Punk Sci-Fi Main

Writer/director David Cronenberg recalled how, when he was a child, he used to pick up 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. Alternate titles for Videodrome were "Network of Blood" and "Zonekiller". Many of the story elements in Videodrome, in addition to the basic concept, have some basis in writer/director Cronenberg's life.

For example, "Civic TV" was based in part on CityTV, a Toronto television station which in the 1970s and early 1980s was notorious for broadcasting soft-core pornography, or "baby-blue films" as it was known, among its programming.

One of Max's business partners is named Moses likely in reference to CityTV co-founder Moses Znaimer. Znaimer claimed that the character of Max Renn was based on him, but Cronenberg has denied this claim in his director's commentary of the film.

The interview on The Rena King Show between Max Renn, Nikki Brand and Brian O'Blivion near the beginning of the film was based on a similar experience in Cronenberg's life.

"The interview with Nikki Brand was also provoked in me by an interview I did with a woman who was very much like Nikki Brand, even though I never got to know her personally. On the show, she was very seductive and wore a red dress.

She was very sexually provocative and I said some of the things to her that I have Max say to Nikki…" The Rena King Show itself was based on the Dini Petty interview show on CityTV.

A deleted scene from the film provides background on the origin of Videodrome. In that scene Convex tells Max about the "Image Accumulator," (which is the device placed on Max'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 Max refers to as "brain damage". The same signal used in the Image Accumulator was then used to create Videodrome.

Cronenberg did not want to make any fragments of his first draft—titled "Network of Blood"—public. While writing his rough drafts, Cronenberg accepts as a given that they will resemble the final product in only the most basic way.

In the first draft of Videodrome, Max Renn combats his hallucination by chopping his flesh gun off at the wrist, and from the stump there grows a fleshy, “potato masher”–style hand grenade, which explodes.

There is a kissing scene in which Max and Nicki’s faces melt together into a single object that dribbles down, crawls across the floor and up the leg of an onlooker, and melts him. And the most horrible murder featured in the finished film—the erupting cancer death of Barry Convex—originally was to happen to five other characters as well.

“My early drafts tend to get extreme in all kinds of ways: sexually, violently, and just in terms of weirdness,” Cronenberg explains. “But I have to balance this weirdness against what an audience will accept as reality.

Even in the sound mix, when we’re talking about what sort of sound effects we want for the hand moving around inside the stomach slit, for example; we could get really weird and use really loud, slurpy, gurgly effects, but I’m playing it realistically.

That is to say, I’m giving it the sound it would really have, which is not much. I’m presenting something that is outrageous and impossible, but I’m trying to convey it realistically.”

Cronenberg’s producers—Pierre David, Victor Solnicki, and Claude Héroux—embraced the film's first draft. “The way Videodrome really started,” Cronenberg remembers, “was Pierre saying that he wanted to do another picture with me, and me reciprocating.

I met with him in Montreal and told him, in just a few words, the basic plot; it was only the first part of the movie I described to him, and it sounded more like a thriller than anything, in that limited description, and he liked what I said.

But when I started writing it and all of these other things started to leap out at me, I really thought they would reject it. What I was writing was so much more extreme than my premise had suggested. To my surprise, all three of them loved it!
I can’t tell you how surprised I was, because I thought I’d been going nuts all alone in my little room.

Resources: Wikipedia.org, imdb.com

Videodrome 1983

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, a technologically advanced satellite run on an amalgamation of high-tech components that allows it to 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-- snuff TV-- Renn orders Harlan to begin pirating the show. Appearing on a Rena King's TV talk show, Renn defends his station's programming choices to Nikki Brand (Deborah 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 that 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 Borowski (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 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 Renn 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 that 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 Videdrome" 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, vaginal VCR. In one hallucination, Renn finds himself strapped to a chair while a hooded figure is strangling him. The hood comes off to reveal Nikki. Her lips fill the screen of a TV set where she says: "Come to me." Renn leans in close. Puling and undulating, the screen envelopes his face.

At the mission, Bianca tells Renn that 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 maglignant brain tumor. Brian O'Blivion helped to create it as part of his vision for the future, but when he found out that it was to be used for malicious 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. Bianca sends Renn away with an armful of videotapes to watch. As he watches one tape, holding a pistol, he scratches his stomach in which the vagina-like slit opens, into which his gun disappears. On the tape, O'Blivion says: "There is nothing real outside our perception of reality, is there?"

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 tumors to "lowlifes" fixated on extreme sex and violence.

Convex produces a high-tech helmet to record Renn's hallucinations, to find out why he seems to be functioning when none of the other "test subjects" has returned to "normality." Convex places the helmet on Renn's head and leaves the room. Renn hallucinates himself in Videodrome with Nicki. As he whips an organic TV set, Nicki's image transforms into Masha. Renn wakes up in his own bed with Masha dead at his side.

Renn calls Harlan to come over with his camera, but when he arrives, he sees nothing in the bed to photograph. Totally wired, Renn says they must watch last nights Videodrome broadcast as he is in it. At the lab, Harlan reveals that there never was a broadcast, only pre-recorded tapes which he never watched. Just then Convex enters. He says that they chose Channel 83 for the first transmission of the Videodrome signal because of it's sleazy content and audience.

"Why would anybody watch a show like Videodrome?" says Convex. Under Convex's influence he produces a pulsating VHS tape and Renn's stomach-slit opens to receive his program. Convex orders Renn to: "kill your partners and give me Channel 83." Renn pulls his gun back from the slit and black metal tendrill exted into his hand. Renn goes back to Channel 83 station and shoots both Moses and Raphael in the Channel 8 boardroom, his gun/hand now a single organic fusion.

His next program is to kill Bianca O'Blivion. He breaks into the Mission, but hesistates when Bianca plays him Nikki's death scene on Videodrome. She was killed on the show along with all those other people by Spectacular Optical Corporation. A flesh-gun emerges from the TV set and shoots him - a violent deprogramming. Bianca inserts her own tape into Renn's slit.

With that she re-programs him to go after the ones responsible for creating Videodrome. She tells him he is: "the video word made flesh. Death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh." Back at the Channell 83 studios, Harlan congratulates Renn on his good work, and changes his program. When Harlen withdraws his hand from Renn's slit to retrieve the videotape program, he is horrified to see his hand become a ticking bloody organic grenade.

The explosion kills Harlen and blows a hole in the wall of the studio which Renn camly steps out. At the Spectacular Optical trade show at the Toronto Convention Centre, Convex introduces the new spring collection, the Medici range. Renn approaches the stage and shoots Convex with his gun/hand, who falls dead and his entire body erupts in a gory and sickening mass of tumors as people scream and panic.

Renn waves his hand/gun to the assembly declaring: "Death to Videodrome! Long live the new flesh!" Afterwards, Renn takes refuge on a derelict boat in an abandoned harbor, where Nicki appears to him on another television that appears. As Renn sits on a filthy mattress, Nicki tells him he has weakened Videodrome, but that 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 with his gun/hand, which causes the TV set to explode, splattering the deck of the ship with bloody, human intestines and multicolored goo. Imitating what he has just seen on TV, Renn says his final words, "Long live the New Flesh", and then he pulls the trigger.

Punk Sci-Fi Main

Home | More Sci-Fi | Site design by SFMZone. Copyright 2010 - 2024 All Rights Reserved. | Site Info | TOP^