpillars into butterflies. Not the other way." Dismayed by her error, Luna experienced a childish tantrum: "They do? They do? Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! I always get that wrong!" She claimed her whole evening had been spoiled, and that she had developed a headache ("Shoot! I hate to be wrong!"). To calm her, he clicked on the telescreen, as Channel 1200 displayed its sign-off screen - an idyllic picture of the 'Leader' in a wheelchair on an ocean-cliffside next to his white pet dog, who bid them good-night and waved - with a chorus singing in the background. [Note: The image of the 'Leader', never seen alive, depicted real-life 1960s counter-culture, acid-dropping guru Timothy Leary.] They waved back.

Miles' Escape From the Robotic Factory, and His Abduction of Luna:

Later, Luna drove 'Milo' in her bubble-topped car to the robotic factory-workshop where she spoke to the Domesticon Rep. She requested that Milo's ugly head be replaced with something "a little more aesthetic," plus asked for an overhaul to have his "works" checked ("he acts peculiar"). In the riotous sequence, 'Milo' watched the frightening sight of other robots having their heads crushed or wrenched from their bodies. He was threatened with having his own head decapitated by being screwed off, and tried to shuffle out the exit, but was blocked. Another sped-up chase sequence ensued throughout the robot assembly and work-repair area, and overflowed to the outside parking area. He subdued one of the guards by asphyxiating him with a block of 'BLEU CHEESE.'

Fearing for his life, Miles rushed over to Luna and revealed his true identity - he told her that he was a time-traveler from 200 years past - he also bragged about himself:

Miles: "I'm not a puppet. My name is Miles Monroe. I was frozen in 1973, and some doctors thawed me out. So, everybody's after me, but I didn't do anything. I'm a nice person. I have healthy life drives and good goals. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I would never force myself sexually on a blind person."
Luna: "You're the alien."
Miles: "Yes, you're living in a police state. Your government is evil. We have to find out what the Aries Project is."

She reacted by screaming that he was an alien, and threatened to turn him over to the authorities. To prevent being betrayed, Miles abducted the unwilling Luna by hijacking her bubble-topped car and driving them into the woods - where he bound and gagged her. All they had for food was "interstellar space cookies." He attempted to gain her sympathy by sharing his own fantastic past history:

"I'm a clarinet player in 1973. I go into the hospital for a lousy operation, I wake up 200 years later and I'm Flash Gordon. Plus I'm a criminal. I never did anything wrong in my life. I ran a health food store in Greenwich Village. Occasionally, a customer would get botulism. But that was very rare."

He offered to remove the gag and release her, but she continued to hysterically scream. He begged for her help in reaching the underground rebels, but she refused to help any "alien." He feared that if he surrendered as a highly-sought fugitive, the government forces would "restructure" his brain: "Nobody touches my brain." She pleaded for food, and complained about the primitive, starving conditions she was suffering, and that she was being deprived of her pampered pleasures and opiate pills:

"I'm hungry. I haven't had a stress pill. I haven't had a bath in seven hours. I'm telling you, I'm not accustomed to this. I need my Orb. I want to relax. Look at me! Look at me. I'm shaking!"

He mocked her: "Gee, you know you'd be great to take on a camping trip." With an inflated sense of self, she claimed that a search would soon commence: "I am a renowned poet. I sell 20 to 30 poems a week, plus greeting cards." She eventually agreed to help him reach the Western District, if he could find them some food to eat. As he momentarily left Luna (still tied up), he threatened her if she didn't cooperate: "You sit here. I'll go find us something, and don't try anything funny while I'm gone, 'cause you know what you'll get... a large and painful hickey!"

At a futuristic farm in police-run territory, Miles marveled at a hydroponic garden with oversized 12-foot high fruits (canoe-sized bananas) and gargantuan vegetables (tomatoes, a celery stalk, etc.). He stripped off a massive, 10 foot-long banana peel when a farmer-guard spotted him. He repeatedly slipped on the banana peel during his escape, and stunned the farmer with a giant strawberry: ("My God! I beat a man insensible with a strawberry!") As he attempted to carry off one celery stalk and a banana, he saw a giant chicken being walked by a guard ("That's a big chicken - What a way to go! To be pecked to death!"), who began to chase after him. That evening in the woods, Luna dined on a mammoth piece of celery while Miles chewed on the large slices of banana, while she griped about the limited menu: "You didn't get any dessert. There's no seasoning. There's no wine." Miles joked about the size of the vegetables: "I'd hate to see what they used for fertilizer." In the dark, Miles feared strange noises from unusual "weird and futuristic" creatures: ("Like with the body of a crab and the head of a social worker").

Miles and Luna's Getaway - Evading the Police:

The next morning, the two came upon the home of a flamboyantly gay couple where they planned to steal a vehicle. Miles was urged to sit in a piece of the decor - a sculptured cantilever chair ("You just sit right down here, you little cutie!"). He predictably tumbled to the floor from the stylish yet completely dysfunctional piece of furniture. On the pretense of going to use the bathroom, Luna phoned via videophone/videosphere (a helmet-shaped TV) and reported him to the Federation Security police. In everyone's company, she asked for a Space HydroVac Suit. The couple's equally gay and effeminate butler named Reagan (a reference to Ronald Reagan, California's Governor from 1967-1975) was ordered to bring out the suit - and emerged from the kitchen with a frilly white-laced apron ("Here’s your silly old HydroVac Suit!"). [Note: The flamboyant robot was clearly an extension of the masters of the house, and symbolically would ultimately replace them.] Luna told Miles it was a disguise to prevent the police from recognizing him.

By the shore of a river where they had stopped, Miles had changed into the inflatable HydroVac Suit when he saw pursuit by a group of red-clad police. During the slapstick chase-pursuit sequence (reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, with over-exaggerated fast-motion editing, an undercranked camera, and Dixieland ragtime on the soundtrack as in the silent movies), Luna inflated the suit to detain him. But as Miles bounced and floated away in the balloon-like suit, she was captured and threatened with a "reprogramming...brain treatment" because she had been "contaminated by overexposure to the alien." She screamed in disbelief: "But I'm the one who turned him in!"

The second time the plunger-detonated bazooka was aimed at Miles, it backfired and destroyed the control box. To rescue her, Miles came up from behind two of the security officers, knocked the men out and flattened them by falling onto them, while Luna pounded on their heads. He snatched her and they jumped in the river. She rode on top of him as the two buoyantly paddled away (he boasted: "I was a lifeguard at Bloomingdale"), until his suit was deflated by gunfire. The shot jetted and propelled them on the punctured 'raft suit' to the opposite far side of the river bank - to outwit and escape the futuristic cops. [Note: This gag was similar to a scene in Buster Keaton's The Navigator (1924) involving a deep-sea diving suit.]

In a nearby cave, Miles discovered an abandoned, dust-covered 20th-Century, vintage 1960s VW Beetle in a cave. Once it started without any hesitation, Miles observed with utter surprise: "Wow, they really built these things, didn't they?" She noticed a bumper sticker: "Register Commies, not guns." Miles explained about the car's owner: "He was probably a member of the National Rifle Association. There was a group that helped criminals get guns so they could shoot citizens. It was a public service." They also discovered a fragile 1990 edition of the New York Times (with an improbable headline: "POPE'S WIFE GIVES BIRTH TO TWINS"). As they drove away, she mentioned that cities didn't exist anymore in her society, but there were areas called "population centers," where she attended a university and majored in "Cosmetics, Sexual Technique, and Poetry." Instruction in 'sexual technique' was essential if the Orgasmatron failed to work, she claimed. He jested: "What do you do? Switch to manual?" He described his own sex education - and his unique childhood superstitions:

"When I was a little kid, I asked her (his mother) where do babies come from. And she thought I said 'rabies' - she said from a dog bite. And a week later, a lady on the block gave birth to triplets. I thought she was bitten by a Great Dane."

During their frenzied getaway, Miles decided to push the VW off a cliff to hide the car and fool the police ("They'll never find it"). As he struggled to push the car, they engaged in an inane conversation. She asked about his frozen state for two centuries: "What's it like to be dead for 200 years?" Luna didn't understand his quip: "It's like spending a weekend in Beverly Hills." She was still curious: "Were you scared? Do you believe in God?" He answered (to her stunned confusion):

"I'm what you call a tele-ological existential atheist. I believe that there's an intelligence to the universe - with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey."

When he asked about her own beliefs in God ("Do you believe in God?"), she responded:

Luna: "Well, I believe that there's somebody out there who watches over us."
Miles: "Unfortunately, it's the government."
Luna: "Miles. Miles, did you ever realize that 'God' spelled backwards is 'Dog'?"
Miles: "Yeah. So?"
Luna: "Makes you think."
Miles: "Yeah. You wanna push the car, please. Push the car, will ya?"

The vehicle landed upside down in a very shallow body of water - completely visible ("Just my luck. It landed on the back of a turtle").

Miles and Luna - Getting to Know Each Other:

The two returned to Dr. Melik's futuristic home, finding it deserted. Luna enjoyed a bubble bath, while Miles shaved in front of a bathroom Gyro-Mirror. [Note: The scene paid homage to the pajamas and mirror routine in the Marx Bros.' Duck Soup (1933).] When the video-mirror's "channel" changed - the image reflected a different channel. A woman (Jessica Rains) was brushing her teeth and gargling, and asked: "Who are you?...Get off my channel!" When Miles changed the channel again, now the female was shaving with a straight-edged razor, asking: "What are you doing?" Her male partner appeared and questioned: "Who is that guy?"

Later while fondling his clarinet while having their first real conversation, Miles described to Luna how he had opened his health food store because his income was insufficient playing jazz: "I always felt that in order to really play jazz, you had to be black, you know. I'm just a mulatto....My father was black and my mother was white, and vice versa." He called his incessant joking "a defense mechanism" for life.

During their refuge there, Luna hinted that they could "perform sex" in the Orgasmatron, but he preferred a non-mechanical alternative - the more traditional way of having sex:

Luna: "Do you want to perform sex with me?"
Miles: "Perform sex? Uh, uh, I don't think I'm up to a performance, but I'll rehearse with you, if you like."
Luna: "Okay. I just thought you might wanna. They have a machine here."
Miles: "Machine? I'm not getting into that thing. I, I'm strictly a hand operator, you know. I, I- I don't like anything with moving parts that are not my own."

She observed: "It's hard to believe that you haven't had sex for two hundred years." "Two hundred and four," he replied, "if you count my marriage." He told her that his wife was "a hit man for the Mafia" - blonde, with an upturned nose, "really dynamite," with two blue eyes ("one on either side, of course"). Luna felt that he was always teasing her and 'putting her on' - ("You think I'm stupid"), but he complimented her, calling her "bright and sensitive and beautiful." When Luna assured him that she was very physically attractive to men: ("Men go crazy over me") and boasted: "I got a Ph.D in oral sex," he quipped: "I was an English major myself, you know, Chaucer, Pope. I minored in foreplay. It's a 2-credit course at NYU." He wanted her to be more romantic and less clinical: "I need to be warmed up and sent flowers, romanced." Luna told him how sex in her society was radically different:

  • no one had sexual problems because "everybody’s frigid"
  • and most of the men were impotent - "except for the ones whose ancestors are Italian"

She again asked for him to join her in the highly-efficient but loveless Orgasmatron machine, and promised she wouldn't be frigid. Miles assured her again that he wouldn't fail her with his non-mechanical, "magic fingers" technique:

"You won't be frigid with me. I, believe me, nobody ever is. I got the magic fingers. You're gonna be, you know, I swear, I cured more women in frigidity. It's my specialty! Two minutes in bed with me and you'll sell that thing for scrap iron. Really! I got a lot of fast moves. Really, I swear. The only thing is, I have a little asthma. So if you hear some wheezing while we're doing it, you know it's me, but you know, just give me a decent burial and..."

The Federation police, who had surrounded the house, interrupted them. He urged her to hide, take Dr. Melik's oversized gun, and then make her way in the woods to the Western District and the underground rebels, and find out about the Aires Project. Meanwhile, Miles hid and became trapped in the cylindrical "Orgasmatron," and exited into the hands of the security force - but he had a contented, disheveled and goofy look on his face after having been instantly gratified.

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