James Woods plays a small cable channel exec in David Cronenberg‘s 1983 Film “Videodrome“. Max Renn (Woods) runs the small network Civic TV, which shows the most offbeat, weird and bizarro shows on TV (I have to admit, it sounds like my kind of station), and he’s always looking for a new show to put on the airwaves. The newest crop that his sales agent is proposing aren’t edgy enough for him, it’s all too softcore, too pedestrian. He needs something a little more shocking, not only to keep interest in his station, but also because he needs something to get excited about. Soon after, his tech intercepts a few minutes of “Videodrome” and Renn’s interest is piqued.
While they only intercept a few minutes of this broadcast from a pirate satellite feed orginating in Malaysia, he’s instantly intrigued. The show seems to depict realistic portrayals of torture and murder. The sets are sparse, just a red clay wall in the background and a couple of pillars that the victims are tied to. There’s no story, no plot, no actors – just two hooded figures and a naked victim that is being whipped. While there’s no real point to it, besides the torture and death, the production values seem high and Renn needs to find out where he can get more episodes. His tech eventually finds a way to descramble the signal, and he finds out that the signal is only masquerading itself as being from Malaysia. It’s actually from Pittsburgh, and this information lets Renn know that more information about the show might be at his very fingertips.
Max meets Nikki Brand (Deborah Harry), a talk radio dj, on a panel show discussing the media’s influence on society. During the panel, Max can’t keep his eyes off of Nikki, and they go out and get to know each other better. They later arrive at his apartment, and after one thing leads to another, they start watching the initial taping of Videodrome. Nikki becomes instantly intrigued, as she’s been into S&M with her other companions. Max and Nikki start to carry out session of minor torture of their own. Days later, Nikki let’s Max know that she’s going out of town for the next few weeks on assignment to Pittsburgh. She tells him that she’s going to audition for Videodrome, but Max knows this isn’t a game, the people on that show don’t come back.
Since watching Videodrome, Max has started to develop very realistic hallucinations, and he’s having a hard time separating fact from fiction. His psyche starts to suffer, and he takes action to talk with another person that was featured on his panel show, Brian O’Blivion. O’Blivion runs a local cultish church that believes that the television can cure all ills, and after learning some more information about O’blivion, Max thinks that he’ll be able to answer his questions about the hallucinations.
Videodrome is a movie that’s soaked in social commentary. While it was filmed in 1983, a lot of the arguments (especially the commentary on television) are still relevant today. I, like the characters watching the Videodrome show, was very intrigued about what was going to happen next. It wasn’t predictable like most films that we review are, and I’d almost say it’s too classy for this site (I know, this site is the epitome of class). I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next scene, the whole time anticipating what would come next and genuinely excited throughout.
The special effects are really well done, especially for 1983’s standards, and all the production is top notch. The acting is quality, and James Woods does an awesome job as Max Renn. Over time he physically and mentally transforms into an almost new character. Debby Harry also did a great job, and I wasn’t really expecting such a good performance from her (plus you got to see her boobs, which I’m not going to complain about) I’ve only seen a few of Cronenberg’s films, and so far this is my favorite. I think that with this movie, along with most of Cronenberg’s other stuff, you know going into the experience that it’s not going to be run-of-the-mill. You have to expect that it’s going to pretty out there and generally weird. I was not disappointed.
Videodrome gives you enough twists, and enough thrills that this would easily fit in anytime you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller with a horror element. If it’s a darker movie you want without being beaten over the head with social commentary, but just enough to get you thinking, Videodrome is for you.
Long live the new flesh!