If I viewed my film collection like they were artifacts in a museum, Videodrome would be in a glass case in the most lavish wing. Not just because of how good it is but because I've only ever seen the one copy and as soon as I did, I snapped it up. Not very commonly talked about, it's perhaps one of the rarest films I own. But anyway, on to the review.
Max Renn (James Woods, a cinematic great) is looking for new programs for his station, something much more sensationalistic than he's already being showing (mostly softcore pornography). He stumbles upon Videodrome, a program that consists of people getting tortured then killed. Max becomes obsessed with this program, to the point where he starts hallucinating. To say anymore would give away important details about the final act. Suffice it to say, it's quite bizarre. But then, it's Cronenberg so that's no surprise.
This is the first film I've seen with Woods in a leading role and it baffles me why he isn't seen in more these days. I found him out through voice overs, mostly cameos/supporting roles as himself, in shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy (coincidentally, his first appearance on Family Guy mentioned this movie) and the film Hercules. I would later finally see him in a live action performance (Riding In Cars With Boys) but to see him do the movie mostly on his own, it just reaffirms my notion that he's been overlooked. Maybe it's what he wants, to avoid the major spotlight and do character roles. If he does, well, more power to him. Just so long as he keeps making films.
(Slight spoilers below)
One of the greatest things about this movie is the special effects. They make even some CGI effects look like crap (League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'm looking at your Mr. Hyde here) and really add to the atmosphere. You have video tapes pulsating, stomachs gaining openings for video tapes (told you it was that kind of movie) and a hand literally becoming a handgun. And what would an early Cronenberg film without someone's head "asploding"? Rick Baker was the genius behind most if not all of the effects. If he didn't win some kind of award for his work, it's just one more reason to give up on award ceremonies.
Thematically, the film explores our relationship with television, with our obsession with what it does to us, where it's taking us.
The message I picked up, however, ties in with the old adage "forbidden fruit is sweetest". To that end, my interpretation of the message is "Pursue forbidden fruit and the person holding it will use you to their own gains". Again, I can't say too much without giving away the final act, which has made this such a hard movie to review due to its cult-like status.
I understand the film will be getting a remake in 2011. Whether or not it should or could be remade remains to be seen. However, if it does bring attention to the original, I give a thumbs up to the discussion at the very least. Keep the talks going, get this film in the public consciousness!!