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4.0 out of 5 stars
Videodrome [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
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VINE VOICEon 4 December 2013
Videodrom is David Cronenberg's sleazy 1983 masterpiece starring James Woods and Debbie Harry. The Universal DVD version appears to be marginally shorter than the Criterion version. The cut does not really damage the film but of course the marginally longer version is presumably better. The Universal DVD contains no real extras so this is just the film itself. It is great.

The plot combines themes of mental illness, the controlling power of television, the darker side of sexuality, and the lingering myth of underground snuff movies. That combination of themes makes Videodrome a bit more of a challenge than most but for those comfortable with seeing the world from a less comforting angle it is a work of genious.

Primary character Max played by James Woods is a small time porn producer in Toronto looking for the latest innovation to champion. He is jaded, calm sensual pornography not being enough for him. Max demands something harder. Cronenberg understands that darker side to sexuality, the need to up the hit, to take the imagination into places previously unknown. Max is himself an example of the degrading effect of visual media, an exploitative character craving new experiences.

The world Max inhabits is thrown into chaos by two forces - radio host Nicki Brand played by Debbie Harry and Videodrome. Nicki is some form of sensate, living vicariously through the emotional torment from the callers to her show. She is every bit as exploitative as Max. The pair make a beautiful couple. Videodrome is what eventually comes between them.

Videodrome's appearance as a flickery pirate shot speaks to the perception in the 70s of an underground cinema scene parading truly horrific concepts like snuff. While that idea has never really gone away it was a much better known meme at the time of Videodrome. To the audience of 1983 the idea of Videodrome was one that could have been reality.

The blurring of reality and visual fiction is at the heart of Videodrome. Which parts of the experiences Max endures are real? Does Nicki really enter his life? Is he just mentally ill?

These kinds of questions are never answered merely added to through the film. The presence of Debbie Harry both strengthens and questions the realism of everything on screen. In 1983 Debbie Harry was still a superstar despite the breakup of Blondie. At that time she was a stunning image, so beautiful but with a strangeness about her that only added to the allure. She was perfect for Videodrome. Everyone recognised her as someone they knew in reality but here she was acting in a film that questioned what was real in the projection of images.

For any red blooded male the sight of a masochistic Debbie Harry enjoying the suffering she inflicts upon herself makes the rest of the world seem momentarily irrelevant.

As the film progresses things become wierder. The visual effects are incredible for 1983. Cronenberg pushed the envelope in creating disturbing effects to reflect the illness either within Max or caused by the sickness that is Videodrome. Effects that pretty much stand the test of time, a gritty photography style for the world Max inhabits, and the breathtaking imagery of Debbie Harry make this a real visual feast. Fitting that a film about the distorting power of the image is so great to look at.

The audio of Videodrome is pretty clever. The quote from Max about torture and murder being the next big thing captures so well the world Cronenberg portrays. The heartbeat and breathing sounds that permeate so many of the scenes keep an almost sub-conscious attention reflecting Nicki's quote about living in a highly excited state of overstimulation.

The moral story is told through slightly longer words mainly from Brian O'Blivion. His non-visually stimulating and wordy style contrast so strongly with everything else. It is through O'Blivion that Cronenberg delivers his warning of the encroaching power of the small screen. Imagine what Brian O'Blivion would have made of the pervasive internet and all the darkness that can be freely located within it.

Of course the best known line of Videodrome belongs to Max - "Long Live The New Flesh".

On the surface level Videodrome is a sleazy and slightly gory exploitation film. On further reflection it is a masterpiece deliving into the dangers of the creative mind seeking stimulation and doing so with such stunning beauty.
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on 1 August 2013
James Woods is brilliantly cast as Max Renn, head of CIVIC-TV, a controversial television station which broadcasts sensational content from 'softcore pornography to hardcore violence'. Woods pulls off an electric performance as a sleazy, morally ambiguous but irrepressibly likable anti-hero who is fascinated when he stumbles upon an obscure broadcast of a show called 'Videodrome' which is ostensibly nothing but chillingly realistic scenes of torture and murder. His date Nikki Brand, a kinky radio hostess played with simmering erotic intensity by Debby Harry, immediately embraces 'Videodrome' seeing in it an outlet for her extreme sadomasochistic desires. The couple separately go in search of the source of 'Videodrome', each for their own reasons, and find that it is something beyond their worst fears or wildest fantasies.

This is a unique vision of surreal technological horror, Cronenberg employs his trademark 'body horror' style to blood curdling effect as visual metaphor for the impact of media upon our lives and sense of reality. Although the film is dated by the fact it centres around a now obsolete technology (videotape) the themes seem perhaps even more prescient in the age of the internet. Make no mistake, despite the luridness apparent in the synopsis, this is a film made by a highly intelligent writer/director who is serious about exploring with great verve; science, technology and the effects they have on our psychology and society.

I wouldn't recommend this if you don't like the feeling of being left bewildered by a film, Videodrome burns through a lot of heavy imagery and ideas in it's fairly short (89 mins) running time and could've perhaps done with more time so the pace could be slowed and more clarity brought to the latter half of the film, conversely though the film's bursting at the seems, too much in too little time, furious energy is probably why it's so good to rewatch, it feels different each time.

All in all I love this film for being a diamond in the rough; unique, shockingly vivid and reaching in some very interesting directions. A classic midnight selection. Gore and depravity for the thinking man.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 July 2007
David Cronenberg is a unique filmmaker whose vision of the world is somewhat skewed as compared with the rest of us. In Videodrome he investigates the possible insidious and damaging effects that a continuous stream of torture and death from a TV screen could have upon an individual. Well that is one possible interpretation of this film, in fact he could equally just be pushing the boundaries a bit further himself.

The film was made in 1982 when Video was just beginning to boom all over the world. It stars James Woods as Max Renn, who gives one of his best ever performances, as an executive for a small cable TV station who in searching for something new to air on the station. He discovers Videodrome, or is a duped into discovering it, and from that point on starts to hallucinate. Beyond this point it becomes difficult to know what is real and what isn't. Suffice to say, if you are not familiar with Cronenberg, things turn pretty nasty and although some of the special effects look a little dated now this certainly isn't for the squeamish.

Unless you have read a detailed synopsis by Cronenberg himself, you are likely to get to the end of this movie and wonder what it all means, which is pretty much how I felt. However its done with a style that is largely missing from a lot Hollywood movies, and that is not surprising. Cronenberg is Canadian and this is a Canadian film. It has a different feel to Hollywood movies, perhaps more akin to a European movie. I agree with the previous reviewer that towards the end the typical Cronenberg 'horror' element was overplayed, but overall this is a thought-provoking and strangely entertaining movie that I look forward to watching again.
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on 15 November 2014
James Woods plays perfectly to type as Max Renn, a slimy TV executive whose channel specialises in titillation and sensationalism. On the look-out for more extreme programming, Max employs Harlan, a freelance pirate who has unearthed something called ‘Videodrome’. Seemingly being transmitted from the Far East, the programme appears to depict people being beaten to death whilst chained-up in a dungeon; Max immediately decides that this is the future of TV, and determines to get a piece of the action, however when he learns that the programme doesn’t actually feature actors, but real people being killed for mass entertainment, Max starts to get cold feet – unfortunately he is already in too deep, and when he begins to experience weird hallucinations, events start to really spiral out of control...
Strange, surreal, body-horror, from the undisputed master of the genre – at 85 minutes long the film doesn’t come near to outstaying its welcome, and stands as one of the most visceral things Cronenberg has ever produced – and that’s saying something!
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on 18 April 2012
I do like this film, James Woods in (what i consider)a perfect role for him, certainly one which must have shaped his future roles. Debby Harry was an unexpected choice, but obviously an inspired one - she is terrific, as are all the supporting cast.
This film isn't very well known, however most people have heard of 'The Ring', but probably don't know that the recent version is a copy of the Japanese version, which is a rip off of this film, and the ideas in it - they just 'changed the plot' a little for copyright reasons.
This to me is by far superior, and if you like films that are something a little different to routine stuff you have seen before, give it a look.
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on 28 May 2015
The greatest David Cronenberg film ever made. An original spin in body horror films about the media influence on people and distorting their reality. James Woods plays the main character who is going out his mind which is an excellent performance. The special effects done by Rick Baker who just done the effects in the iconic werewolf film An American Werewolf in London are brilliant. A strange film but very clever take on media consumption in people's minds which was also relevant at the time.
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on 16 August 2014
Another Cronenberg classic ! All his favourite preoccupations are here - media, the body, the 'new flesh' etc etc...& James Woods...Can't go wrong, really can you ? Some of the effects are a bit hokey & dated in these days of CGI, (the video tape in the stomach, the gun growing into the arm etc !) Still, it's fun to see what was considered the height of hi-tech back in the '80's...
"What format would you prefer, Mr Ren ? VHS or Betamax ?". Tee-hee !!!
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on 31 March 2001
A fantastic 1982 effort from Cronenberg, and he thumps the audience into submission as weirdness, gore and a marvellous performance from James Woods combine to tell the story of a cable TV programmer whose mind and body is altered drastically by a hallucinogenic porn show and its sinister makers. Truly dumbfounding but still incredible, it is full of intriguing conceits and next to his incredible remake of The Fly, is Cronenberg's best work.
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An utter cult classic is this here film.

Staring James Woods and the sultry gorgeous Debbie Harry, it focuses on the paranoia of the beginnings of the video / VHS age and takes it many stages further in the fantastic imagination of Cronenburg!

Mind control, sexual excess, secret sects and murder by mutation, it's all here in this nightmare tale from the master of the odd and very strange!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2011
Since Criterion-DVDs used to be Region Code free It woult be a great Idea to mark this Blu Ray as Code A Blu-Ray
Great Movie but since RC-free devices are rare for Blu-Rays I can't watch it
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