Videodrome



Release date: February 4, 1983

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley and Lynne Gorman

The movie begins with James Woods as Max, getting his video wake-up from his assistant. He is one of the partners in Civic TV's Channel 83, which shows softcore and other "stuff", and even calls itself "the one you take to bed with you." Max keeps himself busy by finding new material for the channel, and we see him peruse a video called "Samurai Dreams," in which a Japanese lady uses a dildo. One can only imagine the fun time Cronenberg and friends had shooting that scene.

He shows his partners at the station, and none of them are impressed with it at all. It's too soft, and Max wants something tougher. He has a contact who constantly tries to detect broadcasts that can be used, and he has found this show called Videodrome, behind a very serious firewall (kind of). the video shows a woman being tortured in a red room. Later in the movie Max asks when the plot kicks in, we discover that there is no plot—it's just straight torture and murder, that's all too the vidoe. He tries to find out the source of the video so he can maybe put it on the air.

Meanwhile, Max appears on the Rena King show, aswell as Deborah Harry as Nicki Brand and appearing on TV, Professor O'Blivion. Max is smoking on the air, and starts hitting on the girl Nicki, right on the air. This scene is where we start to spew thematic exposition in every direction. Max is willing to put anything on the air that might end up getting good ratings on TV, but hides behind the philosophy of "better on TV than on the streets." Nicki, the radio therapist on CRAM, does think a lot going on out there in the world, and says one of the best lines I have ever heard "I live in a highly-excited state of overstimulation."

This is one of those rare movies that is notable for the brilliance of its invention as opposed to how well it works as a complete movie. Because it barely works. There is a lot of material that can be found on how Cronenberg was writing and re-writing this right up until the last day of shooting of movie, and it shows, because as I'm sitting here writing about it in a coherent way, it's becoming more and more apparent that it doesn't really add up. Is it about how watching violence on TV makes you want to enact violence? I think it was at one time. Is it about how TV is a form of mind-control? Is it about how TV is replacing real experience? Is it about how people are becoming increasingly unable to relate to anything that's not on a video screen? It seems to be about all these things, picking them up and putting them down with only the barest effort to tie them together. Luckily for the film, TV is a broad enough target that you can just imply that it's BAD and it'll seem like a coherent statement. But one thing that really started to gnaw at me was; who created Videodrome, and why? Is it really just supposed to be an evolution? And the people who want to broadcast it—why? What do they want to control people to do? They know how destructive it is… it just didn't come together. But again, this film remains in the "definitely should be seen" category just for the brilliance of some of its visions and its general ideas about television and its effect on the brain and body.







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