Film: Videodrome

Television can change your mind... Videodrome will change your body!

"Death to Videodrome! Long live the New Flesh!"

Videodrome is a horror/sci-fi film directed by David Cronenberg.

It is a surreal movie, one of the poster children for Body Horror. Like all of Cronenberg's movies, it has a strong intellectual undercurrent. The film deals with Marshall McLuhan's philosophies and examines the relationship between television and its audience. Cronenberg was greatly influenced by McLuhan's theories.

More specifically, the film follows the CEO of a small cable station who stumble upon a broadcast signal that is broadcasting extremely violent and horrific things. He investigates. As you might expect from Cronenberg, things get worse...

This film provides examples of:

  • Adolf Hitlarious: Max has a picture of Hitler in a ballerina skirt with a swastika on it and on stilts in his living room.
  • Affectionate Parody / No Celebrities Were Harmed - Brian O'Blivion is a parody of Marshall McLuhan, whose ideas are the central theme of the movie. He only exists in video tapes, parodying McLuhan's famous proclamation: "I refuse to appear on television, except on television," a line O'Blivion quotes verbatim in his first appearance.
  • Author Appeal: Characters ranting about the power of flesh? Yep, it's a Cronenberg film.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Played for horror. When Max wakes up in his bed late in the film after an extended Videodrome hallucination, he finds someone laying next to him. When he removes the sheets it turns out to be the corpse of an associate of his, tied up and tortured to death. He calls up a friend to come over and look, but it turns out he was again hallucinating and his bed is empty.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Barry Convex may be a clear bad guy, but Bianca O'Blivion is no saint either. She uses Max just as Barry did, and the only difference is that she shows a little remorse but still uses him to kill her enemies and drive Max to suicide.
  • Body Horror: That's David Cronenberg in the credits people.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Max eventually becomes compelled by the Videodrome tapes to murder his partners at Civic TV in cold blood. When he goes after Bianca O'Blivion, she reprograms him to kill her enemies (the people who programmed Max to become an assassin in the first place) for her.
  • Brown Note: Videodrome itself. We get to see why, and it's as horrible as it is said to be.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: Averted. To the untrained eye there is nothing distinctively Canadian about the locations, and Nicki Brand is played by the openly American Debbie Harry, but:
    • Nicki Brand's radio show is stated to come from Toronto.
    • The final scene takes place on a boat bearing a sign saying Condemned By The Toronto Harbour Authority.
    • One character also has to point out that Pittsburgh is a U.S. city.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Max Renn loses his gun in an early hallucination inside the cavernous tumor in his stomach. Guess where he gets his gun from before the climax.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Maybe. Sort of. It depends on how you view the signals and hallucinations.
  • Double Entendre: "Civic TV, The one you take to bed with you."
  • Deconstructor Fleet ; For late '70s exploitation movies. Oddly enough, it is now much better known than films like Mondo Cane or the first Faces of Death.
  • Exploitation Film; Civic TV's stock in trade is exploitation TV.
  • Fantastic Aesop: Not used by the film itself, but by the bad guys, who figure that if they make a torture porn show that kills the viewer, nobody will watch torture porn anymore.
  • Funny Background Event: Max hitting on Nicki while the talk show host interviews Brian O'Blivion.
  • Gorn - Played with.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Nicki gets off on mutilating and piercing herself, as well as watching Torture Porn.
    Nicki: What's this? "Videodrome"?
    Max: Torture. Murder.
    Nicki: Sounds great.
    Max: Ain't exactly sex.
    Nicki: Says who?
  • Hemo Erotic: When Max learns that Nicki is a masochist, she asks if he wants to try out something. He pierces her ear with a needle, and licks off the blood.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Done on purpose for extreme horror. At one point James Woods basically has sex with the cancerous vagina growing out of his own belly with a gun.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: This film is rife with it. In fact, it could even be seen as the main theme of this film.
  • Loveable Rogue: Max Renn may be a snarky dealer of smut, but he is charismatic and friendly and never really did anything wrong until Videodrome screws him up.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Yes, they're visions, but... is that really Nicki talking to him beyond the grave, or just his own psychosis?
  • Mega Corp.: The Spectacular Optical corporation is revealed to have stolen Videodrome (a mysterious force that can give people the power to warp reality) from its creator, Dr. Brian O'Blivion, and assassinated him with it. While O'Blivion wanted to use Videodrome to help the human race, Spectacular Optical uses it to further their own evil goals of world domination. According to its CEO Barry Covex, the company makes everything from cheap glasses to missiles.
  • Mind Screw: The blurring between fiction and reality only increases during The Climax.
  • The Mole: Harlan is revealed to have been a plant sent in by Barry Convex in order to expose Max to Videodrome
  • Moral Guardians: The purity league headed up by Barry Convex.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: While Max is mostly a good person, he is quite a sleazy guy, whose vices are mostly associated with lust.
  • New Media Are Evil: Deconstructed. This turns to be Barry Convex's plan with Videodrome all along: to make people fear the evolution of media. Bianca is against it, but her beliefs are just as extreme.
  • Names To Run Away From: Nouns: Brian O'Blivion and his daughter Bianca O'Blivion. While their alignment is very hard to make out due to the unreality of the movie and Brian is a resonant phantom living in the television world, they are engaging in a counter war against the brain-destroying, people-corrupting Videodrome syndicate by reprogramming the "video word made flesh" (an outside innocent, sleazy TV executive Max Renn) for their own sinister purposes.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Deborah Harry
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The orange letters of the title card of the titular TV Show, with nothing but the buzz of your cathode ray-tube to accompany it.
  • Organic Technology: The television sets start to breathe and pulsate, the video cassettes are eventually made out of living flesh, and Max's hand morphs together with his gun.
  • Phallic Weapon: When Max grows a cancerous vagina on his abdomen, he uses his gun to have sex with it.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Pittsburgh is treated this way throughout the film. It is where the videodrome signal comes from, and "See you in Pittsburgh" is later used in lieu of the regular "See You in Hell".
  • Punny Name: Brian O'Blivion? Barry Convex? Is this a comedy? No. Possibly a Shout-Out to Thomas Pynchon. Justified in the first instance because Brian O'Blivion has explicitly renamed himself.
  • Science Is Bad / New Media Are Evil - The seeming surface moral is that modern information technology is eeevill. But, later it turns out: not so much.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To several famous exploitation movies.
    • CIVIC-TV is a play on City-TV (a Toronto-area station that played porn movies at the time when Videodrome was madenote ).
  • Show Within a Show: Videodrome, which is ostensibly a Snuff Film, but later turns out to be a sinister movement.
  • Smug Snake: Barry Convex
  • Spiritual Sequel: eXistenZ. This is made particularly clear because it starts with a scene that looks very like the climax to this movie.
  • Snuff Film: Videodrome is snuff television. Or that's how it appears at first...
  • Surreal Horror: As Max's psychological descent steepens, plot points and settings grow more and more absurd.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: TV prophet Brian O'Blivion communicates solely through videotaped messages—even in order to participate in an interview early on in the film.
  • The Television Talks Back: Nicki disappears when going to check out Videodrome, then appears to Max in his TV, and asks for a kiss. He does...and then things start to get really bizarre. Brian O'Blivion also starts to directly converse with Max in this way later on.
    Max: Be careful. It bites.
  • There Are No Therapists: The only person coming close in the movie gets corrupted the fastest.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The film is shown from the perspective of the protagonist, Max Renn, who has certainly gone batty at some point. Everything up to the first Brian O'Blivion tape he watches can be assumed to be real as he's still only slightly affected by the signal. But when Bianca tells him that his life could become "100% video hallucination", suddenly it looks more and more likely that the bizarre plot twists (i.e. an evil conspiracy operating out of an opticians', his best friend being part of this conspiracy, murdering people with flesh/metal hybrid weaponry) is all part of a massive psychotic break triggered by the Videodrome signal. Maybe.
  • 23: The first scene is Max's secretary telling him his schedule for the day, Wednesday the twenty-third. On video tape.
  • Unreliable Narrator: See Through the Eyes of Madness, above.
  • Vagina Dentata: Just about the only trope played straight. Except that it's on a man. In his abdomen.
  • Visual Pun: Max's handgun becomes overtly literal later on. There's also a literal hand grenade at one point.
  • Zeerust: To a modern audience, the idea that television is the primary medium by which media influences the human mind seems quite antiquated, what with the rise of the Internet and social media. The potential remake of Videodrome addresses this issue by using the Internet and nano-technology as the means by which society is controlled. Television itself has also evolved beyond signal broadcasts since the rise of cable. Those adorable video cassettes and V.C.R.s really sweeten the deal.