reviewed by Donald Melanson
17 , 2004 | I wasn't thinking of David Cronenberg when
I thought of the name Mindjack, but it sounds like something
he might come up with. Like this magazine, many of Cronenberg's
films are concerned with the blending of technology and society,
the organic with the synthetic only he deals with these issues
in a much more visual and visceral manner. This is seen most vividly
in his 1983 film Videodrome.
The film stars James Woods in one of his best roles as Max
Renn, the owner of a sleazy Toronto cable station shopping around
for new shows. When he discovers a pirate broadcast of the ultra-violent
show Videodrome he's intrigued and sets out to learn more
about it. Soon he discovers that it is much more than just a violent
TV show and that no one who sees it is ever the same again - himself
The world Max Renn is plunged into is trademark Cronenberg, aided
by Rick Baker's wonderful special effects. Televisions and video
cassettes literally become flesh, providing a bridge between the
two realities of the film.
It's not much of a stretch to see Videodrome as a direct
precursor to The Matrix. Both films bend reality through
technology, and both films feature a "chosen" individual destined
to escape their reality (though Max Renn's motivations are quite
different than Neo's). There's even a quote from Marshall McLuhan
used in one of the documentaries on the DVD that could be applied
to either film: "When you are on the phone or on the air, you have
Indeed, like McLuhan's work, which remains as relevant as ever,
the ideas Cronenberg examines in Videodrome are just as pertinent
to today's multi-media landscape as they were to the "old media"
of the 1980s. I'd even go as far as to say that Videodrome
is the most prescient of all Cronenberg's films.
As expected, Criterion
delivers just about everything you could possibly want in a special
edition DVD. The picture quality is flawless and the mono audio
track accurately represents the original theatrical presentation.
Then there are the extras. On the first disc, we get two audio commentaries
(one by Cronenberg and director of photography Mark Iwrin, the other
by actors James Woods and Deborah Harry), plus Cronenberg's recent
short film Camera. The second disc includes a half-hour documentary
about the effects in Videodrome, an audio interview with
the film's effects creators, a 26-minute roundtable discussion from
1982 with Cronenberg, John Carpenter and John Landis, plus the complete
unedited video footage from various scenes in the film (with multiple
commentaries). There's also trailers and other marketing materials,
and a ton of still photos. Not to mention the included 40 page booklet
with essays by Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas and Gary Indiana. If there's
something missing, I can't imagine what it is.
I should also mention the packaging, which is designed to look
like a Betamax tape. Last I checked, it hasn't moved.
Melanson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Mindjack. He
also writes about movies on his film