Videodrome

“Videodrome” 4-disc Blu ray

Review by David Paul Hellings

@HellingsOnFilm

“Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the UK Blu-ray and DVD release of David Cronenberg’s visually audacious and stunningly disorienting Videodrome, which sees the director exploring dangerous sexuality and technological obsessions. The 1983 cult classic, which still feels as relevant today as it did upon its initial release, comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 17th August 2015.

Joining a roster of previously released Cronenberg titles on the Arrow Video label (Rabid and Shivers), this 4-disc set comes loaded with exclusive director-approved content including David Cronenberg’s previous unavailable short films Transfer (1966) & From the Drain (1967) and newly restored early features Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970). Alongside a wealth of archival content, this lavish new edition will feature a stunning newly restored high-definition digital transfer of the unrated version of Videodrome, approved by both Cronenberg and cinematographer Mark Irwin.

Alongside this, the disc will feature a newly recorded audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the on-set correspondent for Cinefantastique Magazine and author of Videodrome: Studies in the Horror Film.

The disc will also come loaded with new documentaries including David Cronenberg and the Cinema of the Extreme, a documentary programme featuring interviews with Cronenberg, George A. Romero and Alex Cox on Cronenberg’s cinema, censorship and the horror genre and Forging the New Flesh, a documentary programme by filmmaker Michael Lennick on Videodrome’s video and prosthetic make up effects.

Other features on the discs include brand new interviews with cinematographer Mark Irwin and producer Pierre David, alongside the feature AKA Jack Martin in which Dennis Etchison, author of novelizations of Videodrome, Halloween, Halloween II and III and The Fog, discusses Videodrome and his observations of Cronenberg’s script.

Camera (2000) Cronenberg’s short film starring Videodrome’s Les Carlson will also feature on the discs bonus content alongside the complete uncensored Samurai Dreams footage with additional Videodrome broadcasts with optional commentary by Michael Lennick. Two additional featurettes by Michael Lennick, Helmet Test and Betamax, which look at the effects featured in the film will be also be included.

Rounding the main disc off will be Fear on Film: A round table discussion from 1982 with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis and Mick Garris, a promotional featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Cronenberg, James Woods, Deborah Harry and Rick Baker and the original trailer.

The 3rd and 4th discs (which are exclusively limited to this deluxe set) feature High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of four Cronenberg films – Transfer (1966) & From the Drain (1967), Cronenberg’s previously unavailable short films newly restored by the Toronto International Film Festival, alongside Stereo (1969) restored by the Criterion Collection & Crimes of the Future from a 4K scan of the original negative and approved by Cronenberg (1970). These two early amateur feature films, shot in and around his university campus, prefigure his later work’s concerns with strange institutions (much like Videodrome’s Spectacular Optical) as well as male/female separation (Dead Ringers) and ESP (Scanners).

These early work features will also include Transfer the Future in which noted author and critic Kim Newman discusses Cronenberg’s early works.

This limited edition Blu-ray comes with an illustrated 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 filmmaking and shooting all the films in this collection, plus more, illustrated with original archive stills. The packaging is fully illustrated by Gilles Vranckx.

Synopsis

Combining the bio-horror elements of his earlier films whilst anticipating the technological themes of his later work, Videodrome exemplifies Cronenberg’s extraordinary talent for making both visceral and cerebral cinema.

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 makeup effects artist Rick Baker.

Hailed by his contemporaries John Carpenter (“he’s better than all of us combined”) and Martin Scorsese (“no one makes films like he does”) as a genius, Videodrome, was Cronenberg’s most mature work to date and still stands as one of his greatest”.

– info via Arrow Video

Review:

In recent years, David Cronenberg seems to be making films about rich and privileged narcissists for whom we’re supposed to feel sympathy and understanding. They’re films that make us yearn for him to return to the horror genre in which he delivered startling and original results, none more so than his seminal 1983 film “Videodrome”.

Based on Cronenberg’s question as to whether watching films can change a person it’s a premise that, as is usual with the director, is taken to the Nth degree as the central character not only changes mentally, but physically as well. Nobody ever did body horror better than Cronenberg and his imagination and skills are highlighted here once more. Fiction and reality blur and the fact that “Videodrome” was released at a time in the UK when so-called ‘video nasties’ were being censored and banned in huge numbers, it’s interesting to note that the film was released uncut in Britain, but censored in other countries. In the UK the censors got it, understanding (for once) the message of the film.

“Videodrome” predicted an age in which television viewers would become subjected to increasingly gratuitous images and ideas. ‘Videodrome’, the supposed snuff and S&M television station that comes to possess Max Renn (an excellent James Woods who cornered the 80s market in playing sleazy yet oddly sympathetic characters) is a precursor to the age of reality TV programming, an audience’s growing sanitisation to graphic content, and the darkest recesses of the online world. The modern take on Marx’s classic quote on religion in which ‘television is the opium of the masses’ became a reality. The countless channels and now streaming and VOD have resulted in TV networks desperately searching for any content that will attract viewers in a click-bait age. The channel hoppers and surfers increasingly seek out the reality adventures of trash families with sex still being the staple fare of a pseudo-porn viewing diet. “Videodrome” sees a future and the future is here.

Max Renn’s journey is a descent into madness. A TV exec already tired of the softcore nature of the programmes he’s being offered by sellers, his is a trip into hell as the nature of destruction he’s witnessing in ‘Videodrome’ taps into his middle-aged boredom with devastating results. Cronenberg, himself, previously noted that censorship was another form of psychosis, and that it was not the responsibility of an artist to have any form of social responsibility. Nowhere more than in “Videodrome” are his theories put on show. The film remains one of his finest works and is as relevant now, if not more so, than it was on its original release.

The 4-disc release from Arrow Video not only contains the Criterion restoration of the film, which looks excellent, but also a host of superb and enlightening documentaries and special features. Amongst the many highlights are his short film “Camera” (2000); restored versions of his previously unavailable short films “Transfer” (1966) and “From the Drain” (1970); as well as restored versions of his early amateur feature films “Stereo” (1969) and “Crimes of the Future” (1970).

Christmas has come early for David Cronenberg fans with this definitive package for a classic work.

Special Features

Original uncompressed mono audio tracks for all films.

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for all films.

Limited Edition packaging, fully illustrated by Gilles Vranckx.

Limited Edition Exclusive Extras.

VIDEODROME – BLU-RAY DISC 1 AND DVD DISC 2:

Restored high-definition digital transfer of the unrated version, approved by director David Cronenberg and cinematographer Mark Irwin

Audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the on-set correspondent for Cinefantastique Magazine and author of Videodrome: Studies in the Horror Film.

David Cronenberg and the Cinema of the Extreme – A documentary programme featuring interviews with Cronenberg, George A. Romero and Alex Cox on Cronenberg’s cinema, censorship and the horror genre.

Forging the New Flesh – A documentary programme by filmmaker Michael Lennick on Videodrome’s video and prosthetic make up effects.

Videoblivion: A brand new interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin.

A brand new interview with producer Pierre David.

AKA Jack Martin – Dennis Etchison, author of novelizations of Videodrome, Halloween, Halloween II and III and The Fog, discusses Videodrome and his observations of Cronenberg’s script.

The complete uncensored Samurai Dreams footage with additional Videodrome broadcasts with optional commentary by Michael Lennick.

Helmet Test and Betamax – Two featurettes by Michael Lennick on effects featured in the film.

Camera (2000) Cronenberg’s short film starring Videodrome’s Les Carlson.

Fear on Film: A round table discussion from 1982 with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis and Mick Garris.

Promotional featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Cronenberg, James Woods, Deborah Harry and Rick Baker.

Original theatrical trailer.

DAVID CRONENBERG’S EARLY WORKS: BLU-RAY DISC 3 AND DVD DISC 4 [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of four Cronenberg films.

Transfer (1966) & From the Drain (1967), Cronenberg’s previously unavailable short films newly restored by the Toronto International Film Festival [7 & 12 mins].

Stereo (1969) & Crimes of the Future (1970): Cronenberg’s early amateur feature films, shot in and around his university campus, prefigure his later work’s concerns with strange institutions (much like Videodrome’s Spectacular Optical) as well as male/female separation (Dead Ringers) and ESP (Scanners). Newly restored from original lab elements [65 & 70 mins].

Transfer the Future – Author and critic Kim Newman discusses Cronenberg’s early works.

COLLECTOR’S BOOKLET [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]

An illustrated 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 filmmaking and shooting all the films in this collection, plus more, illustrated with original archive stills.

This review originally appeared on SFFWorld:

http://www.sffworld.com/2015/08/videodrome-4-disc-blu-ray/

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