Wednesday, June 29, 2011

695. Videodrome (1983)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg
Main Cast: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson


With "Naked Lunch" and "The Fly" currently streaming on Netflix, I went ahead and moved "Videodrome" to the top of my "At Home" queue, so that I could perform a "Cronenberg Hat Trick". The only two David Cronenberg films I have ever seen (prior to today) are "The Dead Zone" and "History of Violence", with the first being pretty good and the second being not so pretty good. So how did "Videodrome" compare?

Max Renn (Woods) is the president of CIVIC TV, a raunchy television station that has a knack for airing softcore pornography and violent content. One day Renn's right hand man Harlan (Dvorsky) picks up a floating signal via a pirate satellite dish. When reviewing the content, Renn is surprised to see the images of a woman being tortured. While the picture of the signal is fuzzy, Renn is consumed by the feed, which is titled VIDEODROME. Harlan continues to track down the feed and eventually tracks it to Pittsburgh. Becoming more and more consumed with Videodrome, Max contacts his friend in the television business, Masha, and asks her about the source of Videodrome. Masha confesses that not only is Videodrome real footage of people being tortured, but that notable philosopher Brian O'Blivion is somehow in on it. Renn chases continues to chase the rabbit down the hole and as he gets deeper and deeper into the tangled web that Videodrome has weaved around his life, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to become faded.


So how does "Videodrome" compare to those films that I mentioned earlier? Well, it's really nothing like them and that's neither a good or bad remark. "Videodrome" is a very strange film and even after finishing it today, I was still left flummoxed by the plot and couldn't quite grasp a handle on my own opinion. As I write this, I've yet to do any extra-curricular research on the film and have decided to swing into the review with only the thoughts that are in my head presently. I understood the film, for the most part, but it definitely left me with some questions. There were obviously some undertones in there and Cronenberg was definitely trying to make a statement about how the public (generally Americans, I assumed) take their television a bit too seriously. We're faced with an extremely violent show, a show more violent than any other show and then later on in the film, we're told that the show is actually the cause of brain tumors in anyone who views that show. Now, we're also told that the images that appear on Videodrome are simply hallucinations and that none of it is actually real. Is Videodrome merely a receptacle for the fantasies and illusions that man gets from watching too much television? Let's say a man watches a violent show, then will Videodrome ultimately become the outlet for that man's murderous fantasies? I don't really know and maybe I'm just babbling, trying to get my ideas to this screen. There's definitely an underlying message in there, which I believe to be a bit of a satirizing of the American public and how seriously some of us take out T.V.

In the end, however, I just didn't care too much for the film. It stimulated my brain and for that I am always grateful, but all in all it was a film that just wasn't my cup of tea. The cast was fine, the atmosphere was fine, but ultimately I think Cronenberg was going out of his way to make a bold statement, instead of a bold film. I'll give credit where it's due, however, as the visual effects were startling, James Woods was really good and there was definitely more than a dash of originality. I'll stay positive on the works of Cronenberg and here's hoping that "The Fly" leaves a better taste in my mouth. If you haven't seen "Videodrome", it does still come with a mild recommendation, because I think there is definitely going to be people out there who really like this a lot. Listen to me, I'm acting as if the film opened in theatres today. What I mean is, if you haven't seen it, you might just love it, but me...I didn't.

RATING: 4.5/10 Couldn't even give this one a boost to the average marker in good conscience. I do, however, look forward to "The Fly".


June 28, 2011 10:08pm


  1. Videodrome is almost as good as The Firesign Theatre when it comes to blurring the line between reality and television.

    Cronenberg has often included in his films thoughts about "The Flesh" as being transitory and malleable. It's at its most blatant here, with the idea that a video signal can spark evolution and mutation, but you'll see it again in The Fly.

    Considering what we see on "Skinemax" today, the shows on Civic were positively prescient.

    The effects hold up today. Bear in mind how little of what you see was live - even the images on the inflating TV were projected onto the ballooning screen from inside.

  2. Thanks for the comment Vinnie. While I appreciate what Cronenberg was going for, ultimately he lost me somewhere along the way and my proverbial umbelical cord to this film was severed.


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