VIDEODROME is a 1983 Canadian science fiction horror film written and
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 ".
* 1 Plot
* 2 Cast
* 3 Production
* 3.1 Music
* 4 Reception
* 4.1 Awards
* 5 Novelization
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Sources
* 10 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 the "VCR" in 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, splattering the
deck of the ship with blood and gore. Reenacting what he has just seen
on the television, Max utters the words "Long live the new flesh", and
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
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.
Betamax videotape cassettes because
cassettes were too large to fit the faux abdominal wound.
The pornographic video Samurai Dreams, of which only a few moments
are seen in the film story, was made specifically for the film. The
five-minute film is in The Criterion Collection DVD edition of
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".
Videodrome's cult film status has made it a popular source for
sampling and homage in
Electro-industrial , EBM , and heavy metal
music . It ranks tenth on the Top 1,319 Sample Sources list, and has
been sampled in dozens of songs.
Despite its poor commercial performance,
Videodrome 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 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
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story for Best Achievement in Direction. In 2007,
Videodrome scored fourth on Bravo TV 's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments
". It was also selected as one of the 23 Weirdest Films of All Time by
Total Film .
Videodrome was named the 89th most essential film in
history by the
Toronto International Film Festival .
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.
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)
* ^ A B Dinello, Daniel (2005). Technophobia!: science fiction
visions of posthuman technology. University of Texas Press. p. 153.
ISBN 0-292-70986-2 .
* ^ A B Cronenberg, David. Director's commentary, Videodrome,
Criterion Collection DVD.
* ^ "Videodrome: Criterion Collection". Cronenberg confirms this on
the commentary track.
* ^ Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film: Videodrome.
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. ISBN 1-933618-28-0 .
* ^ "