“Long live the New Flesh.”
Cronenberg is currently recognised as one of the most innovative filmmakers on the planet. Following initially in the footsteps of George Romero, with Shivers (1976) and Rabid (1977), Croneneberg soon moulded a genre of his own
using the innate fear of deformity, biological change and sexual imagery. It was during the early eighties, a time when the media believed video films could deprave and corrupt society, Cronenberg made one of his true masterpieces, a film light-years ahead of its time: Videodrome.
Max Wren (James Woods in what is arguably his best role) is a television programmer looking for something revolutionary for his pornographic transmissions. One day, an associate discovers a pirate satellite and allows
Max to see it, allowing him to enter the perverse world of ‘Videodrome’: a new-wave program that causes its viewer to experience disturbing hallucinations. Max soon realises that this is a plan to destroy contemporary society. Actually, it’s the words of professor, Brian O’ Blivion which become the foundation of all that occurs –
“You reality is already half video hallucination. If you're not careful, it'll become total hallucination. You'll have to learn to live in a very strange new world. I had a brain tumour and I had visions. I believe the visions caused the tumour and not the reverse. I could feel the vision coalesce and become flesh, uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumour it was called 'VIDEODROME”.
This is strong medicine and definitely not for all tastes. Occasionally, to empathise with Max Wren’s character, Cronenberg makes telling the difference between what is hallucination and reality difficult. Years later he would
give us ExsitenZ (1999) which seemed like Videodome-lite, including his enjoyment of playing with his audiences perception.
Conspiracy, institutions and hallucinations, all trademarks of the Canadian genius, the man behind classics such as Scanners (1980), Dead Ringers (1987) and The Brood (1979). The band, Blondie’s lead singer, a young and thin
Debbie Harry stars opposite Woods as Max’s sadomasochistic lover and relishes the thought of being tortured on Videodrome. The other big star of the show is the marvellous special effects provided by the talented Rick
Baker: Pulsating televisions, virginal stomach openings, a literal handgun and a gruesome death scene that includes puss spewing from a cracked face. These are the prime ingredients that make Videodomre a truly unique experience.
Unfortunately this region 1 DVD doesn’t contain many extra features beyond the typical theatrical trailer and biographies. Hopefully, some day soon, a Director’s Cut Special Edition will be released. Fingers crossed.
-ed note: On 8/11/04, Criterion released a fantastic Criterion Edition version of Videodrome, and, as of this writing, the set is still widely available.