Videodrome (1982)
By: Griff on April 6, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. English, Arabic, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian Subtitles. 83 minutes
The Movie
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Sonja Smits, Les Carlson, Jack Creley
Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Country: USA/Canada
"It has a philosophy and that is what makes it dangerous."

When Videodrome was released in 1982, the question of whether or not Canadian writer/director David Cronenberg actually had a philosophy (or any sense of logic at all, for that matter) was on the quivering lips and reeling minds of a somewhat confused audience. Flicking through an old Fango letters section just now, some idiot penman named M. Todd even resorts to calling it a "piece of trash" in order to justify his dismay.

But the years have been kind to Videodrome, certainly much kinder than they would've been to failed visionary Mr. Todd. No, Betamax tapes and Atari 2600's may not still be the norm in the average household but the advent of new communicative technology and its possible uses and abuses and its power to manipulate is relevant now more than ever. Not since the bashful cucumber has something so unassuming been employed for so much evil.

Wiry entrepreneur Max Renn (the always-amazing James Woods) is a shrewd bottom-rung dealer in sleazy cable television erotica and exploitation programming who's in search of fresh fodder when he stumbles across 'Videodrome' - a mysterious broadcast containing brutal and erotic imagery. Seemingly without purpose and of unknown origin, it proves to be much more than just wank material for shady cable subscribers. It bites.

It soon becomes apparent that Videodrome has a most unusual effect on its viewers, no better demonstrated when Maxy Boy sits down for a bit of the 'Drome with his lascivious lady friend, radio host and masochistic hot potato Nikki Brand (a red-headed Deborah Harry). One moment they're engaging in a little small talk, the next she's using her titty as an ashtray and he's sticking pins into just about everything that bleeds. [Insert lame Letterman-style joke about watching the Oprah Winfrey show here.]

They're hooked. Nikki's off to audition as a whipping post, leaving Max to hallucinate vivid and bizarre shit, apparently a mild VD (Videodrome) side effect that increases in frequency and intensity with successive viewings. He seeks out enigmatic teevee guru Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) ("That's my television name. Soon all of us will have special names") to find out what Videodrome's story is and maybe even the reason why he's developed a vaginal opening in his stomach. And you should see what he can fit in that cute little slit of his (to give you an idea, he starts with a fist and works his way up from there).

He's pointed in the right-ish direction but it isn't long before Videodrome comes looking for Max and he finds himself pitted, double agent-style, against both VD and O'Blivion. He sets out with his nifty new custom handgun, trendy tan jacket and smart brown slacks to sort things out once and for all - all the while tripping off his rubbery head.

Videodrome the movie, much like the show within the movie, is quite the mind-fuck. Once Max starts having his 'experiences', Cronenberg follows his reality intently, never letting the audience in on more than what our confused main character perceives. Consequently, it still somewhat baffles me to this day ...and yet it also somehow makes an acceptable level of sense. Fortunately, it also makes for an even higher level of intrigue and, like all great mysteries, when the end finally comes you find yourself in deeper and with more questions than when you started (that's a good thing).

Videodrome is an interesting precursor to Cronenberg's later adaptation of William S. Burrough's The Naked Lunch and his own eXistenZ, with the main character drawn into a metaphorical world of espionage populated by sex, violence and characters that compliment one another with their uniting element of the surreal. There's plenty of Cronenberg's broader themes of metaphysical transformation and whatnot to keep you scholarly types nodding your heads while the rest of us dumb-dumbs will no doubt massage many a groin whilst enjoying Rick Baker's numerously wet and wildly inventive gore effects. I know I did.

To summarize: Videodrome delivers in more ways than one so you'd better start receiving.

The DVD: So the question begs: having suffered brutally in Australia on VHS in the 80's, is Videodrome uncut? Kinda. Sorta. Read on...

What we have here is a legitimately uncut version of the film. However, it is not the longest legitimate version of the film that's available. Essentially, its the original R-rated US theatrical version, presented without any further cuts by the distributor or the farcical OFLC. I should mention that there's an unrated version available overseas that features slight extensions on a few of the more violent and erotic moments. The differences aren't substantial but you hard core Videodromers out there should already know what version you prefer, right? Yeah!
Letterboxed at 1.85:1 but sadly non-anamorphic. Light years ahead of VHS but still nowhere near what we've become accustomed to in this spoilt age of re mastering. This'll certainly do, but not so nicely.
Mono. Um, yeah. I could say it effectively compliments Howard Shore's sombre score but that'd be pretty desperate. No complaints but no applause, either.
Extra Features
We get the crazy animated trailer and some text filmographies.
The Verdict
This is my personal favourite of Cronenberg's movies and I believe that's the general consensus among horror fans. There are better releases abroad but this version is no disgrace to behold. My advice? Tune your unscramblers into Videodrome and start killing people immediately.
Movie Score
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