Blu-Ray Review: David Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’ Still Has Disturbing Power

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CHICAGO – They just don’t make movies like “Videodrome” all that often. Well, there just aren’t that many filmmakers like David Cronenberg out there, especially not those working in the psycho-sexual milieu that typified the work from the first half of his career. Arguably the best film from the early period of one of our best filmmakers, “Videodrome” has been granted the Blu-ray treatment from The Criterion Collection. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

“Videodrome” is straight-up weird in all the right ways. It represents the work of a confident filmmaker expressing his unique voice in a riveting way. Cronenberg wrote and directed this commentary on sex, politics, censorship, and the power of the media and the result is one of the most unique films of a relatively-safe era of cinema. There weren’t a lot of filmmakers taking chances like “Videodrome” in the early to mid-’80s. Between “Scanners,” “The Dead Zone,” and “The Fly,” “Videodrome” was seen as a failure, grossing only half its budget, but history has recognized how far ahead of his time Cronenberg was with this passion project.

Videodrome was released on Blu-ray on December 7th, 2010
Videodrome was released on Blu-ray on December 7th, 2010
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

James Woods stars as Max Renn, the President of CIVIC-TV in Toronto, Canada. Some of our readers may be old enough to remember the days before cable, the internet, and gaming consoles, when one of the few sources of entertainment in the middle of the night was flipping through the broadcast channels and trying to pick up something unusual. Growing up near the Canadian border myself, I can remember finding strange stations somewhat like CIVIC-TV long after primetime programming.

Videodrome was released on Blu-ray on December 7th, 2010
Videodrome was released on Blu-ray on December 7th, 2010
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

“Videodrome” imagines a world in which such networks are trafficking in pornography. CIVIC-TV airs weird, often-sadomasochistic porn and Max needs to up the stakes to make waves. Not unlike 2010, TV viewers demand something new — even in the middle of the night. He stumbles upon a broadcast of an amazingly-violent program called “Videodrome” and when he looks into its origins, he dives deep into a hallucinatory nightmare where we don’t control the images as much as they control us.

It sounds cliched to say a movie was ahead of its time, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a 1983 movie that has the same modern resonance as “Videodrome.” As we become more and more attached to our technology, a cautionary tale about the power of imagery still has relevance. With great performances by Woods and Deborah Harry along with spectacular, visionary direction by Cronenberg, “Videodrome” makes a great fit for The Criterion Collection.

The HD transfer of the unrated version was overseen by Cronenberg and cinematographer Mark Irwin and it’s expectedly-perfect, as is the new monaural track. The special features have been imported from the DVD “Videodrome” Criterion edition and they’re typically-for-Criterion fantastic, especially a short film from 2000 that Cronenberg shot that has relations to his 1983 sci-fi classic.

Special Features:
o Two audio commentaries, one featuring Cronenberg and Irwin, the other actors James Woods and Deborah Harry
o “Camera,” a short film by Cronenberg
o “Forging the New Flesh”
o “Effects Men”
o “Bootleg Video”
o “Fear on Film”
o Original theatrical trailers and promotional featurette
o Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos and posters
o A booklet featuring essays by writers Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas, and Gary Indiana

“Videodrome” stars James Woods and Deborah Harry. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg. It was released on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection on December 7th, 2010. It is rated R and runs 89 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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