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"Videodrome" {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: Criterion
Release Date:
Special Features:

Commentary track by David Cronenberg; James Woods and Deborah Harry; the short "Camera";deleted scenes, Rated: UR edition


One of the few film directors that managed to make the transition effectively from horror/science fiction/art B-movies to major Hollywood productions, David Cronenberg continues to astonish in his fourth decade as a filmmaker. His first films were about as far from mainstream Hollywood horror films as was possible ("They Came from Within", "Rapid", "Scanners") but his stylish, intelligent scripts and direction attracted considerable praise which meant that when Mel Brooks was looking for someone to tackle a remake of "The Fly" Cronenberg was the natural first choice for the film. ***

David Cronenberg's "Videodrome" has become something of a cult classic since it was released in the 1982. Like many of Cronenberg's other films, "Videodrome" focuses on a virus of sorts that changes humanity--in this case, though, its not a modified rabis virus, or mutated form of VD (or even the "mind as virus" as in "Scanners")but, instead, on the media as virus altering us by altering our perception of reality. ***

Up and coming media mogul Max Renn (James Woods) is looking for the next big thing to attract an audience to his small cable TV station channel 83. He thinks he has found it with the odd almost hallucinagenic pirate TV program "Videodrome" where production values and story are jetisoned for raw, brutal torture and violence committed against the average person. What Renn uncovers though is a conspriacy to alter humanity as those who watch "Videodrome" begin to have waking halluncinations of a bizarre variety; TVs come to life becoming an extension of human beings; a gun grows into his hand becoming an extension of it; variations of the things he sees on "Videodrome" appear in Renn's world but only to him. Fans of the movie know the rest of the important plot points and discussing anything else would be major spoilers but if you've seen any of Cronenberg's other films you'll get a sense of the general direction of THIS film. ---

Image & Sound:

The Criterion Blu-ray is pulled from the same high definition source as the DVD released a couple of years back looks marvelous but newly transferred for Blu-ray. "Videdrome" was made at a time when film stocks were going through transition (and like many 80's films)looks a bit vibrant than we might expect a film made today to look. Criterion has done a superb job of creating the ultimate edition of this film. The film looks nearly flawless with no noticeable print damage, speckles evident in other DVD editions (except the Criterion of course) cleaned up. There's a nice, pleasing noticeable level of fine grain and I doubt the film has ever looked this good--including the original prints that ran when the movie was in theaters back in the day. ***

The print is the version that Cronenberg submitted to the MPAA prior to additional trimming to bring the film in line to what the MPAA considered an "R" rated film. That's important because the MPAA insisted that one key sequence in the film be altered to gain its "R" rating along with a number of other minor trims. ***

The audio soundtrack sounds extremely good with a 24 bit transfer. Dialogue is crisp and clear and Howard Shore's creepy sythesizer based score sounds marvelous here. It's a pity that the original sound elements didn't under go a 5.1 or stereo mix for this edition but what we do get sounds terrific.

Special Features:

The original special features that were on the DVD released a couple of years back have been ported over to this Blu-ray edition. We get two audio commentaries--the first features Cronenberg and his DP Mark Irwin discussing everything from the themes of the film and how the photography embodies them to technical challenges they faced in shooting the film. The second features actor Woods and Deborah Harry who played Renn's lover Nicki in the film. Woods is quite talkative providing considerable insight into his role in the film and what attracted him to working with Cronenberg. ***

We also get the 2000 short film "Camera" which was produced to celebrate the anniversary of the Toronto Film Festival. It compliments "Videodrome" perfectly almost like an extension of some of the themes from the film. Running around 6 minutes the film was shot on video except for the very last shot. ***

A very good documentary "Forging the New Flesh" is included that examines "Videodrome" within the context of its time and its relevance today. There's also "Effects Men" an audio interview as well as the complete footage from the Samurai dream sequence. ***

Rounding out the special features are the original promotional featurette, theatrical trailer, a roundtable discussion entitled "Fear on Film" from 1982 featuring Cronenberg as well as behind-the-scenes photos. As with all later Criterion releases we get a booklet with essays analyzing the film.

Final Words:

Although "Videodrome" won't be for everyone it continues Cronenberg's fascinating with the themes put forth in earlier feature films using a bigger budget along with the make up handy work of Rick Baker to sell an unusual story about how video acts almost like a virus altering us on a basic level often robbing us of our own humanity in the process. ***

Criterion has done a marvelous job with a sharp, clean looking transfer and with a wide array of great special features. ***



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