mike@projection-booth.com mike@projection-booth.com

September 18, 2012

Episode 80: The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

Special Guest: Craig Bierko

Josef Rusnak's The Thirteenth Floor , a sci-fi flick from 1999, was mistaken for a "Matrix rip-off" upon release. The film was based on the 1964 Daniel F. Galouye novel Simulacron-3 (aka Counterfeit World) and was also the basis for Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire.

Read Frederik Pohl's Tunnel Under the World
Buy Daniel F. Galouye's Simulacron-3
Read Daniel F. Galouye's Spillthrough
Buy World on a Wire on DVD
Buy The Thirteenth Floor on DVD
Watch Craig Bierko in Illeana Douglas's Easy to Assemble

Listen/Download Now:

Bonus Interview with Craig Bierko

Bonus Interview with Michael Ballhaus

This is the alternate ending to The Thirteenth Floor.


  1. This movie will forever be known as "that other one". Maybe it was the studio that thought it could rival Matrix in the box office (remember the whole Volcano vs. Dante's Peak or Armageddon vs. Deep Impact studio wars?) or maybe it was pure accident that it came out when it did but in the end I'd like to believe that The Matrix has in a way helped smaller movies like this one to get more attention since there were a lot of people in '99 who got into the whole VR movie genre for the first time. Actually, the saddest thing about this film is that the director never got to have a career (again, maybe the studio (bobble) heads believed that he's not profitable since the Matrix got more money). Good show, guys. Love the whole comparison between the VR/alt reality movies.

    Speaking of VR films, have you ever seen the excellent Italian produced SF VR film called Nirvana (1997) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119794/ with Christopher Lambert?
    While there is action in it, it's not really an action movie. It's one of the best Lambert movies out there and one of his best roles to date and the spare-no-expenses B-movie look only helps.

    Stylistically, it's cyberpunk to the core, and it's set in a world that looks like a trashier version of Blade Runner where Deus Ex-like (superb PC rpg cyberpunk action adventure game from the year 2000) augmentations and Matrix-like jacking into VR exists. There's also social unrest slightly reminiscent of Strange Days.

    The story is very good, but never reaches the Blade Runner levels of excellence. it's about an alienated successful programmer-for-hire called Jimmy who discovers one night that a main character called Solo from one of his games called Nirvana has become self-conscious. They talk for a while and once the character understands what has happened to him, he is broken about it and appeals to Jimmy's humanity to delete the game and end his suffering. Jimmy feels responsible and agrees. Since the master copy of the game is in a main server of a well known corporation, Jimmy will have to get help to try to accomplish this. He gets in contact with the city's underbelly to help him with this task. Accidentally, it turns out that they might help him find something he cares equally about - his old flame he never got over.

    This movie is brilliant on almost every level. It has symbolism all over the place. The four characters we pay most attention to all represent something.
    Jimmy, seeks purpoise in life. Solo, a very sympathetic character (who looks a bit like big chunky Ron Jeremy) who we switch back to often and watch as he has to play the game over and over again even though he tries not to, is literally on his way to Nirvana through repetition and suffering.
    The half-blind member of the hacker underbelly, who helps jimmy throughout the movie and could be technically called a sidekick, is like Virgil.
    Finally, the girl who we never really find out too much about, is the most open construct for interpretation. Is she the purpoise of Jimmy's life or is she nothing but a dream of a man who can't except her loss?
    The end of the movie is at the same time climactic, pathetic, poetic, actiony and I'd say appropriate for a movie that tries to be a thinking man's Johnny Mnemonic.

    (post to be concluded bellow)

  2. (continued from above)

    As with many Italian international productions, this one was also shot with actors saying their lines in their native language. Lambert speaks English and is dubbed in the Italian release of the movie. The international realease is fully dubbed in English which adds trashy/punkish charm to it and is the one I'd suggest.

    One of the most noticeable homages to Blade Runner is the first shot of the movie. In BR it was the gaysha in the flying commercial and in this movie it's a bizzare animation of Shiva-looking woman which is also a commercial (they used this image for the movie's poster http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nirvana_film.jpg ). I'm sure that this isn't the only homage.

    If you haven't seen this movie, please do. It will be well worth it, I promise. If you have, did you like it?

    As last time, I'll end my huge post with a request. How about an episode on 1984 (the movie)? John Hurt, for instance, is still with us, thank God, and I'm sure he'd love to talk about it. Besides, I don't think you did a show on dystopian movies yet.
    Fascism, crushing of human soul and spirit, hopelessness and suffering. A perfect mixture of ingredients to lift your listeners' spirits up, in these days of economic hardships, with the well known motto "Hey, at least you don't live in North Korea... or Texas".

  3. Forgot to add that Nirvana, a movie with a great cyberpunk score, striking visuals, atmosphere that sucks you in and excellent title screen, as far as I can tell has no trailer.
    There is this fan trailer (the theme from the movie is used for audio), so it'll have to do.

  4. I always saw The Thirteenth Floor as better than The Matrix. Existenz and Dark City came out around the same time and are unknown.

    Scource Code went largely unnoticed as well and is more recent.

    I recently purchased World On A Wire and will watch it soon.

    I always looked at the original Total Recall in the same vein of a movie.

    Even Jacob's Ladder minus the digital element which at that point you could go to Carnival of Souls. These two movies are a realizing or understanding your existance so they are the same in that sense.