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October 26, 1986

"WHO IS JULIA?," 9 p.m. Sunday (2) (8)--It's not uncommon to wonder what it would be like to have a new identity and a fresh start. But what about a new body? Your brain inside a different shell.

No, this is not something out of "Young Frankenstein" or "All of Me." It's the premise for a CBS movie (illustrated on the cover) starring Mare Winningham as a woman who becomes the first human brain transplant patient.

Though bizarre, it's a fascinating premise that attempts to raise questions concerning humanity's relationship to science.

Gorgeous model Julia North (Judy Ledford) is critically injured by a truck when she tries to rescue the small son of Mary Frances Beaudine (Winningham), who is horrified and immediately dies of a brain hemorrhage.

Both women are taken to a hospital where a team of doctors sees a chance to conduct a daring medical experiment. Julia's brain is intact, but her body is crushed and she is about to die. Mary Frances is dead, but her body is intact.

So Julia's brain gets Mary Frances' body.

Although Julia's husband, Don (Jameson Parker), can't be reached, she has willed her organs to science in the event of her death. And so the experimental operation is performed after Mary Frances' reluctant husband, Jack (Jonathan Banks), is convinced to give his consent. In effect, he gives his wife's body to Julia so that Julia can live.

Hence, Julia has a new body, but her same consciousness, feelings, emotions, personality, memory, etc.

The ensuing drama concerns Julia's traumatic adjustment to her new identity and less glamorous body and Don's adjustment to the new, plainer Julia and Jack's refusal to accept Mary Frances' body as really being Julia.

There are also the obvious questions about the operation (has science finally gone too far and meddled where it shouldn't?), just as questions were initially raised about heart transplants.

Writer James S. Sadwith and director Walter Grauman provide an interesting movie that most of us can relate to. If you or your mate had a new body, how would you react?

Despite Winningham's good performance, though, the story's many flaws undermine its shaky plausibility, making it more of a curiosity than a serious examination of serious issues through drama. The whole affair is too pat, the doctors too unconcerned about Mary Frances' body rejecting Julia's brain and the conclusion too abrupt and artificially tidy.

Yet it leaves you thinking. How would you react?

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