Videodrome (1982)

Canada, 1981
87m (USA R-rated version), 89m
35mm, colour, 1.85:1
mono, English

A Canadian science fiction/horror film directed by David Cronenberg. Production took place between 27 October and 23 December 1981 and the finished film was released to 600 cinema in Canada and the USA on 4 February 1983.

Plot Summary

Max Renn runs a seedy porn cable channel and is always on the lookout for something new, more challenging. He thinks he's found it when he stumbles upon Videodrome, a snuff TV signal being broadcast from Philadelphia. His new lover, DJ Nicki Brand, goes off in search of the makers, hoping for an audition while Max finds himself drawn into an increasingly strange world where Videodrome is revealed to be a weapon being used by a group of reactionaries to alter their viewer's perceptions by causing brain damage. But how much of what Max is experiencing is real, how much of it is and how much of it is Videodrome?

Credits

Crew
Directed by: David Cronenberg
© Guardian Trust Company; 618 St. Jacques Street, Montreal, Quebec (on behalf of unitholders)
Universal an MCA company [opening logo] A Filmplan International production. Pierre David and Victor Solnicki present a David Cronenberg film. A film produced with the participation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation and Famous Players Limited
Executive Producer: Victor Solnicki and Pierre David
Produced by: Claude Héroux
Associate Producer: Lawrence Nesis
Written by: David Cronenberg
Director of Photography: Mark Irwin
Edited by: Ronald Sanders
Original Music by: Howard Shore
Location Sound Recordist: Bryan Day
Costume Designer: Eileen Kennedy
Makeup Artist: Shonagh Jabour
Hair Stylists: Thomas L. Booth, Constant Natale
Special Makeup Designed and Created by: Rick Baker
Special Effects: Frank Carere
Art Director: Carol Spier

Cast
James Woods (Max Renn)
Sonja Smits (Bianca O'Blivion)
Deborah Harry as Nicki [Brand]
Peter Dvorsky (Harlan)
Les Carlson (Barry Convex)
Jack Creley (Brian O'Blivion)
Lynne Gorman (Masha)
Julie Khaner (Bridey)
Reiner Schwartz (Moses)
David Bolt (Raphael)
Lally Cadeau (Rena King)
Henry Gomez (Brolley)
Harvey Chao, David Tsubouchi (Japanese salesmen)
Kay Hawtrey (matron)
Sam Malkin (sidewalk derelict)
Bob Church (newscaster)
Jayne Eastwood (woman caller)
Franciszka Hedland (bellydancer)

Alternative Titles

Experiência Alucinante – Portugese title
Network of Blood – working title
Vidéodrome – French title
Videodrome – tuhon ase – Finnish title

Extracts included in
L'isola degli uomini pesce (1979)

Extracts included in
30 Even Scarier Movie Moments (2006)
The American Nightmare (2000)
Cinéma, de notre temps: David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word be Flesh (1999)
The Directors: The Films of David Cronenberg (1999)
Indie Sex: Taboos (2001)
Long Live the New Flesh: The Films of David Cronenberg (1987)
Masters of Horror (2002)
Naked Making Lunch (1992)
Nightmare in Canada: Canadian Horror on Film (2004)
Terror in the Aisles (1984)

Press

Variety 2 February 1983 p.18
“Horror specialist David Cronenberg has come up with his most densely plotted and talky film in Videodrome. However, neither factor gets in the way of the picture's visceral charms, which are considerable. […] Film is dotted with jargon and ideology which proves more fascinating than distancing. And Cronenberg amplifies the freaky situation with a series of stunning visual effects including a breathing television set and a chest cavity which opens and closes to serve as a gun holster or a video playback unit. The dark nature of the tale and most of Cronenberg's earlier films – no heroes, black comedy, and a message of fatalism rather than hope – should continue to enthrall audiences. Despite the bizarre nature of the story, there's an underlying credibility to the proceedings which is frightening. […] Picture is a real find for horror buffs looking for new thrills and may attract a videophile audience with its high-tech prophesizing. Videodrome should attract strong initial business thanks to its ability to elicit shock. There are a number of truly gruesome effects but its boxoffice staying power will hinge on turning on more than tuning out the audience.” – from a review by Klad

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.598 (November 1983) pp.310-311
“Cronenberg's audacious attempt at conflating medium and message produces more than just the time-honoured confusion of illusion and reality: it actually tests the audience's receptiveness to TV's ‘post-narrative' properties of fragmentation and flow in an alien (theatrical) context. Accordingly, Renn's ‘' are not presented as formal breaks in the film's narrative structure, but as determinants of that structure. For a good part of Videodrome‘s running time, Cronenberg actually risks a devilishly playful replication of the comparatively subjective video-viewing experience (grounded as it is in notions of personal programming, multiple channel choice, diversified attentiveness, and so on). Videodrome is no tetchy attack on TV as an institution, as per Network – its tone is, if anything, more apocalyptic, while its quotient of black humour is significantly boosted – but a cheekily speculative fiction about that interactive space between the viewer and the screen which has exercised sociologically or psychologically oriented media theorists for years. […] As in The Brood, there are the psychic states ‘made flesh': here developed in line with the dominant sense of visual punning to include living-tissue ‘handguns' and ‘hand grenades' – and topped, inevitably, by an exhibition of Rick Baker's magnificently gloppy special effects that's beguiling in its essential arbitrariness. The clinching unity, though, is again Cronenberg's reading (and re-writing) of Darwinism as a cautionary text, with both the human physique and psyche undergoing riskily rapid evolutionary change in adapting to radically new environments and cultural norms. Eventually, perhaps, Videodrome has more coherence as ‘A David Cronenberg Film' than as an Awful Warning on the video future. The ambiguity that attends the narrative hints of a hypnotic conspiracy (a genuine conflict of ideological image-controllers or a mere reflection of Renn's interior dualism?) keeps it a little too evasively shadowy to live up to O'Blivion's scene-setting rhetoric: “The battle for the minds of North America will be fought in the Videodrome … “. – from an illustrated review by Paul Taylor

All text in this section © the relevant copyright holders

References

Periodicals
American Film vol.12 no.3 (December 1986) p.60 – review
Cahiers du Cinéma no.360/361 (Summer 1984) pp.108-109 – review
Canadian Journal of Film Studies vol.1 no.1 (1990) p..29-35 (Canada) – article
CineAction! no.43 (July 1997) pp.58-61 (Canada) – illustrated article
Cinefantastique vol.12 no.1 (February 1982) p.9 – note
Cinefantastique vol.12 no.2 (April 1982) pp.4-7 – illustrated article
Cinefantastique vol.12 no.5/6 (July/August 1982) pp.6-7 – article
Cinefantastique vol.13 no.4 (April/May 1983) pp.4-5 – illustrated review (by Tim Lucas)
Cinefantastique vol.14 no.2 (December/January 1983/1984) pp.32-49 – interview
Cinema no.306 (June 1984) pp.48-49 (Switzerland) – review
Cinema Canada no.81 (February 1982) p.32 – production notes
Cinema Canada no.93 (February 1983) p.35 (Canada) – article
City Limits no.112 (25 November 1983) p.24 – review
Copie Zéro no.15 (1983) p.27 (Canada) – review
L'Écran Fantastique no.35 (June 1983) pp.18-23 (France) – illustrated interview
L'Écran Fantastique no.44 (April 1984) pp.24-29 (France) – illustrated article
Empire November 1998 p.103 – review
Empire no.130 (April 2000) p.118 – video review
Film Comment vol.18 no.1 (January/February 1982) pp.2, 4 – note
Films and Filming no.360 (November 1983) p.43 – review
The Hollywood Reporter vol.275 no.27 (7 February 1983) pp.3, 6 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.598 (November 1983) pp.310-311 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review (by Paul Taylor)
Music from the Movies no.22 (Winter 1999) p.26 – illustrated article
Positif no.281/282 (July/August 1984) pp.110-111 – review
Première May 1984 p.15 – review (by Stella Molitor)
Prevue no.47 (April/May 1982) pp.33-34 (USA) – article
Screen International no.316 (31 October 1981) p.28 – note
Screen International no.422 (26 November 1983) p.17 – review
Screen International no.484 (16 February 1985) p.65 – note
Starburst no.59 (July 1983) pp.11-12 – review
Starburst no.268 (December 2000) p.15 – credits, release date (Things to come: Movie releases: UK release dates)
Time Out no.691 (17 November 1983) pp.16-17 – interview
Variety 2 February 1983 p.18 – credits, review (by Klad)
Velvet Light Trap no.52 (Autumn 2003) pp.15-32 (USA) – article
Video Business vol.4 no.50 (18 February 1985) p.20 – article

Newspapers
The Daily Mail 22 November 1983 p.11 – note
The Daily Mail 25 November 1983 p.26 – illustrated review
The Daily Mirror 25 November 1983 p.21 – illustrated review

Books
Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.379
BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.185-186
The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero by Ernest Mathijs pp.2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 21, 26, 51, 69-70, 88, 101-24, 126-128, 131, 138, 142, 154, 159-161, 165-166, 202-203, 213-214, 217-218, 223, 237, 246, 250, 256; 279
Cronenberg on Cronenberg by Chris Rodley (ed.) pp.25, 29, 41, 57, 69, 80, 92-98, 100-105, 114, 115, 119, 144, 149; 213-214 – illustrated notes; credits
David Cronenberg: Author or Film-maker? by Mark Browning pp.57-79
David Cronenberg: Interviews with Serge Grünberg by Serge Grünberg pp.64-72; 191 – illustrated interview; credits
The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.615-616
Horror and Science Fiction Films III by Donald C. Willis p.298-299
Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.367-369 – credits, synopsis, review
Killing for Culture pp.70-73, 342-343 – notes
The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg by Michael Grant (ed.) pp.3, 6, 15, 23, 26, 36, 39, 45, 51, 55, 56, 66, 75, 85, 99, 170, 172
The Pocket Essential David Cronenberg by John Costello pp.50-55 – credits, review
The Politics of Insects: David Cronenberg's Cinema of Confrontation by Scott Wilson pp.10, 58, 184, 185-201, 206, 220, 21-222, 223
The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg by Piers Handling (ed.) pp.1-79 (illustrated article (The visceral mind: The major films of David Cronenberg by William Beard); pp.80-86 – illustrated article (The comedy of David Cronenberg by Maurice Yaowar); pp.87-97 illustrated article (The word, the flesh and David Cronenberg); 98-114 illustrated article (A Canadian Cronenberg by Piers Handling); 115-135 illustrated article (Cronenberg: A Dissenting View by Robin Wood); pp.136-148 illustrated article (Cronenberg tackles domnant videology by Geoff Pevere); pp.149-158 illustrated article (The image as virus: The filming of Videodrome by Tim Lucas); pp.208-209 – credits
Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction by Scott Bukatman