Videodrome. Where does one even begin when trying to review a well known classic from David Cronenberg? Odds are if you frequent a website called Bloody Disgusting that you’re already quite familiar with Videodrome. I’d wager you likely love the movie too. You may not, there’s always a few Trace Thurmans out there, but in general I think we can come to a consensus that Videodrome is widely regarded as a great movie. It gets 5 out of 5 from me every time. With that all being said, I won’t bother to actual review Videodrome. There’s no need for it, at least not in the typical review format. Instead I’ll talk about a couple things that crossed my mind while viewing it recently and review the actual release itself from Arrow Films.
Watching Videodrome in 2015 and the most remarkable thing that stands out is how ahead of it’s time the movie truly was. Even though he dislikes the movie, Trace placed it on his first list of 8 horror movies that were ahead of their time and with good reason. The movie was made in 1983 and it depicts a world in which people are obsessed with TV, wanting to consume everything. Max Renn (James Woods) is looking for content that will drive eyes to his channel. The content isn’t really all that important to Renn as long as it will lure in viewers. If that means throwing up the sleaziest, most perverse programming around, so be it. Oh, and it’s possibly real? Even better! Again, this was made in 1983 but it sounds an awful lot like 2015. It’s incredible how well Cronenberg called that.
Then there’s Deborah Harry. Oh, Deborah Harry, how we love you. She’s fantastic in this movie. As Nicki Brand she’s just so…she’s just a freak. That’s the best way to describe her. She’s into some crazy stuff, but can you blame Max for being charmed by her? You can’t. Not one bit. I will say it was a little strange seeing her in this role now however, because I just saw Blondie a few weeks back and Harry is now 70. So it was a little weird because I have that very recent memory of her, but then even at 70 she was the coolest person in the room so it’s all good.
Here’s what’s crazy about this Arrow release of Videodrome – somehow, Arrow managed to top the Criterion release. Criterion doesn’t lose very often. It’s extremely rare for another company to top a Criterion release. I mean extremely rare, even for a company as superb as Arrow. Criterion getting beat is like Steph Curry missing an off balanced jumper. When it happens, you’re shocked. Much kudos to Arrow for exceeding the high expectations previously set by Criterion.
If all you want in a Blu-ray release is a great transfer and you already own the Criterion release of Videodrome, then there’s no need for you to double dip and get the Arrow version. Both companies used the exact same transfer, so there’s no change there. Where Arrow blew this thing wide open was with the extras. Criterion already had a lot of extras and somehow Arrow found more.
I’m not going to go through all the extras, but I will discuss what is important to me. When I’m getting an ultimate release like this one, particularly when it’s from such a great director, I’m very interested in having early works included. I find great joy in seeing where a director first started to hone his craft and then seeing how it evolved over time. Arrow comes through in a big way. This release comes with the short films Trasnfer (1966) and From the Drain (1967), both of which were previously unreleased and have since been restored by the Toronto International Film Festival. Arrow doesn’t stop there, oh no! They also include two of Cronenberg’s amateur feature films in Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970). Say what?! I know, it’s crazy. This release gives you three features and three shorts(like the Criterion release 2000’s Camera is included as well).
Below I’ve decided to list all the special features that come on this limited edition release of Videdrome from Arrow Films. The bad news is that this is a pretty limited release and it’s already out-of-print. Arrow sold all their copies in the first day or so. At the time of this writing there were a still a few online retailers that had some in stock, so I recommend checking around. Worst case scenario you’ll eventually be able to snag a copy from someone on eBay. You may have to pay a bit more for it, or even a lot more, but this release is priceless if you’re a die-hard Cronenberg fan.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
•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 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