17th Aug2015

‘Videodrome’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman, Julie Khaner, Reiner Schwarz, David Bolt, Lally Cadeau | Written and Directed by David Cronenberg


Out of all the David Cronenberg films I’ve seen, Videodrome always sticks with me as my favourite and some of his best work, if not THE best. Having not seen it in a few years, Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release was the perfect chance to catch up with the movie and see if my memories of it were purely nostalgia. Thankfully, they were not.

Max Renn (James Woods) is a sleazy cable-TV programmer looking for more extreme ways to entertain his viewers. When he discovers “Videodrome” it appears to be exactly what he was looking for. When he starts hallucinating though, he suddenly finds reality becoming warped to the point where he is not sure what is real, or what is Videodrome. Pulled into a conspiracy to expose more viewers to his discovery, only he can find a way to stop it.

There are many things that should make Videodrome feel a little past its prime, but in truth it still feels edgy and extreme. Yes, we see old style televisions, beta max videos and eighties fashion, but it is the underlying themes that still stand up to scrutiny. The need for more extreme ways to be thrilled is still real, especially with the internet, our exposure to this is growing and the whole concept of Videodrome feels strangely cutting edge.

When we think that Videodrome was released in 1983, it is surprising just how prophetic the film is. While Beta Max may not have been the format of choice and VHS is now pretty much in retirement, it isn’t the technology that is important, rather the actual content that we are exposed to. This is why Videodrome still has the power to shock, and to feel relevant. While Max Renn symbolises our need to consume more and more content, Cronenberg is saying that it is the content itself that in the end consumes us.

While there was a talk of remaking Videodrome, re-watching it makes me think that there is no real reason to do it (especially when Cronenberg himself did a remake of a kind with Extistenz.) If anything, this Blu-ray release shows just how relevant Videodrome is. It is believable, the special effects by Rick Baker for the most part are still impressive, and the story is still as powerful, if not more powerful than it was when the film was first released.

With this release of Videodrome it’s not only the packaging that is impressive. Along with the film itself, and a collection of Cronenberg’s early short films we also have some documentaries about extreme cinema, an audio commentary, and a few other surprises on the discs. This includes some deleted scenes that made their way into the television version. This really is a must buy for Cronenberg fans, and for fans of extreme cinema.

With so many quality Arrow Video releases this year it feels like I’ve classed too many releases as their best, but Videodrome has to be up there as a candidate for their best release to date. Extreme cinema often loses its impact over the years, but Videodrome proves that some films get better the more they age, becoming more poignant as their prophetic content seems even more relatable to. With this release Arrow Video have proven that there is still life in the “New Flesh” yet.

***** 5/5

Videodrome is available on a Limited Edition Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD release now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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