Title: VideodromeDirector: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman
Plot: Max Renn (Woods) the president of CIVIC-TV, a station which specialises in sleazy and sensationalistic programing is frustrated in his attempts to find his next big program. However when he stumbles across “Videodrome” a show which seemingly shows real torture and murder with his attempts to discover its origin leading him to discover a much larger global conspiracy.
Review: Released during a golden period for Cronenberg, who with “The Brood” had finally found his groove after his hit and miss early experiments with body horror (Rabid / Shivers) aswell as the much overlooked “Fast Company”. Here though he would give us some of his most memorable work as he continues his obsession with bodily mutation, disease and infection which this time comes via the voyeuristic violence of “Videodrome”, whose side effects soon see James Woods undergoing a number of bizarre transformations including most memorably turning his torso into a gooey VHS slot.
Working from a script developed from his childhood memories of picking up signals from New York, when the channels in his native Canada had gone off the air while at the same time constantly worried that he might stumble across like Max something that he should see. At the same time basing the films “Civic TV” on “CityTV” which had a reputation for showing soft-core pornography which it branded “Baby-blue films”; Here he truly crafts a strange tale to say the least but at the same time for all its mutations it’s also a surprisingly straightforward story and one which is carried by Woods moral devoid TV Station president who we open to him buying an underground pornography series from a pair of Japanese businessmen and despite it featuring a hidden dildo, he has seemingly grown board by the usual sleaze and grime he has been peddling on the station until now. Needless to say it only makes it only the more believable that he would see the staged snuff TV that Videodrome offers as the future of TV.
Of course being a Cronenberg film it was never going to be enough for Max to head off on a journey into the film making underground to find out the source of this mysterious broadcast which becomes a source of obsession to Max. Instead Cronenberg turns it into something much more interesting as the broadcast comes with the ability to cause vivid hallucinations and meaning that we get such memorable scenes as Max seemingly pushing himself into his television aswell as the aforementioned chest VHS sequence which the film has become renowned for.
While it’s easy to get distracted with all the visual flair being thrown around, but outside of the big set pieces it’s still a journey filled with fascinating characters such as Debbie Harry’s sadomasochistic psychiatrist who finds the vicious images of “Videodrome” the ultimate turn on. We also meet Professor Brian O’Blivion (Creley) who chooses to only appear via video recordings than in person and while it’s true that some moments such as the homeless mission were those attending engage are forced to continually watch TV’S but like so many of these Cronenbergisms which seem so grounded in reality we don’t ever question them no matter how random things seem to get, with the switches between the reality and dreams being so fluid here, that you genuinely reach a point where you stop questioning what is happening and instead just enjoy the ride.
While this film might have its share of gooey moments this is certainly one of his more accessible films making it the perfect starting place for newcomers, while still containing plenty to enjoy for the converted while this is unquestionably fearless film making at its best.
Hail to the new flesh!