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Max Renn (James Woods) is looking for fresh new content for his TV channel when he happens across some illegal S&M-style broadcasts called Videodrome. Embroiling his girlfriend Nicki (Debbie Harry) in his search for the source, his journey begins to blur the lines between reality and fantasy as he works his way through sadomasochistic games, shady organisations and body transformations stunningly realised by the Oscar-winning make up effects artist Rick Baker.

Hailed by his contemporaries John Carpenter and Martin Scorsese as a genius, Videodrome, was Cronenberg's most mature work to date and still stands as one of his greatest.[Arrow Synopsis]


 Videodrome
Videodrome was a film I was very aware of in my youth despite only seeing it a few times. A mix between late night TV showings and vague memories of watching it with my Dad (a huge Debbie Harry fan, made this a must for him), it's a film that's always lived in the outer edges of my interest but for whatever reason I never really went back for a proper sit down revisit as i got older. I caught bits and pieces again over the years and always wanted to make the time for a full viewing but I just never got around to it. Until now. Arrow have created this beautiful edition of the film and I could finally revisit as an adult and give Videodrome my full attention.

Now, I guess it's through the strength of the film but I have to say, I found myself remembering everything about this film, despite not seeing it fully in years but now through a grown up prism I have to say it lured me in much more. I love films that aren't afraid to hit taboos head on and of course Videodrome hits, sex and violence full on and these triggers that lead Max down his path to insanity feel every bit as dark and mysterious as ever, despite the film's age.

 Videodrome
The momentum of this tightly constructed runtime (the film is just under 90 minutes) is pretty fantastic for the first two acts. Despite the content of the odd elements of film everything is played extremely real world and Max is quite a relatable guy who finds himself surrounded with choices that slowly sink him deeper and deeper into the world of Videodrome. His twitches as he begins to lose hold of reality are effective and the big special effects moments still feel shocking and clever despite the ancient TVs and top loading Betamax players revealing the era this was made in at every turn.

The third act I've always struggled with. The one time I re-visting the film in my late teens I remember having the same issues (albeit minor ones) with how this all plays out at the end. When the madness really takes over, the subtly I so love in the film makes way for larger gross out moments, like the merging on the gun to Max's hand and the generally larger plot to kill people around him at the command of the system. Yes, the metaphor of the content leading to Max's twisted view of reality is solid but when we find Max in a the audience of a low rent stage production I find myself questioning how we've got here and missing the ominous set up of the Videodrome torture room and the happened upon signal broadcasting it that made for a super intriguing initial set up. Sure it all gets explained and there's a deeper conspiracy at play within the insanity (that of course you could question at every step) and that in itself is interesting but despite loving the journey I always feel a little bit like the film takes a right turn or a change of direction after we've been presented a pretty great route map at the outset.

 Videodrome

Video


From the off the fresh feeling within this Blu-ray presentation is felt. Videodrome almost feels brand new with this sharp edges, wonderful lighting and strong colours. The clean up gives the film an almost timeless appearance despite the old TVs and video cassettes but somehow this video classic from the 80s looks vibrant and loved like the best restorations out there.

Details throughout the film look great. From video static to the junk around the apartment, every set and effect looks better than ever and the warmer skin tones and the dotted around reds and blues give the film a pop that it never had on previous home releases.

The night lighting, either moonlit blues or the red and pink glows from the TV give the film an 80s electronic style and it looks just great here, Debbie Harry looks amazing bathed in the soft neon lighting and James Woods, usually bathed in deep dark shadows has Videodrome looking really quite fantastic on its new Blu-ray home.

 Videodrome

Audio


The mono track is obviously small and limited in design but it manages to outreach it's limitations. Dialogue is clear and never battles the sound effects it shares its limited space with. Everything is clearly defined and the sound never muffles or feels like its struggling, even at its loudest moments.

The TV jingles and the score widens the track considerably and the deeper down the rabbit hole the story goes the weirder and wider the layers of sounds become, never struggling to present a solid bit effectivly strong mono track.

Extras


The commentary with Tim Lucas is a sobering, almost robotic track with the solo contributor reeling out facts and tidbits connecting to snippets of things on screen in an almost inhuman sort of way. It's a fascinating listen and well worth your time, if you are even mildly interested in finding out more about Videodrome. Alternative TV versions, story's behind the scenes and general character motivations, it's a track that fits snuggly with the oddness of the film.

'Cinema of the Extreme' ( 21:04 HD) is a  1997 BBC documentary with a lot of talk from Cronenberg about the film.

'Forging the New Flesh' (27:44 HD) looks at the film's many disturbing special effects.

'Fear on Film' (25:40 HD) is a 1982 round table discussion with John Lands, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. I mean come on. Super television moment much? It's a great watch.

'Samurai Dreams' is complete uncensored footage of the softcore porn movie within the film with commentary by Michael Lennick

'Helmet Camera Test' (04:45 HD) is raw footage and tests for the digital trickery of the helmet/virtual reality scene.

 Videodrome
'Why Betamax?' (01:11 HD) is a tiny history of the video format and it's use in the film.

'Promotional Feature' (07:52 HD) is the original EPK of sorts.

The interviews of the disc features Cinematographer Mark Irwin (26:27 HD), Producer Pierre David (10:20 HD) Author Dennis Etchinson (16:45 HD) and all add up to a great view at at the making of the film.

'Camera' (06:42 HD) is short film celebrating Videodrome.

'Pirated Signals' (25:47) are some deleted scenes found in TV broadcast and it's a collection of very odd additions.

Last up on disc one are the trailers (04:35 HD).

But that's not all folks. There's a Disc 2 'David Cronenberg Early Works'. This extra discs features the following Croneberg projects:

Transfer

From the Drain

Stereo

Crimes of the future



There's even an extra featurette, providing a bit of history to Cronenberg and this early work 'Kim Newman Discusses Cronenberg Early Work' (16:51 HD).

ON top of that and sadly not received for review, the LImited Edition set includes Limited Edition packaging, illustrated by Gilles Vranckx, a 100-page hardback book featuring new writing including Justin Humphreys on Videodrome in a modern context, Brad Stevens on the alternate versions, Caelum Vatnsdal on Cronenberg's early works, extracts from Cronenberg on Cronenberg featuring Cronenberg's reminiscences of getting started in film making and shooting all the films in this collection, plus more, illustrated with original archive stills and some DVD copies.

 Videodrome

Overall


Videodrome may not be perfect but it's beautifully unique, focused (for the most part) and it draws you in, in dark and unsettling ways as it plays with metaphors about the things we see and how we're able to see them so easily (and all in a pre-internet world). Woods is great in the lead roll and plays off of those around him extremely well and feels utterly like this access to dark underworld is changing him.

Arrow have provided a great presentation in both video and audio departments and the collection of extras within the set add even more to the enjoyment of Videodrome. Fans should go crazy for this one and first timers won't have a better 'in' than this any time soon. Now is the time to put the tape in, press play and lose yourself to Videodrome.


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