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Videodrome (The Criterion Collection)
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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
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Top customer reviews
This movie definitely has the Cronenberg atmosphere, and some can't-look-away "body horror" -- even more so than "Scanners" or "The Brood" -- but I didn't like it as much as those movies because it was just too ambiguous which aspects of the plot were "real" and which were the character's hallucinations. In the end, I was left wondering if any of it was "real." I mean, I think the murders the character commits were, but was there really a conspiracy at all, or was this just the tale of one man's descent into madness? Not a very satisfying narrative.
Mex Wrenn (James Woods) fits the perfect type of character that would be capable of running a sleezy, soft core porn television station. When Harlan, (Peter Dvorsky) a pirate satelite technician, discovers an unusual signal (Videodrome) that appears to be a snuff film, Max is seemingly intrigued and captivated. He embarks on a quest to learn more about it's source and purpose. What is it, where is it coming from, is there a plot, when does it stop ? On a television interview, we witness Max cunningly answer questions about his responsibility to the public in presenting violence and horrible images. Not suprisingly, Max is unapologetic but very charismatic in handling this question. This scene also introduces Nicki Brand, (Deborah Harry) a psychiatrist/radio host, and a philospher who goes by the name of Professor Brian O'blivion. Professor O'blivion, who prophesizes that all hours of waking consciousness will be exposed to television only appears in television form. His daughter also shares this same dystopian view of life and proliferates his message through the Cathode Ray Mission where homeless people are fed and encouraged to watch endless hours of television. Max Wrenn's curiosity about the origin of Videodrome is further stimulated when he is warned to stay away from it because it is ruled by a complex philosophy not readily understood. Moreover, it is dangerous. From here, Max becomes torn between a digital world of chaos, mind-control, and vivid hallucinations.
This is a personal favorite of mine from the Criterion Collection. As usual, David Cronenberg is an expert at challenging the dark unexplored areas of the human mind. Are some of these areas better off unexplored ? What are the consequences ? The other important subject broached in this film is the impact of technology on the human Psych. Fast forward to 2012, and an alarmingly large amount of the population are addicted to electronic devices. In fact, we can't seem to escape them nor live without them. As a result, Human communication is becoming more and more unnatural. I pose the same question to this topic, what are the consequences ? These are some of the intriguing areas explored in this dark film.
As for the blu ray presentation, Criterion delivers a home run with this one. Bodily transformations are rendered flawless in the new flesh. Perfection.
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