Customer Review

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They use her image to seduce us..., March 12, 2001
This review is from: Videodrome (DVD)
A cult favorite since its release in '83, VIDEODROME is in some ways a "great flawed film." The characters are far from sympathetic, the plot is often confusing and contradictory, and some of the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious. Yet on the level of images and ideas, VIDEODROME is a rich, compelling experience which will take root in your brain long after the film is over. James Woods turns in a terrific performance as Max Renn, sleazoid co-owner of a quickie TV station. For reasons which never become clear, Renn is chosen as the gateway for public transmission of the "Videodrome" TV signal, which hypnotizes its viewers and causes mind-altering hallucinations. Renn, always on the lookout for the ultimate trash with which to hook his slavish, sensation-seeking audience, is introduced to "Videodrome," a charming bit of snuff TV where men in masks torture women and a black man for no real reason at all, except for cheap thrills. Renn, correctly assuming that sex and violence sell to the masses, tries to discover the human face behind Videodrome. Along the way, he stumbles onto what seems to be a conspiracy to control the mind of the North American audience through TV (hmmm...hasn't this happened by now?), seemingly to create an audience of docile, consumeristic sheep. After a rather shocking sequence of events, Renn becomes one of the "New Flesh," apparently a race of humans who have evolved away from the body to exist entirely in the electronic realm (hmmm...isn't this happening right now?) and are trying to destroy Videodrome. His companion in this journey is masochistic Nicki Brand, played by Deborah Harry at her most glamorous. Nicki, turned onto Videodrome by Max, abandons her life as a "radio personality" and seems to become an entirely image-based being, first used by Videodrome to seduce Max, then somehow escaping and joining the "New Flesh." I know none of this makes much sense, but VIDEODROME has to be seen to be believed. Cronenberg's imagery, realized by FX genius Rick Baker, is incredibly sensual and powerful, using all the resources of the cinema to suggest multiple levels of reality and hallucination. I won't spoil the surprises for you by describing the effects here; let's just say that Cronenberg combines sex, violence, electronics and body/machine anxieties in a new and compelling way. Harry's incredible charisma and style lend the role of Nicki just the right touch of simultaneous allure and wierdness (she is first introduced as an image on a TV screen, and actually spends most of her time in the film in scenes where she is clearly a hyperreal hallucination instead of a person. She and Woods have a very believable chemistry and should have had more scenes together - the script for this film needed a few more drafts. I first saw this movie as a teen-ager, back before the Internet, virtual reality or cybersex existed, and developments in audio-visual technologies since then have only underscored the seriousness and ambition of Cronenberg's vision. Where do we end and our electronic prostheses begin? Is electronic experience more real than real? Is the television screen now truly "the retina of the mind's eye?" I think so. VIDEODROME will make you think of your own environment in a new way. Great late-night viewing!
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