Videodrome: Wikis


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theatrical poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Claude Héroux
Written by David Cronenberg
Starring James Woods
Debbie Harry
Sonja Smits
Peter Dvorsky
Leslie Carlson
Jack Creley
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Mark Irwin
Editing by Ronald Sanders
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) February 4, 1983 (US)
Running time 89 min.
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $5,952,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $2,120,439 (US)

Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science fiction film written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Woods and singer Debbie Harry from Blondie.



Max Renn (James Woods) is the president of CIVIC-TV (Channel 83, Cable 12), a sleazy Toronto UHF television station specializing in sensationalistic programming. Displeased with his station's current lineup (which mostly consists of softcore pornography), Renn is on a seemingly endless quest for something that isn't so "soft" and will "break through" to a new audience.

One morning Renn is summoned to the clandestine office of Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), who operates CIVIC-TV's pirate satellite dish which can pirate broadcasts from as far away as Asia. Harlan shows Renn "Videodrome," a plotless television show apparently being broadcast out of Malaysia, which depicts the brutal torture and eventual murder of anonymous victims in a bizarre, reddish-orange chamber. Believing this to be the future of television— (staged) snuff TV—Renn orders Harlan to begin pirating the show.

Appearing on a talk show, Renn defends his station's programming choices to Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry), a sadomasochistic psychiatrist, and Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley), a pop-culture analyst and philosopher who will only appear on television if his image is broadcast into the studio, onto a television, from a remote location. O'Blivion hijacks the interview and delivers a speech prophesying a future in which television supplants real life.

Renn dates Nikki, who is sexually aroused when Renn shows her an episode of Videodrome and coaxes him into having sex with her while they watch it. Renn goes once again to Harlan's office, where Harlan informs him the signal delay which caused it to appear to be coming from Malaysia was a ploy by the broadcaster. In fact, Videodrome is being broadcast out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Renn tells Nikki of his discovery and she excitedly goes to Pittsburgh to try and audition for the show.

When Nikki fails to return to Toronto, Renn contacts Masha (Lynne Gorman), a softcore feminist pornographer with long-standing ties to the porn community, and asks her to help him find out the truth about Videodrome. Through Masha, Renn learns that not only is the footage in Videodrome not faked, but Videodrome is the public "face" of a political ideology movement with unspecified but apparently violent goals. Masha further informs Renn that Brian O'Blivion knows about Videodrome.

Max tracks down O'Blivion's office to The Cathode Ray Mission, a mission where homeless individuals are provided food, shelter, and clothing, and encouraged to engage in marathon sessions of television viewing. Renn discovers the mission is run by O'Blivion's daughter, Bianca (Sonja Smits), with the goal of helping to bring about her father's vision of a world in which television replaces every aspect of everyday life. Later, Renn views a videotape in which O'Blivion informs him that "the Videodrome" is a socio-political battleground in which a war is being fought for control of the minds of the people of North America. Shortly thereafter, Renn begins experiencing disturbing hallucinations in which his torso transforms into a bloody, gaping hole VCR. Bianca tells Renn these are side-effects from having viewed Videodrome, which is in fact the carrier of a malicious broadcast signal that causes the viewer to develop a malignant brain tumour. Brian O'Blivion helped to create it as part of his vision for the future, but when he found out it was to be used for malevolent purposes, he attempted to stop his partners; they used his own invention to kill him. In the year before his death, O'Blivion recorded tens of thousands of videos, which now form the basis of his television appearances.

Renn is contacted by Videodrome's producer, the Spectacular Optical Corporation, an eyeglasses company that acts as a front for a NATO weapons manufacturer. The head of Spectacular Optical, Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson), has been working with Harlan to get Renn to broadcast Videodrome as part of a crypto-government conspiracy to morally and ideologically "purge" North America, giving fatal brain tumours to "lowlifes" fixated on extreme sex and violence. Under Convex's influence, Renn murders his colleagues at CCTV, and later attempts to murder Bianca O'Blivion, who is successful in reprogramming Renn. On her orders and with his new reality warping abilities, he kills Harlan, then tracks Convex to a trade show, where he shoots him which causes Videodrome tumours to burst from his wounds in front of a horrified crowd.

Afterwards, Renn takes refuge on a derelict boat in an abandoned harbour, where Nikki appears to him on television. She tells him he has weakened Videodrome, but in order to completely defeat it, he has to "leave the old flesh." The television then shows an image of Renn shooting himself in the head, which causes the set to explode, splattering the deck of the ship with bloody, human intestines. Imitating what he has just seen on TV, Renn says his final words, "Long live the New Flesh", and then he pulls the trigger.

Videodrome Origin

In a deleted scene, Convex reveals some insight into the origin of Videodrome. Convex tells Renn about the "Image Accumulator," (which is the device placed on Renn's head during his meeting with Convex) an experimental new form of night vision that can work in zero-light conditions. When the developers played the recorded footage from the Accumulator, they saw things that could not have been there. They conclude these phantom figures were hallucinations of the test volunteers, inexplicably recorded by the Accumulator. Further research of the test volunteers revealed they had developed a brain tumour, which externalized their hallucinations, but more specifically, granted them reality warping abilities, which Renn refers to as "brain damage". The same signal used in the Image Accumulator was then used to create Videodrome.


Cronenberg recalled how, when he was a child, he used to pick up pirate television signals from Buffalo, New York, late at night after Canadian stations had gone off the air, and how he used to worry he might see something disturbing not meant for public consumption. This formed the basis for the plot of Videodrome.[1]

As a young man, Cronenberg attended the University of Toronto—first studying science, but eventually gaining his degree in Literature. Marshall McLuhan was a lecturer in media studies at the University during the same time (the early 1970s), and is often credited as an influence on Cronenberg's ideas for Videodrome.[2] Canadian rumours of mind-controlling television from left-wing extremists in the United States also inspired the story. The concept of brain tumour-inducing television programs is an urban legend dating to the 1940s, when people believed television signals to cause brain tumours.

Videodrome pioneered the flicker-eliminating technology used to film a television screen's images; before, film images were superimposed onto blank television screens. Videodrome used Betamax videotape cassettes because VHS videotape cassettes were too large to fit the faux abdominal wound.[1]

Alternate titles of Videodrome were Network of Blood and Zonekiller.

"Civic TV" refers to a real Canadian television station, CityTV, which in the 1970s and early 1980s was notorious for broadcasting soft-core pornography among its programming. One of Max's business partners is named Moses likely in reference to CityTV co-founder Moses Znaimer.

The pornographic video Samurai Dreams, of which only five seconds are seen in the film story, was made specifically for the film. The five-minute film is in The Criterion Collection DVD edition of Videodrome.


An original score was composed for Videodrome by Cronenberg's close friend Howard Shore.[3][4] The score was composed to follow Max Renn's descent into video hallucinations, starting out with dramatic orchestral music that increasingly incorporates, and eventually emphasizes, electronic instrumentation. To achieve this, Shore composed the entire score for an orchestra before programming it into a Synclavier II digital synthesizer. The rendered score, taken from the Synclavier II, was then recorded being played in tandem with a small string section.[5] The resulting sound was a subtle blend that often made it difficult to tell which sounds were real and which were synthesized.

The soundtrack was also released on vinyl by Varèse Sarabande and was rereleased on compact disc in 1998. The album itself is not just a straight copy of Howard Shore's score, but rather a remixing. Howard Shore has commented that while there were small issues with some of the acoustic numbers, that "on the whole I think they did very well."[5] The album is currently out of print.


The film scored fourth as Bravo TV's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments". It was also selected as one of the 23 Weirdest Films of All Time by Total Film.[6]

Videodrome's cult film status has made it a popular source for sampling and homage in Electro-industrial, EBM, and heavy metal music. It ranks tenth on the Top 1319 Sample Sources list[7] and has been sampled in dozens of songs.


A novelization of Videodrome was released by Zebra Books alongside the movie in 1983. Though credited to "Jack Martin," the novel was in fact the work of acclaimed horror novelist Dennis Etchison.[8] Cronenberg reportedly invited Etchison up to Toronto where they discussed and clarified the story, allowing the novel to remain as close as possible the the actions in the film. There are some notable differences however, such as the inclusion of the infamous "bathtub sequence", a scene never filmed in which a television rises from Max Renn's bathtub like a Venus in a conch shell.[9] This was the result of the lead time required to write the book, which left Etchison working with an earlier draft of the script than was used in the film. The book is currently out of print.

Further Reading

Videodrome is also the title of a detailed book-length study of the film, from pre-production to its echoes throughout pop culture a quarter century after its release, written by the novelist and film critic Tim Lucas. The book contains Lucas's eyewitness report of the filming, essays and criticism, and on-set interviews with David Cronenberg, James Woods, Deborah Harry, Rick Baker, Sonja Smits, Les Carlson and many other crew members. It was published by Millipede Press in September 2008.


In 2009, Universal Pictures announced they had obtained the rights to produce a remake,[10] with a possible 2011 release.

See also


  1. ^ a b Cronenberg, David. Director's commentary, "Videodrome," Criterion Collection DVD.
  2. ^ "Videodrome: Criterion Collection". Cronenberg confirms this on the commentary track.. 
  3. ^ Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome. China: Centipede Press. p. 130. ISBN 1933618280. 
  4. ^ IMDB: Videodrome (1983) - Full cast and crew
  5. ^ a b Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome. China: Centipede Press. p. 133. ISBN 1933618280. 
  6. ^ "Total Film's 23 Weirdest Films of All Time on Lists of Bests". 2007-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Videodrome Novelization Review
  9. ^ Lucas, Tim (2008). Studies in the Horror Film - Videodrome. China: Centipede Press. p. 119. ISBN 1933618280. 
  10. ^ Universal to remake Videodrome

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Videodrome is a 1983 horror/science fiction/erotica film starring James Woods and directed by David Cronenberg.

A shocking new vision. Taglines


Prof. Brian O'Blivion

  • Of course, "O'Blivion" was not the name I was born with. That's my television name. Soon, all of us will have special names — names designed to cause the cathode ray tube to resonate.
  • After all, there is nothing real outside our perception of reality, is there? You can see that can't you?
  • The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena — the videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality, and reality is less than television.
  • Max, I'm so glad you've came to me. I've been through it all myself you see. Your reality is already half video hallucination. If you're not careful, it will become total hallucination. You'll have to learn to live in a very strange new world... I had a brain tumour and I had visions. I believe the visions cause the tumour and not the reverse. I can feel the visions coalsce and become flesh. Uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumour, it was called Videodrome.


  • North America's getting soft, padrone. And the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We're entering savage new times, and we're going to have to be pure... and direct... and strong... if we're gonna survive them. Now, you and this, uh, cesspool you call a television station... and, uh, your people who wallow around in it... and, uh, your viewers... who watch you do it— you're rotting us away from the inside. We intend to stop that rot.
  • Your head, we have you head in the box.
    • After Renn asks about the content of a box Harlan is closing inside the Spectacular Optics shop

Barry Convex

  • You'll forgive me if I don't stay around to watch. I just can't cope with freaky stuff.

Max Renn

  • Death to videodrome! Long live the new flesh!


Masha: Videodrome. What you see on that show, it's for real. It's not acting. It's... snuff TV.
Max Renn: I don't believe it.
Masha: So... don't believe.
Max Renn: Why do it for real? It's easier and safer to fake it.
Masha: Because it has something... that you don't have, Max. It has a philosophy, and that is what makes it dangerous.

Max Renn: Have you been hallucinating lately?
Harlan: No. Should I be?
Max Renn: Yes, you should be.

Harlan: I don't work with you for the money.
Max Renn: I know that. With pirates, it's never just for the money, is it?

Barry Convex: Why would anybody watch a scum show like Videodrome? Why did you watch it, Max?
Max Renn: Business reasons.
Barry Convex: Sure, sure... what about the other reasons? Why deny you get your kicks out of watching torturing and murder?


  • First in controls your mind... then it destroys your body.
  • First it controlled her mind, then it destroyed her body... Long live the new flesh!
  • A shocking new vision.
  • A terryfing new weapon.
  • A vision of enormous impact!
  • Videodrome is a bioelectrical addiction. Videodrome is the ultimate addiction.

Quotes about Videodrome


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