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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

VIDEODROME (1983)

There’s a good-sized cult for David Cronenberg's Sci-Fi psychological/philosophical thriller about a cable tv operator (James Woods) who gets too entangled in his programming . . . that's literally entangled. Even that simple description should give some idea of a film over-stuffed with half-baked ideas Cronenberg would handle with more technical elan, verbal wit & structural cohesion in THE FLY/’86 and his sick-o masterpiece CRASH/’96. Basically, a power-of-suggestion yarn, tricked up with gross-out effects for Woods after he comes across the underground VideoDrome broadcasts that start to control his mind & body via torture & snuff VHS tapes.* Once Woods grows a (metaphorical?) slit in his abdomen, Cronenberg imagines a sort of asexual frontal fisting technique that monstrously ‘plays’ him from the inside out. (How'd he get this stuff past the censors? One horror gag leaves a gun in his gut, like a doctor remembering a surgical tool after sewing up the patient.) Naturally, there are insurgents trying to take down the VideoDrome guys, but since they seem equally bad, rooting interest is beside the point. As a film project, much of this is more interesting/influential than successful, with a lot of amateur acting keeping us at arm’s length . . . perhaps not a bad thing. (But what a difference an actor like Jeff Goldblum makes in THE FLY.) Still, there hadn’t been anything quite like it, certainly not from Canada!

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, both FLY and CRASH make a better case for Cronenberg.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *There’s an immortality angle connected with the tapes, amusing when you consider the main place to find them now is in a dumpster. Landfill immortality.

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