Three movies making journeys in time, consciousness
''Gremlins'' and ''Ghostbusters'' notwithstanding, the wildest fantasy of the season turns out to be not a Hollywood extravaganza but the reissue of a 1926 classic by German filmmaker Fritz Lang.
''Metropolis'' was shortened for its first American release, and many segments have been lost forever. But a longtime fan of the picture, Oscar-winning composer Giorgio Moroder, has now restored it to something like its original condition - printing it on new color-tinted film, and splicing in recently discovered footage along with still photos of some missing scenes.
Less in the spirit of 1926, though, he has added a present-day music score featuring such pop stars as Pat Benatar and Adam Ant. On first learning of this idea, I was caught between pleasure at Moroder's restoration of the film and dismay at the thought of Loverboy thumping away behind Lang's bold images.
Yet the finished product works fairly well, mostly because Lang's story - about a future world divided between workers and rulers - is so blatantly bizarre that no music could be too far out for it. When a weird character like the robotic ''false Maria'' slithers across the screen, it seems reasonable for the sound track to ooze rock rhythms and synthesizer shrieks.
In any case, the picture's visual style is so intense that it grabs pretty much all the attention, and the general banality of the score (though unintended , I'm sure) works to Lang's advantage rather than Moroder's. Only when a singer begins crooning actual words do things fall apart; it's hard not to giggle when the impending destruction of a city is greeted with a syrupy lyric about ''things getting out of hand'' or some such nonsense.
The next time I see ''Metropolis'' I hope there's some vintage '20s-type organ (or orchestra) music to accompany it. But the current version deserves praise for its visual excellence and for its role in bringing a silent classic to a new young audience. Two cheers for Moroder. 'The Philadelphia Experiment'
''The Philadelphia Experiment'' springs from a long line of science-fiction yarns that blend futuristic and nostalgic angles. It's not very original, but fans of the genre should enjoy it.
At the beginning, in 1943, the military is about to run a scientific test using a ship as the guinea pig. The plan fouls up, and two sailors are plopped into 1984, where they have to ask silly questions like ''Where are we?'' and ''Who won the war?'' One returns to 1943, but the other stays in the '80s, eluding the authorities who want him safely in their clutches. Then he finds himself mixed up in another experiment that's crazily tied into the first one.
It would have been logical for Hollywood to begin this yarn in 1984, then shove the sailors into the 21st century, thus gaining chances for big effects and unexpected images. By catapulting the heros from the recent past into our own day, the filmmakers turn our attention more to human values than pyrotechnics. The result is a modest and likable adventure without one villain, just people who want to do the right thing without quite knowing how. Stewart Raffill was the director. 'Dreamscape'
The big virtue of ''Dreamscape'' is its energy. The story veers from science fiction to espionage to politics, chopping plenty of logic but rarely losing its momentum. The style comes from such visionary epics as ''Altered States'' and ''Brainstorm,'' though it has fewer pretenses than its predecessors.
Dennis Quaid plays a young psychic who fritters away his gift picking winners at the race track. He's recruited by a government scientist (Max von Sydow) for an experiment in sleep research. His mission: to enter the dream of another person, become a participant, and shape its outcome.
Added to this situation are some heroic twists. For one, the other psychic in the experiment seems to be weird, maybe even crazy. For another, the project is controlled by a smooth government agent (Christopher Plummer) with a lust for power. And it just so happens the president of the United States (Eddie Albert) has been having nightmares lately. Can our hero help him out, thwart the villain , and save the world without being distracted by Kate Capshaw, who seems to be in every Hollywood movie this season?
The cast is unusually strong for this sort of nonsense, and everyone manages to ham it up without lapsing into silliness or camp. The dream sequences are vivid, and director Joseph Ruben goes for laughs surprisingly often. The longest comic episode is too heavily presented, and the whole plot slows down during the third quarter of the picture. But most of ''Dreamscape'' is light, lively, and entertaining. The rating is PG-13, reflecting some violence and sex.