Videodrome Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Written and Directed by David Cronenberg
1983, 87 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 17th August 2015
James Woods as Max Renn
Sonja Smits as Bianca O'Blivion
Deborah Harry as Nicki Brand
Peter Dvorksy as Harlan
Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex
Jack Creley as Brian O'Blivion
Heaven knows what sleazy television executive Max Renn would have made of today – a future of YouTube, real life ISIS atrocities and revenge porn. A world which would probably see the smut magnate online, running his own version of RedTube or Xbox or whatever it is they call it. David Cronenberg's Videdrome may have been made all the way back in 1983, but it feels as fresh and relevant as ever. Although Renn might have to trade in the stomach vagina slash VHS player for a newer, sleeker Blu-ray model.
The strongest of a very strong cycle of body horror films, Videodrome casts the magnificent James Woods in what might be his finest role to date, setting him against a weird conspiracy of sex, violence and... whatever the hell is going on here. As an actor, Woods has always possessed a unique sense of sliminess and magnetic sleaze, and Videodrome makes wonderful use of that, throwing the character into a world too slimy and sleazy even for him.
Searching for content to show on his grotty little TV channel, Renn stumbles across the foreign broadcast 'Videodrome'. Taping the show and watching it back in his apartment, Max begins to experience fevered visions – most notably, his gut forming a sizeable and apparently functioning vagina cum (heh) VHS player, into which he loses a pistol while exploring. These visions are only part of a sinister conspiracy which threatens to consume Renn forever. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should go easy on the porn.
Cronenberg will perhaps always be best known for his exploding head gag in Scanners, but it's in Videodrome where the man's pure body horror sensibilities are at their best. The imagery here is sublime, from the all-consuming belly vagina to the sweaty gun which welds itself to Renn's hand. It's impossible to pick a favourite from this period from Cronenberg's filmmaking (don't ever ask me to choose between Videodrome or Dead Ringers) but this one certainly makes a compelling argument for its own supremacy. Almost Lovecraftian in its storytelling and character work (Renn is the classic tormented protagonist, if less repressed).
Until RedTube or YouPorn (I don't know) get into the habit of streaming David Cronenberg movies, Videodrome gets the re-release for our time in this set from Arrow Video, packed with all the goodies and additives we've come to expect by now. Whether you stick it in your Blu-ray player or gut gash, like Max Renn's gun, you should expect it to stay in there for a while.
Video and Audio:
It looks crisp and perfectly sharp, employing High Definition digital transfers of the film (plus four of Cronenberg's earlier works, if you go for the 4 disc special edition). The film has been available on region free Blu-ray for a while now, but this is the first time you'll be getting it uncut and in HD. It sounds a treat too, using the original uncompressed audio tracks for all films included. The standard definition DVD is also included, so you'd better hope that your belly box is dual format.
Talk about exhaustive; there are so many extras included in this set that it is literally tiring to lay them all out for you – and that's before we get onto the special edition. The 'standard' set gets you this lovely lot:
- Audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the on-set correspondent for Cinefantastique Magazine and author of Videodrome: Studies in the Horror Film
- David Cronenberg & the Cinema of the Extreme - A documentary featuring interviews with Cronenberg, George A. Romero and Alex Cox on Cronenberg's cinema, censorship and the horror genre
- Forging the New Flesh - A documentary by filmmaker Michael Lennik on Videodrome's video and prosthetic make up effects
- Videoblivion - Brand new interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin
- Brand new interview with executive producer Pierre David
- AKA Jack Martin - Dennis Etchison, author of novelizations of Videodrome and The Fog, discusses Videodrome and his observations of Cronenberg's script
- The complete uncensored Samurai Dreams footage with additional 'Videodrome' broadcasts, with optional commentary by Michael Lennik
- Helmet Test and Betamax - Two featureless by Michael Lennik on effects featured in the film
- Camera Cronenberg's short film starring Videodrome's Les Carlson
- Fear on Film- A round table discussion from 1982 with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis and Mick Garris
- Deleted scenes from the TV version
- Promotional featurette with behind-the-scenes footage & interviews with Cronenberg, James Woods, Deborah Harry and Rick Baker
- Original theatrical trailer
Then there's the extra disc which comes with the special edition, which is a collection of Cronenberg's (previously unreleased) short films, plus a documentary with horror critic Kim Newman. A fancy hardback book is also included, consisting of critical writing on the film. Although you're just being greedy now.