Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science-fiction body horror film written
and directed by David Cronenberg, and starring James Woods, Sonja
Smits, and singer Deborah Harry. Set in
Toronto during the early
1980s, it follows the CEO of a small
UHF television station who
stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and
torture. The layers of deception and mind-control conspiracy unfold as
he uncovers the signal's source, and loses touch with reality in a
series of increasingly bizarre and violent organic hallucinations. The
film has been described as "techno-surrealist".
5 Home media
8 See also
11 External links
Max Renn is the president of CIVIC-TV, a
station specializing in sensationalistic programming. Displeased with
his station's current lineup (which mostly consists of softcore
pornography and gratuitous violence), Max is looking for something
that will break through to a new audience. One morning, he is summoned
to the clandestine office of Harlan, who operates CIVIC-TV's
unauthorized satellite dish which can intercept broadcasts from as far
away as Asia. Harlan shows Renn Videodrome, a plotless television show
apparently being broadcast out of
Malaysia which depicts the brutal
torture and eventual murder of anonymous victims in a reddish-orange
chamber. Believing this to be the future of television, Max orders
Harlan to begin unlicensed use of the show.
Max experiences a hallucination, the first of many. Appearing on a
talk show, Max defends his station's programming choices to Nicki
Brand, a psychiatrist and radio host, and professor Brian O'Blivion, a
pop-culture analyst and philosopher who will only appear on television
if his image is broadcast into the studio, onto a television, from a
remote location. O'Blivion delivers a speech prophesying a future in
which television supplants real life.
Max dates Nicki, who is sexually aroused when he shows her an episode
Videodrome and coaxes him into having sadomasochistic sex with her
while they watch it. Max goes once again to Harlan's office, where
Harlan tells him that the signal delay which caused it to appear to be
Malaysia was a ploy by the broadcaster and that Videodrome
is being broadcast out of Pittsburgh. Max tells Nicki this and she
excitedly goes to Pittsburgh to audition for the show under the guise
of a business trip, but never returns. Max contacts Masha, a softcore
pornographer, and asks her to help him find out the truth about
Videodrome. Through Masha, Max learns that not only is the footage not
faked, but it is the public "face" of a political movement. Masha
further informs him that O'Blivion knows about Videodrome.
Max tracks down O'Blivion to the Cathode Ray Mission, a mission where
homeless people are provided food, shelter, and clothing, and
encouraged to engage in marathon sessions of television viewing. He
discovers the mission is run by O'Blivion's daughter, Bianca, with the
goal of helping to bring about her father's vision of a world in which
television replaces every aspect of everyday life.
Later, Max views a videotape in which O'Blivion informs him that
Videodrome is a socio-political battleground in which a war is being
fought for control of the minds of the people of North America.
Shortly thereafter, Max begins experiencing disturbing hallucinations
in which his torso transforms into a gaping hole that functions as a
VCR. Bianca tells him these are side-effects from having viewed
Videodrome, which carries a broadcast signal that causes the viewer to
develop a malignant brain tumour. O'Blivion helped to create it as
part of his vision for the future, but when he found out it was to be
used for malevolent purposes, he attempted to stop his partners; they
used his own invention to kill him. In the year before his death,
O'Blivion recorded tens of thousands of videos, which now form the
basis of his television appearances.
Max is contacted by Videodrome's producer, the Spectacular Optical
Corporation; an eyeglasses company that acts as a front for a weapons
manufacturer. The head of Spectacular Optical, Barry Convex, has been
secretly working with Harlan to get Max exposed to
Videodrome and to
have him broadcast it, as part of a conspiracy to "purge" North
America, giving fatal brain tumours to "lowlifes" fixated on extreme
sex and violence.
Convex then inserts a brainwashing video tape into Max's torso. Under
Convex's influence, Max murders his colleagues at CIVIC-TV, and later
attempts to murder Bianca O'Blivion, but she manages to stop Max by
showing him a videotape of Nicki being strangled to death. Bianca then
'reprograms' him to turn against Videodrome. On her orders, Max kills
Harlan and Convex. Afterwards, Max takes refuge on a derelict boat,
where Nicki appears to him on a television. She tells him he has
weakened Videodrome, but in order to completely defeat it, he has to
ascend to the next level and "leave the old flesh". The television
then shows an image of Max shooting himself in the head, which causes
the set to explode. Reenacting what he has just seen on the
television, Max utters the words "Long live the new flesh", and shoots
James Woods as Max Renn
Debbie Harry as Nicki Brand
Sonja Smits as Bianca O'Blivion
Peter Dvorsky as Harlan
Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex
Jack Creley as Brian O'Blivion
Lynne Gorman as Masha
Julie Khaner as Bridey
Lally Cadeau as Rena King
David Cronenberg recalled how, when he was a child, he used to pick up
television signals from Buffalo, New York, late at night after
Canadian stations had gone off the air, and how he used to worry he
might see something disturbing not meant for public consumption. This
formed the basis for the plot of Videodrome.
As a young man, Cronenberg attended the University of Toronto; first
studying science, but eventually gaining his degree in Literature.
Marshall McLuhan was a lecturer in media studies at the University
during the same time (the early 1970s), and is often credited as an
influence on Cronenberg's ideas for Videodrome.
Shooting for the film began on October 19, 1981, and that initial week
of filming was devoted to videotaping various monitor inserts. These
included the television monologues of Professor Brian O’Blivion, as
well as the
Videodrome torture scenes and the soft-core pornographic
programs Samurai Dreams and Apollo & Dionysus.
The undulating screen of the television set that Max interacts with in
the film was created using a video projector and a sheet of rubbery
dental dam. The film's visual effects designer, Rick Baker, stated
that "I knew we would need a flexible material ... we tested with a
weather balloon first, stretching it over a frame the size of a TV
screen, and pushed a hand through it to see how far it stretched, and
then we rear-projected on it." The filmmakers used Betamax
videotape cassettes as items to be inserted into Max's stomach slit,
VHS cassettes were too large to fit the faux abdominal
Three different endings were filmed, and the ending used in the final
film wherein Max shoots himself on the derelict ship was James Woods's
idea. One of the initial intentions for the ending was to include
an epilogue after the suicide, wherein Max, Bianca, and Nicki appear
on the set of Videodrome. Bianca and Nicki are shown to have chest
slits like Max, from which grotesque, mutated sex organs emerge.
Cronenberg described his original vision of the ending as follows:
"After the suicide, [Max] ends up on the 'Videodrome' set with Nicki,
hugging and kissing and neat stuff like that. A happy ending? Well,
it’s my version of a happy ending—boy meets girl on the
'Videodrome' set, with the clay wall maybe covered in blood, but I’m
Freudian rebirth imagery, pure and simple".
An original score was composed for
Videodrome by Cronenberg's close
friend, Howard Shore. The score was composed to follow Max Renn's
descent into video hallucinations, starting out with dramatic
orchestral music that increasingly incorporates, and eventually
emphasizes, electronic instrumentation. To achieve this, Shore
composed the entire score for an orchestra before programming it into
Synclavier II digital synthesizer. The rendered score, taken from
Synclavier II, was then recorded being played in tandem with a
small string section. The resulting sound was a subtle blend that
often made it difficult to tell which sounds were real and which were
The soundtrack was also released on vinyl by Varèse Sarabande, and
was re-released on compact disc in 1998. The album itself is not just
a straight copy of Shore's score, but a remixing. Shore has commented
that while there were small issues with some of the acoustic numbers,
that "on the whole I think they did very well". The album is out of
The film received generally positive reviews. It holds a 78% positive
aggregate review on Rotten Tomatoes, where its consensus states,
"Visually audacious, disorienting, and just plain weird, Videodrome's
musings on technology, entertainment, and politics still feel fresh
today." It has been described as a "disturbing techno-surrealist
film" and "burningly intense, chaotic, indelibly surreal,
absolutely like nothing else".
Janet Maslin of
The New York Times
The New York Times noted the film's "innovativeness",
and praised Woods's performance as having a "sharply authentic
edge". Adam Smith of Empire gave the film 4 out of 5 possible
stars, calling it a "perfect example" of body horror. The staff of
Variety wrote that the film "proves more fascinating than distancing",
and commended the "stunning visual effects". Gary Arnold of The
Washington Post gave the film a negative review, calling it
"Simultaneously stupefying and boring".
Trace Thurman of
Bloody Disgusting listed it as one of eight "horror
movies that were ahead of their time". It was also selected as
one of the "23 weirdest films of all time" by Total Film. Nick
Schager of Esquire ranked the film at number 10 on their list of "the
50 best horror movies of the 1980s".
Despite its poor commercial performance, the film won a number of
awards upon its release. At the 1984 Brussels International Festival
of Fantasy Film, it tied with
Bloodbath at the House of Death
Bloodbath at the House of Death for Best
Science-Fiction Film, and
Mark Irwin received a CSC Award for Best
Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature.
Videodrome was also nominated
for eight Genie Awards, with
David Cronenberg tying Bob Clark's A
Christmas Story for Best Achievement in Direction.
Videodrome was named the 89th most essential film in history by the
Toronto International Film Festival.
Videodrome was released on
DVD in the late 1990s by Universal
Studios Home Entertainment, who also released the film on LaserDisc.
The film was released on
DVD by the Criterion Collection on August 31,
2004, and their
Blu-ray edition was released on December 7,
2010. The Criterion
Blu-ray features two commentary tracks,
one with Cronenberg and cinematographer Mark Irwin, and the other with
James Woods and Deborah Harry. Among the other special features
are a documentary titled Forging the New Flesh; the soft-core video
Samurai Dreams; the 2000 short film Camera; three trailers for
Videodrome; and Fear on Film, which consists of an interview with
Cronenberg, John Carpenter, and
John Landis hosted by Mick Garris.
Arrow Films released the film on
Blu-ray in Region B with
further special features, including Cronenberg's short films Transfer
From the Drain (1967), as well as his feature films Stereo
Crimes of the Future
Crimes of the Future (1970).
A novelization of
Videodrome was released by Zebra Books alongside the
movie in 1983. Though credited to "Jack Martin", the novel was in fact
the work of horror novelist Dennis Etchison. Cronenberg reportedly
invited Etchison up to Toronto, where they discussed and clarified the
story, allowing the novel to remain as close as possible to the
actions in the film. There are some differences however, such as the
inclusion of the "bathtub sequence", a scene never filmed in which a
television rises from Max Renn's bathtub like a Venus in a conch
shell. This was the result of the lead time required to write the
book, which left Etchison working with an earlier draft of the script
than was used in the film.
In 2009, Universal Studios announced that it had obtained the rights
to produce a remake of Videodrome.
Ehren Kruger was named to write
the script and produce the film with partner Daniel Bobker. They had
originally hoped for a release date in 2011.
Body Double (1984)
Snow Crash (1992)
^ "VIDEODROME (18)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved
28 March 2018.
^ a b "
Videodrome (1983) - Financial Informantion". The Numbers.
Retrieved 28 March 2018.
^ a b Dinello, Daniel (2005). Technophobia!: science fiction visions
of posthuman technology. University of Texas Press. p. 153.
^ a b Cronenberg, David. Director's commentary, Videodrome, Criterion
^ "Videodrome: Criterion Collection". Cronenberg confirms this on the
^ a b c
Tim Lucas (2004). "Medium Cruel: Reflections on Videodrome".
Criterion.com. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved December 7,
^ a b William Burns (August 28, 2014). "Ten Things You Might Not Know
About … Videodrome!". HorrorNewsNetwork.net. Retrieved March 11,
^ Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film: Videodrome. Lakewood,
CO: Centipede Press. p. 130. ISBN 1-933618-28-0.
^ a b Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome.
Lakewood, CO: Centipede Press. p. 133.
Videodrome (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 February
^ Beard, William; White, Jerry (2002). North of everything:
English-Canadian cinema since 1980. University of Alberta.
p. 153. ISBN 0-88864-390-X.
Janet Maslin (February 4, 1983). "'VIDEODROME,' LURID FANTASIES OF
THE TUBE". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ Adam Smith (October 14, 2015). "
Videodrome Review". Empire Online.
Empire. Archived from the original on March 11, 2018. Retrieved March
^ "Videodrome". Variety. December 31, 1982. Retrieved March 11,
^ Gary Arnold (February 9, 1983). "The Jumbled Signal Of
'Videodrome'". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ a b Chris Coffel (August 27, 2015). "[
Blu-ray Review] 'Videodrome'
Gets the Ultimate Arrow Treatment". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved March
^ Trace Thurman (July 30, 2015). "8 Horror Movies That Were Ahead Of
Their Time". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ "Total Film's 23 Weirdest Films of All Time on Lists of Bests".
Listsofbests.com. 2007-04-06. Archived from the original on
2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
^ Nick Schager (May 23, 2015). "The 50 Best Horror Films From the
1980s". Esquire. Archived from the original on August 9, 2017.
Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 17, 2010.
Retrieved July 24, 2010.
^ Jason Bovberg (August 30, 2004). "Videodrome: Criterion Collection".
DVD Talk. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ Brad Brevet. "This Week On
DVD and Blu-ray: December 7, 2010".
ComingSoon.net. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ Andre Dellamorte (December 15, 2010). "VIDEODROME Criterion
Blu-ray Review". Collider. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
^ ISFDB - Dennis Etchision Bibliography: Videodrome
^ Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome.
Lakewood, CO: Centipede Press. p. 119.
^ a b Universal to remake Videodrome
Lucas, Tim. Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome. Lakewood, CO:
Centipede Press, 2008. ISBN 1-933618-28-0.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Videodrome
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Criterion Collection essays
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Films directed by David Cronenberg
Crimes of the Future
Crimes of the Future (1970)
Fast Company (1979)
The Brood (1979)
The Dead Zone (1983)
The Fly (1986)
Dead Ringers (1988)
Naked Lunch (1991)
M. Butterfly (1993)
A History of Violence
A History of Violence (2005)
Eastern Promises (2007)
A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method (2011)
Maps to the Stars
Maps to the Stars (2014)
From the Drain (1967)
At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema i