I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to cult movie releases, Arrow Video are by a long stretch the best in their field. Now their foray into boxsets is just reinforcing that statement.
If you thought it couldn’t get any better than Dr. Phibes, they give us Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which is somehow topped by Society which is topped again by the frankly insane package they have put together for Videodrome.
Housed in a sturdy box, the set contains two digipacks, both beautifully illustrated. One contains the film itself on both Blu-ray and DVD, the other David Cronenbergs Early Works on Blu-ray. And if that wasn’t enough also contained is an 100 page hardback book with pieces on Videodrome and Cronenbergs early films.
If anyone doesn’t already know, Videodrome is Cronenberg at the height of his body horror powers. With Shivers, Rabid, Scanners and The Brood already under his belt, he journied into the possibly even more terrifying world of reality TV.
James Woods plays Max Renn, a sleazy TV producer with an eye always on the look out for the next big thing as it comes to sensationalism and disturbing imagery. Then he encounters a mysterious new show called Videodrome and when he starts to look into it, he finds his life alters permanently.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to Videodrome than that, but I’ll have to assume that anyone reading this has either already watched it, or shouldn’t have it spoiled for them if they haven’t. That, and it’s very hard to put into words what occurs in this film.
What I will say on the film itself is that over 30 years later it still feels incredibly relevant. We live in a world of “How low can you go” reality television where people blindly watching offensively bad shows where other people denegrate and humiliate themselves in the name of a quick buck and fifteen seconds of fame…is Videodrome REALLY that far off? Or something close to it?
Now I’ve had my soapbox moment, lets have a look at what else comes in this great package.
CINEMA OF THE EXTREME (21:04)
Originally broadcast by the BBC in 1997, this documentary mainly talks to Cronenberg, but also George A. Romero and Alex Cox . Cronenberg talks about the ideas behind Scanners and Videodrome, and all three talk about censorship as well. An interesting watch.
FORGING THE NEW FLESH (27:44)
A documentary looking at the physical effects of Videodrome, talking to Frank Carere, Bill Sturgeon and Rick Baker, along with archive footage from Cronenberg and James Woods. We find out stories about how they got the television to “live” and the orgins of the “handgun”.
FEAR ON FILM (25:40)
A 1982 roundtable discussion hosted by Mick Garris with David Cronenberg, John Carpenter and John Landis. At the time, Cronenberg is halfway through making Videodrome and likewise Carpenter with The Thing. This is a fantastic 25 minutes, and it’s a shame that’s all it is. If it was 4 hours of these guys talking I’d still want more.
SAMURAI DREAMS (4:47)
The complete and uncensored Samurai Dreams footage with VFX Supervisor Michael Lennick commentary. There’s not much to this, but there’s a few interesting tidbits of info on the playback footage.
HELMET CAMERA TEST (4:45)
Michael Lennick offers a commentary on some tests from the helmet in the movie. Much like Samurai Dreams, this is just a short piece with some information about how they did…with a connection to Dr.Who!
WHY BETAMAX? (1:11)
Michael Lennick tells us why everyone in the film uses Betamax instead of VHS. The answer is obvious but you will all probably go “ahhh!” when you hear it.
PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTE (7:52)
An archive featurette talking to Cronenberg, Woods, Deborah Harry and Rick Baker with some cool behind-the-scenes footage.
An informative commentary track from author Tim Lucas.
MARK IRWIN INTERVIEW (26:27)
The cinematographer of Videodrome and many other Cronenberg projects talks about working with the visionary director. An interesting chat primarily focussed on Videodrome.
PIERRE DAVID INTERVIEW (10:20)
Videodrome producer Pierre David talks about meeting David Cronenberg and his subsequent work with him, from the troubled shoot of Scanners to the relatively easy shoot of Videodrome…until the time came to release it that is!
DENNIS ETCHINSON INTERVIEW (16:45)
The author of the Videodrom novelisation talks about his work which also included adapting The Fog and Halloween 2 & 3 into novel form (the latter of which I would love to read) and the troubles he had adapting Videodrome, a film which primarily follows one character throughout) into a book. This isn’t the kind of person you hear from when watching extras on a movie, and it’s really interesting hearing his point of view of it all.
A short film by David Cronenberg released in 2000 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Film Festival. The film stars frequent Cronenberg collaborator Les Carlson, who of course played Barry Convex in Videodrome. It’s a darkly amusing little piece, well worth a watch.
DELETED SCENES (25:48)
When Videodrome was shown in syndication on TV in the United States, it was broadcast with added and extended scenes in a totally different edit.
Most of the scenes just give more background whether they be new snippets or existing scenes extended but there is an alternate opening sequence and a more TV friendly version of the death of Barry Convex.
DAVID CRONENBERGS EARLY WORK
FROM THE DRAIN (12:48)
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (60:04)
I’m going to be totally honest here and say that these “Early Works” were not for me at all. I could see the reference points to his future films but these are incredibly arty and I struggled in them. Obviously, I’m sure many people will find merit in them but these were not Thom friendly. But the accompanying feature “Transfer the Future” (16:48) where Kim Newman talks about these early films was incredibly helpful and insightful. I might not have thought much of them, but thanks to Mr. Newman, at least I know now where Cronenberg was coming from with them. There is also writing on these in the aforementioned book.
Overall this WAS an essential purchase from Arrow Video…in the time it took me to sift through all the bonus content the title has gone completely out of print!
But those of us who have had will have a special place for it on our shelves, it really is the definitive edition of Videodrome out there, and considering a Criterion edition exists, that is high praise indeed!
Review by 80’s Picturehouse Co-Host Thom Downie.