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Videodrome (1983) - David Cronenberg

Related: David Cronenberg - television - body horror - horror film - SM fiction - VCR - 1983 - film

Quote: "The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears in the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television."

Videodrome (1983) - David Cronenberg [Amazon.com]


Videodrome is a 1983 film written and directed by David Cronenberg. James Woods and Deborah Harry star.

The film's story begins with the program director (Woods) of a sleazy local cable TV channel looking for new material to titillate his viewers. His technical staff picks up transmissions of bizarre, violent programs. As the director attempts to locate the source of the transmissions, he finds that they are beginning to affect him mentally, and then, as will be familiar to those who have seen Cronenberg's earlier films, to cause him to undergo a physiological transformation as well.

Because the film takes place entirely from the lead character's point of view, it becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is hallucination. A vagina-like opening appears in his stomach, allowing the villains to mentally program him by inserting video cassettes into it; as the film goes on, these begin to look more like tumours. Under the influence of his programming he takes a gun, which merges with his hand to form a literal "handgun", and shoots his former employers. He is then literally reprogrammed by Harry's character, so that when one of the villains attempts to insert another tumour-like cassette into him he is able to fuse a grenade to the man's arm (i. e., a "hand grenade") which explodes and kills him.

Woods's character finally takes refuge on a derelict boat in the harbour, where he sees a TV set showing an image of himself pointing his handgun at his head and saying "long live the new flesh". His on-screen image shoots himself and the TV explodes, spilling human intestines all over the deck. He then repeats the action he has just watched, pulls the trigger, and the screen goes blank.

From the above description it will be obvious that Cronenberg has lost none of his taste for depictions of bodily distortions and viscera. The film can be seen as a highly literal metaphor for the corruption of television. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videodrome [Oct 2004]

"The 'Clockwork Orange' of the 80's"

"Death to Videodrome! Long live the New Flesh!" In Cronenberg's most purely sci-fi film, James Woods stars as an unhinged TV executive who embraces the New Flesh, a mysterious and disturbing marriage of man and machine, after viewing snuff-porn supplied by a sinister quasi-military organization. This hallucinatory meditation on the dark extremes of screen sex and violence was, ironically, banned from some Canadian theatres for scenes of sexuality and sadomasochism (ya gotta love Debbie Harry's ear-piercing scene). Andy Warhol called VIDEODROME "the 'Clockwork Orange' of the 80's"; it's also one of Cronenberg's best. Don't miss fledging actor (pre-"Honourable") David Tsubouchi's cameo as a Japanese porn salesman!


Max Renn runs Civic-TV, a cable softcore / hardcore channel. His satellite-pirate partner intercepts a coded transmission containing a snuff-show. Very simple, very cheap, very real. No story, just torture and murder. The trace of this transmission leads to a man called professor Brian O'Blivion (!). After this, Max begin to suffer from sporadic hallucinations. Soon he understands that the hallucinations are triggered by a tumor inside his head, which is caused by massive doses of coded signals, hidden in the Videodrome transmissions. It shows later, that the tumor is in fact another organ, controlled by a company called Spectacular Optical. --jonberg@swipnet.se http://home.swipnet.se/~w-37337/l0dg3/Videodrome.htm

Amazon review

Love it or loathe it, David Cronenberg's 1983 horror film Videodrome is a movie to be reckoned with. Inviting extremes of response from disdain (critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the least entertaining films ever made") to academic euphoria, it's the kind of film that is simultaneously sickening and seemingly devoid of humanity, but also blessed with provocative ideas and a compelling subtext of social commentary. Giving yet another powerful and disturbing performance, James Woods stars as the operator of a low-budget cable-TV station who accidentally intercepts a mysterious cable transmission that features the apparent torture and death of women in its programming. He traces the show to its source and discovers a mysterious plot to broadcast a subliminally influential signal into the homes of millions, masterminded by a quasi-religious character named Brian O'Blivion and his overly reverent daughter. Meanwhile Woods is falling under the spell, becoming a victim of video, and losing his grip--both physically and psychologically--on the distinction between reality and television. A potent treatise on the effects of total immersion into our mass-media culture, Videodrome is also (to the delight of Cronenberg's loyal fans) a showcase for obsessions manifested in the tangible world of the flesh. It's a hallucinogenic world in which a television set seems to breath with a life of its own, and where the body itself can become a VCR repository for disturbing imagery. Featuring bizarre makeup effects by Rick Baker and a daring performance by Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) as Wood's sadomasochistic girlfriend, Videodrome is pure Cronenberg--unsettling, intelligent, and decidedly not for every taste. --Jeff Shannon

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