On Thursday, July 12, 2018th, I checked out Scanners (1981) which is a sci-fi horror movie about big pharma and the horrific long term side effects of the pharmaceutical drug Ephemerol on people.



Here’s the cast of Scanners. Cameron Vale, played by Stephen Lack, is the main scanner. Kim Obrist, played by Jennifer O’Neil, is lead female scanner. Dr. Paul Ruth, played by Patrick McGoohan, is the doctor. Darryl Revok, played by Michael, plays the evil scanner. These are the stars of Scanners.

While consisting of an all-star cast, essentially, Scanners is a sci-fi horror movie. It focuses on people with telepathic and telekinetic powers; that is, scanners were created by the side effects of the pharmaceutical drug Ephemerol. This big budget movie was made in Canada.

As with many horror movies exploring the effects of the 1950’s, this movie examined the pharmaceutical industry, which marketed a new drug called Ephemerol. It was aimed at pregnant women. Essentially, it was a tranquilizer to help relax pregnant women. The pharmaceutical industry marketed this new product.

This movie tapped into people’s fears about the atomic age. People were worried about the effects of radiation and mutation. Now, people could worry about drugs mutating genes.

Strangely, Ephemerol resembles Thalidomide of the 1950s. Thalidomide was marketed to pregnant women for morning sickness. However, Thalidomide had adverse side effects, which caused birth defects and thousands of child deaths. Here, we see another example of fiction mirroring reality.

thalidomide drug image

Even though Thalidomide had a horrific history of side effects, Thalidomide continued to be marketed after it’s patent expired. In 1998, Celgene started to market Thalidomide as a generic drug called Thalomid which was used to treat cancers. That being said, Celgene had dropped the drug’s use as morning sickness pill for pregnant women and gave it a pregnancy and lactation warning. Presently, doctors prescribe Thalomid for cancer treatments.

Additionally, the movie explores genetic mutations. Though the movie isn’t clear about how the “scanner gene” occurs, people were created with telepathic and telekinetic powers. Ephemerol was responsible for these genetic mutations in people.

Even though the movie dances around it, the scanner gene was responsible for the misery of people afflicted with this genetic mutation. People with the scanner gene were difficult to handle, prone to uncontrollable rages, and had various behavioral problems as children. Eventually, these people filled the jails, asylums, or were homeless. Many of these people died.

Also, the movie touches on Eugenics. In the ending scene, we learn Dr. Ruth Paul wanted to build a glorious society, which sounds like Hitler’s Germany. Basically, the doctor wanted to use Ephemerol to create soldiers to make a brilliant empire. Also, we learn Darryl Ravok wanted to rule society by force. In both cases, the doctor and Ravok wanted to rule the world.

Corporate warfare was another theme in this movie. ConSec is the parent corporation, which employs Dr. Ruth Paul. Biocarbon Amalgamate is the subsidy corporation, which was taken over by Darryl Ravok. In a bid for corporate dominance, both corporations recruited scanners to destroy the competition.

Scanners teaches us some lessons. First, it warns the viewer of the evils of private research in 1980s. Second, it suggests some possibilities and outcomes of a largely unregulated pharmaceutical industry. Third, it shows us the lack of ethical standards in the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, it examines hidden and private research on human subjects, which was largely unregulated at the time of this movie.

Interestingly, in the 1980s, we start to learn about the evils of computer programs in movies. We learn about the Ripe program, which is a database. It stores the names of doctors giving Ephemerol to pregnant patients. The Ripe program is used to create Scanners.

In short, I enjoyed Scanners. For me, I like sci-fi horror movies; especially, the movies which deal with evil pharmaceutical corporations. Also, this movie made me think about the long term effects of evil drugs. If you have time, check out this flick because it’s a good scare.

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