Schlocktoberfest XI – Day 14: Videodrome

SchlocktoberfestXI

Videodrome (1983)

Trailer:

*Spoilers Throughout*


What’s This About:
Max Renn, a CEO of a small TV station, finds a very disturbing TV show called Videodrome that he thinks will revolutionize television. However, there’s more than meets the eye to Videodrome and Max encounters web of corruption, mind-control and conspiracy.

Here are some of my observations as I watched the film:

  • This might be the first Schlocktoberfest flick we’ve picked that’s a Criterion Collection entry. But this is the 3rd time I’m trying to enjoy this Cronenberg classic so…

  • After all Michael Bay and Kevin Smith have movie in the Criterion Collection so…
  • Is this TV show a TV show or a recording for someone. Because it was a secretary talking to one individual person.

  • Oh good. Respectable actor James Woods.

  • I can only imagine that in real life James Woods lives in squalor like his character in this does.

  • Is that Long Duck Dong?

  • Samurai Dreams sounds like a horrible Japanese porno title. Oh wait it is a horrible Japanese porno. Why is there 13 episodes of this?

  • I had to put on the subtitles because I could’ve sworn that that executive watching an episode of Samurai Dreams said “Oriental sex isn’t natural.”

Kinky!

  • They all agree that the soft-core porno Samurai Dreams is too soft. It’s just too classy they also say. I say it didn’t have enough Samurai in it.

  • Now James Woods is trying to either scramble in or scramble out a video feed of some snuff film. Not sure why. But I’m sure this is typical for James Woods.

  • Media prophet Professor Brian O’Blivion? Irish?

  • What the hell is a media prophet anyway? This is 1983; even in 2021 this is an incredibly dumb concept. Especially for a man in his 50s.

  • Hahaha. James Woods (Max Renn) actually asks Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry—YES that Debbie Harry) out on a date during the talk show while it’s live.

  • O’Blivion isn’t his real name? No way!?

  • I hate to harp on this but if you’re going to call yourself something as cool as O’Blivion shouldn’t you pick a much more interesting first name than BRIAN?!

  • Hahaha. Max Renn is asking the satellite descrambler from before about “the plot” of that snuff-like film they watched from earlier. Max Renn also reads the Penthouse articles.

  • And he actually thinks that not only is it a good idea or concept but he thinks it’s acting when this torture film is clearly the real deal.

Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind…

  • Yeah, that film is broadcast from Pittsburgh. Typical Saturday night event in Pittsburgh.

  • Nicki Brand works at a radio station with the name: C-RAM. CRAM? Subtle.

  • Nicki asks Max if he has any porno while he fixes them drinks in his apartment. Please, like a dude like Max Renn doesn’t have porno. I wonder if he has Load Warrior 2.

  • Why would a video that features torture and murder be called Videodrome? The meaning of the word Drome doesn’t really work in this context. It might make more sense later on in the film but not so much right now.

  • Nicki is turned on by cutting her shoulder. She mentions this casually to Max and he really doesn’t see any red flags or is turned on or off about it.

  • Sex scene involving James Woods poking Debbie Harry with needles while they watch Videodrome. I mean, it is Debbie Harry so maybe I’d be a tad curious but ultimately I’d be a bit concerned for my safety.

  • Not surprising that this sex scene with James Woods is awkward and is making me uncomfortable.

  • And we don’t even get to see any nudity from Blondie! Rip-off!

This plasma pool is very shallow

  • Wait, so that secretary on the TV from the beginning was actually Max’s secretary and somehow he has the technology for her to contact him via TV set to talk to him. Is this set in the future because the film didn’t tell us that. Again, I don’t know why I’m harping on this.

  • There’s a female pornographer named Masha, showing Max her latest movie which is basically a Roman orgy and he’s not impressed even though the actual orgy hasn’t started yet. Hey, Max, wait until it starts to get good. I’ve seen some decent Roman orgy porn to say this.

  • I’m pretty sure no one ever has to “audition” to be on Videodrome. 

  • Nicki Brand wants to be on Videodrome because she’s into S&M. To prove this she burns herself in the boob with a cigarette. Well now she’s damaged! She’ll never get on Videodrome now!

And it’s finger popping
Twenty-four hour shopping in Rapture….

  • Why is everyone obsessed with Videodrome? It’s literally 2 guys whipping a naked girl in a room with wet clay covering the walls. Max Renn thinks it’s the next Breaking Bad.

  • I mean, if Videodrome had some other variety other than the torture room bit I can see some oddball people being interested in it.

  • Cathode Ray Mission? Where the homeless go to get a bowl of soup and watch TV. I’m not making this up.

  • I think I get the idea Cronenberg is trying to convey, that TV viewing has gotten to the point that we are over-exposed, over-stimulated as well as over-consuming TV and media to the point that we’re all TV junkies but this movie doesn’t really push that idea enough in terms of the world or country. Max is a TV channel executive that likes to broadcast subversive or explicit material but not one mention in the film that people live and breath by TV consumption. This film is really only centered on Max and we don’t see what other effects TV has on the masses as a whole. Now when we see a scene like the Cathode Ray Mission where the homeless are given food as well as a cubicle to watch TV, it seems really out of place. Everything up to this point was more or less normal for 1983 TV viewing. This film would work better as a social commentary if there was more examples of the ill effects of TV. In my opinion.

  • One moment Max is sitting at his coffee table with various past conversations he’s had with Masha and the next he’s opening up a gun case and grabbing his pistol. The film isn’t implying he’s in any danger so why is he grabbing his gun?

  • Oh so the secretary prerecords his “wake-up” videos for Max. Man, that’s annoying. And did VCR’s have a wake-up timer feature in 1983?

  • Max’s new videocassette from O’Blivion is seemingly alive. 

  • There’s a lot to unpack with this O’Blivion video that Max watches. O’Blivion drawls out a long monologue about visions, tumors, hallucinations, videodrome. Than a hooded executioner comes in and garrotes him to death. The hooded executioner is Nicki and basically then seduces Max into the TV set. Basically a typical evening at Ted Cruz’s house.

Hello in TV Land

  • So Max is just now realizing that he’s been hallucinating ever since the first time he watched Videodrome. The last scene had O’Blivion telling him that he went through the same thing yet only now when Max is talking to O’Blivion’s daughter does he figure out Videodrome is bad for you. Dope.

  • So O’Blivion died about a year ago yet all the videos we’ve seen he actually interacts with the viewer. His daughter has a large room full of all recorded videocassettes of her father. It still has more videos than Suncoast Video in 1999.

  • Max is watching the new Videodrome/O’Blivion tape wearing nothing but with his gun strap scratching some sort of vertical scar on his belly. A lesser movie would’ve mentioned the scar earlier in the film but Cronenberg don’t give a shit. Not that it matters but it is a rather large scar on his belly. And we all can surmise that that scar is going to come somehow into play in this scene. 

  • Max Renn supposedly hallucinates whenever he watches Videodrome yet he continues to watch it. It gets to the point that he imagines he has a belly vagina and he somehow decides to put his gun in the hole and then loses it.

What do you get when cross a gun with a vagina?
A re-vulva!

  • A company named Spectacular Optical makes eyeglasses, missiles and Videodrome. That’s like if Coca-Cola makes soda, knives and merkins.

  • Spectacular Optical is a global elite corporation yet the store Max enters looks like a run-down bodega in Staten Island.

  • Those eyeglasses look fucking ridiculous.

Frames Woods

  • Barry Convex, president of Spectacular Optical has a device that can record Max’s hallucinations and he keeps this incredibly wondrous device in a beat up cardboard box like it was old Christmas string lights in an attic.

  • Convex? Jesus.

  • Do hallucinations just happen when you sit there and do nothing? I never hallucinated but I would think that random things trigger a hallucination. Like seeing or feeling a particular object. Barry Convex is simply hoping Max trips while sitting on a chair with that device on his head. Of course it works and he starts hallucinating because well, we have a movie to do here.

  • He then hallucinates whipping Masha (who is in a TV set) who was originally Nicki. And then wakes up and finds Masha dead in his bed. Maybe he watched Raiders of the Lost Ark before dosing off.

This guy was fired by Daft Punk due to his Quaalude abuse.

  • It’s kinda weird that Max’s bedroom doors are not only glass but double doors that swing open from the center.

  • I guess Max doesn’t own a camera since he woke up and made his friend the video pirate, Harlan, come over to take photos of what Max thought was in his bed.

  • But why would he need someone to take photos of Masha dead in his bed? That won’t prove he DIDN’T do it!

  • Max seems, justly so, crazy to Harlan and freaks out on him that he wants to see the latest Videodrome in an hour early in the morning. Harlan stands up to his wacky demands (he doesn’t even work for Max). Harlan is the only likable character in this movie.

  • Harlan was working for Barry Convex to specifically show Max Videodrome. Harlan is still the most likable character.

  • Barry knows Videodrome is complete crap and questions why Max watched it. 

  • Harlan is now stating to Max that North America has gone soft and that the rest of the world is tough. I really don’t understand how watching hallucinating videos that feature torture work into this but I’m sure Dick Cheney has something to do with it. 

  • What force caused Max’s shirt buttons to pop open before Convex put in a Beta-Max cassette into his belly vagina?

  • No seriously, where’s that large gust of wind coming from in this tiny office room?

  • This film is almost finished but we’re not out of the [James] woods yet.

  • Is this whole plot to get Max to kill his TV channel partners so Convex can own the station really what this flick is about? Because that’d incredibly lame. Can’t Spectacular Optical buy a new TV station?

  • If a gun was ever going to somehow graft itself to the person holding it couldn’t it least be a bad-ass gun like a .45 Magnum and not a tiny .9mm?

Where’d ya get that pretty little gun?

  • And why would Max hallucinate that his gun is fused to his hand? I mean, this whole movie’s point is about TV/media issues. Not sure how a special effect regarding fire-arms works into all this. Seems gratuitous. It’s like the special effects are used for the wrong times. Never once did we get some sort of a cool optical special effect like how the visuals of Videodrome affected his brain. A little sensory light effect like 2001: A Space Odyssey or some shit would seem more apropos.

  • Max shoots the other 2 TV channel executives and tries to say that “They shot them!” While he was the only other person in the room to the other employees in his company. Besides, who would his already bewildered employees think “they” are?!

  • I’m not gonna lie. This is my third time watching this and I think its cult-like status is very overrated. There’s some decent ideas in this flick but over all they are terribly outdated and weak. 

  • It also needs more Debbie Harry and a lot less James Woods.

  • “You’re an assassin now for Videodrome.” Seriously not a whole lot of this movie makes sense. Like what does that even mean? What is Videodrome exactly?! And if Videodrome can cause people to hallucinate and give them brain tumors why do they need assassins?! What do they need people dead for?

  • Max shoots a TV screen that then becomes his chest and the bullet holes show up on his actual chest. 

  • “I am the video word made flesh.” Uh-huh.

  • “Death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh.” Sounds great. It looks good on the poster. Makes no sense.

  • Max encounters a random bum who is charging folks to watch his TV. Still less annoying than the window washers.

  • Why does this movie have a heavy accented Jamaican working at the Spectacular Optical eyeglass store?

  • Harlan tries to put a new beta-max into Max but instead Harlan’s hand gets mutilated and after a while Harlan explodes. I’m very confused. Was that a bomb on Harlan’s hand? It sure didn’t look like one especially all covered in blood and gore. They could’ve made it look like a common hand grenade at least and save us the confusion.

  • Speaking of, they never ventured into using the pun Beta-Max at all in this flick. Weird. I mean, they are literally putting Beta-max cassettes into Max who is more or less being controlled by Videodrome. Might say he’s a beta-Max for Videodrome.

  • Max enters a convention hall for Spectacular Optical and he walks past a sign that states on the bottom: “LOVE COMES IN AT THE EYE”

  • You know what this flick needs? A quick little choreographed dance routine.

  • Oh look, there’s one.

  • So some wacky FX after Max shoots Barry Convex on stage. Barry kinda melts and oozes out weird organic shit. I mean it was kinda cool in a Rob Bottin The Thing kinda way but ultimately didn’t make sense. Was he human? Was he machine? Wouldn’t video cassette tape coming out of him make more sense? Probably not but I half-expected that.*

    *Apparently, that organic stuff was supposed to be cancerous flesh. Everyone knows what cancerous flesh looks like right? And I thought cancer makes flesh dark or blackened?

  • Shit. Just realized that the FX was done by the inimitable Rick Baker. 

Just a flesh-wound.

  • The film comes to a grinding halt as the next 8 or so minutes is spent watching Max wander around a boating dock and sits on a derelict mattress in one of the boats. Then he starts talking to Nicki on a TV in the boat. She then coaxes him to kill himself so he can be with her.

  • I meant to mention this earlier but you know we only had 2 short scenes with Max and Nicki. It’s not like he knew her that well to be so in love with her. I realize that it’s the singer of Heart of Glass but let’s be reasonable.

  • So Max sees himself on the TV put his gun-fused hand up to his temple and declare “Long live the new flesh” and then shoots himself and the TV explodes some guts out. Then in real life he does the exact same thing and actually dies. And my admiration for Cronenberg dies a little too.

Was it Entertaining:

Final Thoughts: I mentioned a few times that this is a cult-classic but I’m not sure how much that cult thrives or even cares about this anymore. I hardly knew of it growing up (I watched The Fly constantly and knew about Dead Ringers and Scanners) and was hardly “pushed” to watch it by all the filmophile books and magazines I read in college. It’s mostly forgotten about and I can see why. It’s horribly outdated in an aesthetic sense. Sure, over-consumption of Media is EVEN worse today but the medium of TV has vastly evolved and probably been completely dominated by the internet. But that’s not the only reason I think Videodrome has been largely forgotten. I feel that this was not a great flick for even its time. The story isn’t that compelling, the acting ain’t great and nothing else about the film was groundbreaking or memorable. Special effects were hardly used and when they were they weren’t that impressive (sorry Rick Baker) and no interesting shots or set pieces. I mean Videodrome itself is a blank reddish-brown clay wall! Not too creative in my opinion. Also, I’m watching this more or less fresh in my 30s and 40s, over 30 years past its time. It could’ve been ground-breaking and ahead of its time back in 1983 but the fact that a Beta-max video cassette is a major prop kinda dampers its affect. I would definitely recommend this to Cronenberg fans though as it’s still very influential if you like his work. I’m not that huge a fan so if his stuff doesn’t impress me, I move along. 

Also fuck James Woods.

Score: 4 Belly Vaginas (out of 10)

2 thoughts on “Schlocktoberfest XI – Day 14: Videodrome

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