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Naked Lunch (The Criterion Collection) (1991)

Peter Weller , Judy Davis , David Cronenberg  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider
  • Directors: David Cronenberg
  • Writers: David Cronenberg, William S. Burroughs
  • Producers: Gabriella Martinelli, Jeremy Thomas
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 11, 2003
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CDUT5
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,038 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Naked Lunch (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer, approved by director David Cronenberg
  • Audio commentary by Cronenberg and actor Peter Weller
  • "Making Naked Lunch" a London Weekend TV documentary
  • Illustrated essay on the special effects
  • Film stills gallery
  • Examples of the marketing campaign, including a featurette, B-roll montage, TV spots, and theatrical trailer
  • Excerpts from the novel read by author William S. Burroughs
  • A collection of archival stills of author William S. Burroughs
  • 32-page booklet with essays

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Exterminate all rational thought. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs' hallucinatory, "unfilmable" novel is finally realized on-screen by director David Cronenberg. Part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict Bill Lee (Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish netherworld of the Interzone, pursuing a mysterious project that leads him to confront sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. The fruit of an unholy union between two masters of the hilarious and the macabre, Naked Lunch mingles aspects of Burroughs' novel with incidents from his own life, resulting in a compendium of paranoid fantasies and a searching investigation into the mysteries of the writing process.

Product Description

Peter Weller, Ian Holm, Roy Scheider, Judy Davis. A drug-addict writer, who is an exterminator part-time, accidentally kills his wife and then hallucinates that his typewriter has become a giant cockroach in this bizarre over-the-edge tale. 1991/color/115 min/R/widescreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad, funny, horrific and intriguing April 7, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I'm both a Cronenberg fan and a Burroughs fan, so maybe my review of this film lacks objectivity. That being said, I think Naked Lunch is quite an achievement, not only visually (Chris Walas' creatures are wonderful, Denise Cronenberg's costumes are elegant and authentic to the film's period), but in terms of screenwriting and in the realm of ideas. Burroughs' novel could be said to be about a number of things, but I believe the film is mainly about how our appetites and urges manifest themselves if they are not acknowledged. Bill Lee, the protagonist in the movie, spends much of the first part of the film avoiding his need to write. After he flees to Interzone, he begins to hallucinate that his typewriter is a giant talking bug that orders him to compile "reports" on various and sundry people and subjects, such as his sexual proclivities, his relationships with friends and acquaintances as well as his need to have a reason to create. Much is made, subtly about the connection between mental imbalance, orgasms and the creative process.Cronenberg has picked up on a theme that runs through all of Burroughs' writing, namely the consequences of living in a society that labels immoral all healthy forms of personal release. For Burroughs, and by extension Cronenberg, this includes sex, artistic expression and liberated use of language. In the novel, being denied these outlets leads people to all kinds of perversions of personal power, drug addiction and insanity. Cronenberg uses different means, but shows his audience the psychic toll of denying one's deep personal needs.In all, a fantastic hallucinatory ride, with a great cast (especially Peter Weller, who has never been better chosen for a role) and a whole feast for discussion by thoughtful filmgoers everywhere.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a literary high November 25, 2003
By SPM
Format:DVD
Cronenberg's version of Naked Lunch is a brilliant combination of Burroughs' novel and Burroughs' life. He blends the true story of Burroughs life (and his reason for writing) with the surreal dark-comedy 'routines' of the novel until they become one story. The story is a quiet hallucination featuring exterminators, addiction, typewriters in the form of insects, typewriters that grow genitals, a global conspiracy of intelligence agents, the drug trade, homosexual ambiguity, writer's block, accidental murder, and literary paranoia. None of these elements is explored completely. Instead, Cronenberg touches on each one until they form some strange, underlying logic.
This edition of the DVD has enough extras to make it the only version of Naked Lunch you'll ever have to buy. (They won't release a bigger, better edition later.) The BBC documentary is okay. It's about 45 minutes long, giving Cronenberg and William Burroughs a lot of time to speak. (Burroughs is particularly good, with a dry sense of humor and a habit of saying obvious truths that make people uneasy.) The second disc also has stills from the special effects team, showing how the various creatures and organic typewriters were developed.
But it's the first disc --- the movie itself --- that makes it worth buying and watching. The special audio track, shared by Peter Weller and Cronenberg, adds a lot of useful background information. The film itself is bright and sharp, a perfect example of DVD clarity. I highly recommend this DVD to anyone who is interested in the best films of the 1990s. Naked Lunch didn't make as big an impact in theaters as it did in book stores, but it should have.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Tribute to Burroughs March 20, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
As a devout Burroughs fan, of course I was a little hesitant to view this movie initially. And having read the book "Naked Lunch" prior to watching the film, I was at a loss as to what I expected. Certainly there was no way this book could translate into a movie...even "The Wall" director Alan Parker would have been lost.
In essence, Cronenberg didn't attempt to recreate the book verbatim. Instead he deftly interwove Burroughs' life with some of the routines and rants from the book. This movie is not for the fainthearted as it shows man-sized mugwumps and talking typwriter/insects who are really operatives for a covert attempt to penetrate Interzone, using a hapless writer, Bill Lee, as their chief spy.
Definitive moments in Burroughs' life, such as his relationship with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and the death of his wife Joan at his own hand are featured in the movie. It also gives a surreal biography to the birth of the writer in Burroughs as he attempts to write his way out of the guilt of his wife's death and the drugs that numbed the difficulties of his life.
Those who think that this movie had no real plot or if they did think there was a plot that the plot wasn't linear, then they can't be that big a fan of Burroughs. His life was not normal, his fans are not normal, and his mode of thinking was, frankly, insane. Cronenberg does a brilliant job getting inside the mind of the writer, the genius, the man, William S. Burroughs. Take a trip into his mind, ladies and gentlemen, and be changed forever.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Kafka high. February 17, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
David Cronenberg has done something very interesting in his film version of the book by William Burroughs. Attempting to faithfully follow the book's plot would have been a hopeless enterprise (and an X-rated movie); instead, Cronenberg wraps short sequences from the novel and intertwines them with Burroughs' own life. This is not only completely appropriate for this unique author, but also conveys the tone and structure of the book. In this respect, although the 'plot' of the book is not followed with slavish respect, this is one of the most successful book-to-film translations.
There are interesting (if brief) portraits of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (although in the movie Ginsberg is portrayed as pursuing Burroughs, when in fact Burroughs was in love with Ginsberg). The film also shows the accident in which Burroughs shot his wife, and his meeting with Paul Bowles in Tangiers. In the plot of the movie, Bill Lee is instructed by giant insects to infiltrate Tangiers and write 'reports' which eventually become the text of _Naked Lunch_. All of the events of the movie are shown from Bill Lee's drug-altered perception, so that most of the film's scenes have to 'translated' from the metaphorical to the actual by the viewer. In spite of other reports, the movie is quite coherent and linear, detailing Bill Lee's emotional recovery from drugs and the death of his wife as he becomes a writer. Perhaps 'recovery' is the wrong word; what Lee learns is to use them as material for his writing.
One warning: Cronenberg's decision to use elaborate special effects to show Bill Lee's reality works brilliantly, but it can be quite disgusting. The movie is not for weak stomachs (which again fits both the book's title and content exactly).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So delightfully weird
Its a dream, but ever so thankfully, I don't think it was a lucid one. If you find yourself in need of a good does of the strange, this will likely hit the spot.
Published 2 months ago by Ahasverus
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT a Region 1 DVD !!
This is a Region 2 DVD. At least the one I received was. Region 2 DVD's (Europe and Japan) will NOT play if your DVD player is set to watch Region 1.
Published 3 months ago by Swampy
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone
We first saw this movie back in the early nineties and it became a cult favorite of ours.
That said it's not for everyone. Buyer beware if you don't know what it's about.
Published 5 months ago by Okie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Job!!! Great Film!!!
This movie is truly a work of art...I am glad you had it, and I am enjoying it right now!
Published 5 months ago by Wade Early
4.0 out of 5 stars Headline
and 19 more words... why can't I just say I liked it? It may not be everyone's cup of tea but that's the story with everything. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cathy Curtis
3.0 out of 5 stars weird weird weird, is all I can say.
I saw this movie YEARS ago and forgot how bizarre it was. The hallucination scenes were fun and the dealings with the lead's wife were fun as well, but truthfully, as a straight... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mark Hopkins
1.0 out of 5 stars The Naked Greed
I bought this for my DVD collection knowing full well what a complete joke the idiots who wrote the script just did to Bill,s really awesome first book ................ Read more
Published 7 months ago by Brian Leach
5.0 out of 5 stars A very weird film. 4.5 stars.
I give it the full 5 just for even trying to replicate Naked Lunch the 'novel' and succeeding the way it does. Read more
Published 7 months ago by crank
1.0 out of 5 stars Read the Book Instead
This has now become my firmly entrenched "Worst Movie of All Time." I'm certain it is chic to think it is a great niche film, what with its cheap Surrealism and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by George
5.0 out of 5 stars Croenberg rocks!
I absolutely love Naked lunch. I know it got bad reviews but if you watch it a few times you can actually understand the movie. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Teawithoutsugar
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