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Max Renn is the President of Channel 83 Civic-TV, a small television station on the UHF dial. He defends his programming of largely X-rated shows - which depict graphic sex and extreme violence - as a pure matter of economic survival as a small station. Behind closed doors in specific company, he would admit that he enjoys such programming, but as President will stay away from associated activities that may be dangerous for him in its purchase. His current girlfriend, radio personality Nicki Brand, who he met on a television talk show, is sexually aroused by light mutilation on her person, that despite or because her radio show is like an open air crisis hotline. On that same talk show, the other guest via video feed was Professor Brian O'Blivion - solely his stage name - who believes that television and video broadcasts will one day overtake the world as reality, which may make Max's programming in combination more dangerous. In Max's search for the next big thing in like programming...Written by
Pretty inaccessible but still interesting and engaging
Max Renn runs a small cable station that specialises in providing what other, bigger stations don't softcore pornography and hard violence. Tapping into illegal pirate broadcasts via satellite, Max sees a show that seems to be a hypnotic mix of S&M, torture, murder and other unsavoury acts that look very real. Intrigued and convinced he has seen the future for his network, Max tracks down the signal to be coming from Pittsburgh and does some digging to find out who is responsible for it. However as his fascination becomes an obsession his hallucinations start to get more real and more extreme.
Although it is pretty hard to get inside and to understand (much of it does not make a lot of sense), Videodrome is probably more relevant today than it was in the early eighties if only because the issue of the effects of sexual and/or violent "entertainment" continues to be debated and explored. This theme is explored with a certain amount of graphic disgust from Cronenberg as he takes Max, exposes him to graphic television violence and sees the affect it has on his mind and his body. As a commentary on the social impact of mass media it is hardly the clearest or most accessible of things but it is interesting and engaging nonetheless. As writer he could have made his message clearer and a lot less convoluted but I suppose he should be commended for delivering this in his own unique style but the downside is that the mass audience will feel excluded from the story.
As director though he makes it quite engrossing even if it isn't clear what the message is. The imaginative body horror stuff is very well done and the effects as impressive as the twisted creative forces behind it. The cast also buy into it well, even if the show does mainly belong to Woods. He is totally convincing which is a feat you need to believe is very hard to pull off in this sort of film! The rest of the cast are more in the world of the film (as opposed to drawn into it) and the result is that their performances tend to be more out and out weird point in case Harry who is disturbingly vapid as the hollow S&M thrill seeker of the piece. Likewise Smits, Carlson, Creley and others are more about the world than giving performances so-called.
Overall though, this is an interesting and imaginative film. It doesn't make a lot of sense but it is enjoyable to try and apply what is happening to work out a meaning within it while watching it. The effects are good, although the horror might have meant more to me if I understand all of it better but regardless it is certainly an experience that is worth having at some point.
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