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 embar... more »ks on a hallucinatory journey into a shadow world of right-wing conspiracies, sadomasochistic sex games, and bodily transformation. Renn?s 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 Cronenberg?s 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.« less
Michael J Edelman | Huntington Woods, MI USA | 10/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"TV will rot your brain, some say- and in the world of Videodrome, that's exactly what happens. A group working with a media philosopher (a nice parody of Marshall McCluhan) has created a signal that can be superimposed on a video program that will, quite literally, mutate the brain. It may be a tumor- or it may be a new organ. It's infected cable TV president Max Venn (James Woods), and is starting to change him and his world in bizarre ways.Videodrome is a wonderfully original movie that mixes a well crafted script with some novel (for the time) special effects and a marvelous darkly comic sensibility. Puns abound; the president of "Spectacular Optics"- itself a pun- is named Convex. Brian Oblivion (the Marshall McCluhan parody) founded the "Cathode Ray Mission" (as in "cathode ray emission"), where the homeless and destitute are re-integrated into society by providing them with exposure to television.Underneath this is a dark, sexual theme- Max's attraction to the images of bondage and sadism that are his undoing, and to radio psychologist Nikki (Debbie Harry, in a compelling if inartful performance) who is willing to go a lot farther than is Max in her pursuit of kinky thrills.Is Max really being physically transformed, or is it all in his head? Is the New Flesh real, or another delusion? All in all, a compelling and original film that will delight any fan of cult films and erotic horror."
One of the Best Criterion DVDs
J. MacAyeal | libertyville, illinois United States | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Videodrome is not only one of the top three horror/sci-fi movies made in the last 25 years it also has the distinguishing trait of having been given one of the best royal treatments from Criterion. If you need basic plot and such look elsewhere. This review is more about why this is one of the greatest films of all time. First, the film: A must-have for any film collector, not just a horror or sci-fi buff. James Woods plays a Cable-TV station owner who broadcasts soft-porn and adult entertainment. His favorite technician shows him a pirated TV show called Videodrome in which people are tortured and killed. Woods pursues this show, watching more and more of it until his investigations lead him to two sources: The Videodrome show producers itself and the show's arch-enemy, The Cathode Ray Mission. Woods discovers that the show transmits a signal that creates a tumor in the brain that leads to S+M hallucinations. Woods begins to hallucinate incredible sexual/violent nightmares ( the fleshy TV set)and finds himself as a pawn between the two entities. Videodrome plans on using Woods' station to transmit the violent Videodrome show in order to kill the audience of porn. Videodrome owner Barry Convex "programs" Woods to kill his partners at the station and the Cathode Ray Mission Leader, Bianca O'Blivion. Bianca "counter programs" Woods into killing the Videodrome people. Bianca declares that Woods has "evolved" (Darwinism on its ear) into The New Flesh, an allegory of an information-age human with a body that mutates via hallucination. In the end, Woods, alone and his head filled with tumors, is prompted by his now dead girlfriend (Deborah Harry in the flesh TV set) to "evolve" into the next stage by shooting himself. Woods kills himself exactly as the fleshy TV set instructs him to do, declaring: "Long live the New Flesh."
Cronenberg gathered many parts of a script and ideas together to create a near avant-garde film that uses TV and fanatical programmers as villains. This movie sets the thriller basis for which The Matrix and The Ring would so heavily borrow from. Cronenberg's approach is different from his previous film SCANNERS in that the protaganist's perspective (a tremendous James Woods) becomes the actual subject of the movie. Since Videodrome has probably been seen my almost everone who reads this I need not bother to summarize the plot any further. Suffice to say that what starts out as an already interesting and challenging portrait of a soft-porn Cable-TV station owner looking for the next big thing in the adult entertainment world evolves into a nightmare that relentlessly never eases until the very last frame. This psychotic world and body (called The New Flesh)that Woods now finds himself becomes an allegory for our dependance and adhearance to Media and TV in particular. The concepts of "downloading" and "programming people" was, back in 1981, revolutionary. Kafka meets Tom Edison. The villains are evangelical and are either using the cancer-tumor inducing "videodrome" signal to kill sinners (Barry Convex looks like Jimmy Baker) or, in a twist of Darwin, the Cathode Ray Mission using the signal to "evolve" people to the next state of our existance: a personified information society of hallucinating, mutated people. This film was ahead of its time by decades and is still a significant movie using TV/Media as the vehicle for great evil, as prompted by an already receptive audience. Cronenberg suggests that we have created a TV Pornographic Frankenstien that is out of control.
The DVD: Two discs, both essential. The commentary from Cronengerg and James Woods is particulary interesting. Deborah Harry comments as well. The extras on Disc two feature excellent interviews with the special effects team, and a TV interview show from Canadian TV with John Carpenter, John Landis, and Cronenberg. The making of film is good and the actual torture and porn videos shot especially for the film are just bizzare to see, and they are provied with commentary. The DVD case is made to look like a betamax cassette that reads: Long Live the New Flesh. I love this movie, I always have. Yes, it has dated a little bit, but its one of those few movies that gets better with age. In fact, the dating of the effects adds significance to the visionary horror concept itself, light years ahead of its time. This is Cronenberg's masterpiece and everyone associated with it can consider themselves lucky. Make yourself among these lucky and get this DVD set."
Cronenberg Terrorize the Audience through Brilliant Delusion
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 10/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The TV producer Max Renn (James Woods) works for a sleazy TV network that focuses on violence, sex, and other bizarre programs. Max's job is to search and find programs that keep pushing the aggressive nature of the network and can keep the viewer numbers up. Years of exposure to violence and sex have diminished the effect that the brutality and sexuality have on Max. As a result Max continues to search for something rough and more sadistic, and through an employee of the network he finds a pirate cable show, Videodrome.
The nature of the Videodrome is as Max refers to it as, "It's just murder and torture. No plot. No characters." It is the cutting edge, no pun intended, of cable TV for Max as it is rougher and more brutal than anything else that he has seen. Max tapes the show and becomes fixated with the pirated shows. This also begins to affect Max's social life as he meets Nicki (Deborah Harry) with whom he initiates a sadistic romance. Max begins to track the source down for Videodrome, which initially seems to be sent from Malaysia. However, further investigation leads Max to Pittsburgh, and he realizes that it is connected with a nightmarish cult.
David Cronenberg creates a terrifying atmosphere where reality and delusions begin to blend. This shadow land draws the audience into a paranoid cinematic experience where the threat is located directly in front of them, the television. The exceptional special effects are a big part of creating the bizarre atmosphere, which are startling with the breathing video tapes, open stomachs, and a sensually moving television. Videodrome carries Cronenberg's distinctive insignia as it is unique, disturbing, and groundbreaking. As usual with Cronenberg, his films always create room for cerebral participation and reflection as there are always several messages, which can be seen in other films by Cronenberg such as Spider and Naked Lunch. When Videodrome's end credits roll over the screen the audience will have experienced a truly unique film, which will cause much room for debate and pondering. "
Television is reality, and reality is less than television
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 10/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"They say you either love or hate this rather bizarre offering from 1983, but I found myself somewhat indifferent as Videodrome approached its conclusion. To my mind, the final third of the story is ultimately too haphazard, esoteric, and too consciously horror-driven to clearly express the themes worked into the heart of the film. It's easy to read a lot into this film, but that's as much of a credit to the viewer as it is to the filmmakers.
Still, Videodrome is certainly a fascinating, unique film that compels the viewer to contrast the interplay between video and real life in our increasingly technological age. By 1983, most people were already seeing life through a television screen - TV defined the news, fashion, the latest fads, etc. In the movie, TV plays as integral a part as food and comfort in the rehabilitation of the homeless taken in at the Cathode Ray Mission run by Dr. O'Blivion (Jack Creley). Rather than paint the television as a soul-draining maker of brain-dead zombies, Videodrome forges its way down an even more frightening path, where television is used as a potential weapon on the masses.
James Woods plays Max Renn, a rather sleazy cable operator who depends on shocking television shows to keep his little station up and running. He discovers many of his shows through satellite piracy, and that is just how Videodrome first comes to his attention. He is fascinated with the show, which features nothing but torture and abuse of individuals, especially women, with no sign of a plot anywhere behind it. It's just the kind of shocking new thing he's after, and so he begins searching for its source. His prurient interest in such violent material is enhanced by his current girlfriend, Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), who is so into S&M that she vows to audition for Videodrome herself. Before long, Max begins hallucinating, and his efforts to discover the source of Videodrome become, at the same time, a desperate attempt to maintain his sanity if not physical life. The show isn't rotting his brain, but it is physically changing it, and therein lies the unheralded danger of this example of reality TV taken to the extreme.
All of this works beautifully for the first hour, but I just feel the psychology of the story is ultimately sacrificed in the name of horror, as the special effects force something of a disconnect between the viewer and the film. At least in my case, this robbed this otherwise perversely fascinating film of much of its power."
Scott T. Gaal | cleveland, ohio | 07/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"David Cronenberg was giving us a taste of things to come when he made this instant classic in the early '80's. Without the technology of today he still produced great effects; but the film gets its strength from the inner conflict of humans being not only contolled by technology, but actually becoming one with it. James Woods gives a good performance as the main character who takes the next step and is transformed into "the new flesh". Some of the same elements will be evident in the hallucinations of Naked Lunch and other films by Cronenberg as he sees the horrors of the world originate in the human mind. Highly recommended."