Videodrome is a must-see if you want to see the one film synonymous with the phrase “weird shit starts happening”. In fact, this film shows off Interactive TV of the most unique kind! Getting a “Smart TV”? The ones in this movie are psychic!
In this review I will mention some elements of the film, as I expect almost everyone reading this will have seen it, but I won’t say anything plot-spoilery.
Max (James Woods) buys new TV series on Betamax for his nefarious-quality programming on Civic TV, found on the dial at Channel 83, for which he is its president. These include Samurai Dreams, a bizarre show which starts with a Geisha doll dildo holder, a scene which the BBFC used to censor back in the early days of this film’s release. However, he soon moves onto something stronger, one where the sort of footage obtained here, however, is very degrading, featuring men and women being whipped and tortured in a grim-looking room with electrified clay walls(!), sometimes even including a murder. The show is called “Videodrome”.
There’s also some incredible special effects – back in the days before CGI stopped a lot of filmmakers from having to think – including seeing James Woods fishing around inside his own guts! He’s standing up when this is happening, so it’s not like he’s poking his head over the sofa and pretending to be doing this while still sat down. This is so damn clever! (and yes, the extras do go into how this is all done, but don’t spoil the fun first if you haven’t seen it)
It’s interesting to compare life now and then with a film going back 30 years, and how it sees events. Back in 1983, satellite TV hadn’t yet taken off for the domestic market so it was left to nerds with huge satellites trying to get… well, anything they could get, and with a big, motorised dish. Also, in these times, groping employees on the bum is seen as perfectly acceptable. There are personalised wake-up calls via the television, plus an early Oculus Rift demonstration, sort-of. Oh, and there are video tapes that breathe!
Since watching Videodrome causes Max to experience bizarre things, the question is – what is real and what is a hallucination?
Woods is on top form, as he almost always is, and there’s also a notable performance from Debbie Harry (listed as ‘Deborah’, here), as radio talkshow host Nicki Brand, who he later discovers gets off on self-harm. Now, everyone has their turn-ons in the bedroom, but I think I’d draw the line at drawing blood! There’s also a remarkable, haunting organ score from Howard Shore.
And last Friday, when a sinkhole opened up in Manchester, causing the Mancunian Way to be closed in both directions, the council announced that the ground was still moving inside.. making it all sound a bit like a non-violent version of Videodrome…
Videodrome isn’t a perfect film overall, since it’s way too daft at times and it sometimes feels more like a collection of great scenes than a coherent movie, but it’s never anything less than an essential must-see. The lack of coherence could be put down to the fact that, as per the extras, Cronenberg gets his inspiration from his nightmares. If that’s the case, then how come he remains so slim when clearly he’s eaten every last scrap of cheese from behind the cooker?!
And something about the ending which I’ll hide in a spoiler tag:
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the copious extras…
…or rather, that’s actually an uncredited David Cronenberg, would you believe?
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.