When Max Renn goes looking for edgy new shows for his sleazy cable TV station, he stumbles across the pirate broadcast of a hyperviolent torture show called "Videodrome." As he unearths the origins of the program, he embarks on a hallucinatory journey into a shadow world of right-wing conspiracies, sadomasochistic sex games, and bodily transformation. Renns ordinary life dissolves around him, he finds himself at the center of a conflict between opposing factions in the struggle to control the truth behind the radical human future of "the New Flesh." Starring James Woods and Deborah Harry in one of her first film roles, Videodrome is one of writer/director David Cronenbergs most original and provocative works, fusing social commentary with shocking elements of sex and violence. With groundbreaking special effects makeup by Academy Award®-winner Rick Baker, Videodrome has come to be regarded as one of the most influential and mind-bending science fiction films of the 1980s, and The Criterion Collection is proud to present it in its full-length unrated edition.
Criterion's presentation of Videodrome is thoughtful, thorough, cleverly designed (the keepcase resembles a vintage Betamax cassette from the film), and authoritative in its appreciation of Cronenberg's influential film. In his eloquent commentary, Cronenberg expounds on issues of censorship, his admiration for Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the challenge of filming with an incomplete script, and the use of pioneering makeup and video effects in the pre-CGI era. Cronenberg's comments alternate with those of cinematographer Mark Irwin, who provides humorous and knowledgeable insight into the technical aspects of Videodrome's complicated production. Commentary by James Woods and costar Deborah Harry are similarly alternated, and Woods (an avowed cinephile and intellectual) proves a most fascinating spokesman for the film's prescient themes, while Harry conveys well-spoken acceptance and understanding of Cronenberg's challenging material. Cronenberg's 2000 short "Camera" is included, featuring Videodrome actor Les Carlson in a playful and thought-provoking treatise on the reality-altering nature of the cinematic image.
Disc 2 supplements are rich and varied, highlighted by "Fear on Film," a fascinating 1982 panel discussion hosted by Mick Garris (later a well-known horror director) and featuring directors John Landis, John Carpenter, and Cronenberg at the peak of their box-office powers. In "Forging the New Flesh," filmmaker (and Videodrome's video effects supervisor) Michael Lennick combines on-set footage with new and vintage interviews with principal cast and crew. The rest is a potpourri of Videodrome elements, including "Videodrome" videos from the film's deviant broadcasts, with optional commentary by Cronenberg and Lennick; audio interviews with Lennick and makeup wizard Rick Baker; original trailers and a "making of" featurette; and a stills gallery, makeup tests, and publicity materials. The 40-page booklet includes a superb essay by critic Carrie Rickey, a revised on-set report by Video Watchdog publisher Tim Lucas, and a contextual appreciation by novelist and culture critic Gary Indiana. Taken together, these supplements make Criterion's Videodrome an important archival addition to Cronenberg's oeuvre. --Jeff Shannon