★ ★ ★ ★
In looking over Netflix’s streaming selection, Maddie and I rather haphazardly happened upon this film. The synopsis looked very intriguing and, knowing it was a David Cronenberg film, I had an idea as to the tone and mood the film would have.
A young James Woods plays a sleazy television programmer named Max Renn. His television station, Channel 83, televises mod content, softcore pornography and the likes over the cable airwaves. With the enlistment of “satellite pirate” Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), Renn scours the airwaves for edgy content to show on his station. One day, Harlan shows him a fuzzy broadcast he receives that takes place in a small room and includes very realistic sadomasochism and even murder. Intrigued, Renn wants to find out more and see about broadcasting this risky program entitled “Videodrome.” Around this time, during an interview on a talk show, he strikes up a relationship with a fellow interviewee, radio personality Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry). Being a sadomasochist herself, Nicki is excited about the idea of “Videodrome” airing on Channel 83. However, Renn has problems locating the source content makers and is warned by his agent to not look any further into the matter. With curiosity growing, Renn continues to search for the makers of “Videodrome” and winds up having some bizarre encounters with an odd personality known as Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley). From this point on, the film becomes a very psychological and bizarre look at the strange effects that the “Videodrome” signal has upon an individual.
Woods does a great job in this role, and I was pleasantly surprised by Harry whom I had never seen act before. For those of you who don’t know, her real claim to fame is as the lead singer of Blondie, who had hits with “One Way or Another” and “Heart of Glass,” among others during the punk/new wave revolution of the late 1970s. Cronenberg’s shot selections were very inspired and dreamlike, which worked perfectly for the subject matter. The contrasts between gritty, natural lighting and highly stylized mood lighting throughout by cinematographer Mark Irwin also fit the story very well. Most impressively, however, were the incredible make-up effects by makeup effects designer Rick Baker. Unfortunately, in today’s world, these amazingly well done makeup effects would probably have gone to a CGI department.
I will admit that I haven’t seen a large amount of Cronenberg’s work; however, this film has been the most bizarre entry of his repertoire that I have yet seen. Maddie was at first interested, but then totally put off by the path the film took midway through. I, on the other hand, was happily amused throughout. So, in short, this film is not for everyone. It is weird, hallucinatory and bizarre, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you will not be disappointed.