Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Very few people would recognize the name of Leon Theremin (1896-1993) if it weren't for the electronic musical instrument he invented around 1918. Fans of the first Star Trek series will recognize its sounds, but it was used in orchestral compositions and movies quite extensively for many decades, and even played a role in the Brian Wilson's composition of the Beach Boys' hit Good Vibrations. However, this documentary shows that the inventor of the forerunner instrument in electronic music is a person whose life had a lot more to offer than that. He was called "the Soviet Edison," and was honored by Lenin before he went to work in the United States, where he developed the first electronic security system in the world for Sing-Sing Prison in upstate New York. He also was a pioneer in interracial relations, braving the strong disapproval of his peers to marry a black ballerina. He was kidnapped from the U.S. in 1938 on the orders of the vengeful and ever-paranoid Stalin, brought back to the U.S.S.R., charged with treason, and was sentenced to a gulag (forced-labor camp). However, when World War II rolled around, he was brought back into the mainstream and was put to work for the KGB, for whom he invented the first electronic "bug" for eavesdropping, for which he earned the Stalin Prize.
archival-footage, career-retrospective, disappearance, electronics, inventor, KGB, life-story, musical-instrument, pioneer, Russian [nationality], surveillance, synthesizer