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Sci-Fi, Thriller

Initial DVD release
September 8, 1998

David Cronenberg


Videodrome movie poster

Release date
February 4, 1983 (1983-02-04)

(Max Renn), (Bianca O'Blivion),
Deborah Harry
(Nicki Brand),
Peter Dvorsky
Jack Creley
(Brian O'Blivion),
Lynne Gorman

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First it controls your mind. Then it destroys your body.

Videodrome 1983 original theatrical trailer

Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science fiction horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, and starring James Woods, Sonja Smits, and singer Deborah Harry. Set in Toronto during the early 1980s, it follows the CEO of a small UHF television station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. The layers of deception and mind-control conspiracy unfold as he uncovers the signal's source, and loses touch with reality in a series of increasingly bizarre and violent organic hallucinations. The film has been described as "techno-surrealist".


Videodrome movie scenes

Videodrome 1983 james woods debbie harry sonja smits


Videodrome movie scenes

Max Renn is the president of CIVIC-TV, a Toronto UHF television station specializing in sensationalistic programming. Displeased with his station's current lineup (which mostly consists of softcore pornography and gratuitous violence), Max is looking for something that will break through to a new audience. One morning, he is summoned to the clandestine office of Harlan, who operates CIVIC-TV's unauthorized satellite dish which can intercept 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 reddish-orange chamber. Believing this to be the future of television, Max orders Harlan to begin unlicensed use of the show.

Videodrome movie scenes

Max experiences a hallucination, the first of many. Appearing on a talk show, Max defends his station's programming choices to Nicki Brand, a psychiatrist and radio host, and professor Brian O'Blivion, 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 delivers a speech prophesying a future in which television supplants real life.

Videodrome movie scenes

Max dates Nicki, who is sexually aroused when he shows her an episode of Videodrome and coaxes him into having sadomasochistic sex with her while they watch it. Max goes once again to Harlan's office, where Harlan tells him that the signal delay which caused it to appear to be coming from Malaysia was a ploy by the broadcaster and that Videodrome is being broadcast out of Pittsburgh. Max tells Nicki this and she excitedly goes to Pittsburgh to audition for the show under the guise of a business trip, but never returns. Max contacts Masha, a softcore pornographer, and asks her to help him find out the truth about Videodrome. Through Masha, Max learns that not only is the footage not faked, but it is the public "face" of a political movement. Masha further informs him that O'Blivion knows about Videodrome.

Videodrome movie scenes

Max tracks down O'Blivion to the Cathode Ray Mission, a mission where homeless people are provided food, shelter, and clothing, and encouraged to engage in marathon sessions of television viewing. He discovers the mission is run by O'Blivion's daughter, Bianca, with the goal of helping to bring about her father's vision of a world in which television replaces every aspect of everyday life.

Videodrome movie scenes

Later, Max views a videotape in which O'Blivion informs him that 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, Max begins experiencing disturbing hallucinations in which his torso transforms into a gaping hole that functions as a VCR. Bianca tells him these are side-effects from having viewed Videodrome, which carries a broadcast signal that causes the viewer to develop a malignant brain tumour. 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.

Videodrome movie scenes

Max is contacted by Videodrome's producer, the Spectacular Optical Corporation; an eyeglasses company that acts as a front for a weapons manufacturer. The head of Spectacular Optical, Barry Convex, has been secretly working with Harlan to get Max exposed to Videodrome and to have him broadcast it, as part of a conspiracy to "purge" North America, giving fatal brain tumours to "lowlifes" fixated on extreme sex and violence.

Videodrome movie scenes

Convex then inserts a brainwashing video tape into the "VCR" in Max's torso. Under Convex's influence, Max murders his colleagues at CIVIC-TV, and later attempts to murder Bianca O'Blivion, but she manages to stop Max by showing him a videotape of Nicki being strangled to death. Bianca then 'reprograms' him to turn against Videodrome. On her orders, Max kills Harlan and Convex. Afterwards, Max takes refuge on a derelict boat, where Nicki appears to him on a television. She tells him he has weakened Videodrome, but in order to completely defeat it, he has to ascend to the next level and "leave the old flesh". The television then shows an image of Max shooting himself in the head, which causes the set to explode, splattering the deck of the ship with blood and gore. Reenacting what he has just seen on the television, Max utters the words "Long live the new flesh", and shoots himself.


  • James Woods as Max Renn
  • Debbie Harry as Nicki Brand
  • Sonja Smits as Bianca O'Blivion
  • Peter Dvorsky as Harlan
  • Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex
  • Jack Creley as Brian O'Blivion
  • Lynne Gorman as Masha
  • Julie Khaner as Bridey
  • Lally Cadeau as Rena King
  • Production

    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.

    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.

    Videodrome used Betamax videotape cassettes because VHS videotape cassettes were too large to fit the faux abdominal wound.

    The pornographic video Samurai Dreams, of which only a few moments 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. 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. 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 re-released on compact disc in 1998. The album itself is not just a straight copy of Shore's score, but a remixing. 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". The album is out of print.


    The film received generally positive reviews. It holds a 78% positive aggregate review on Rotten Tomatoes, where its consensus states, "Visually audacious, disorienting, and just plain weird, Videodrome's musings on technology, entertainment, and politics still feel fresh today." It has been described as a "disturbing techno-surrealist film" and "burningly intense, chaotic, indelibly surreal, absolutely like nothing else".

    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 1,319 Sample Sources list, and has been sampled in dozens of songs.


    Despite its poor commercial performance, Videodrome won a number of awards upon its release. At the 1984 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, it tied with Bloodbath at the House of Death for Best Science-Fiction Film, and Mark Irwin received a CSC Award for Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature. Videodrome was also nominated for eight Genie Awards, with David Cronenberg tying Bob Clark's A Christmas Story for Best Achievement in Direction. In 2007, Videodrome scored fourth on 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. Videodrome was named the 89th most essential film in history by the Toronto International Film Festival.


    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 horror novelist Dennis Etchison. Cronenberg reportedly invited Etchison up to Toronto, where they discussed and clarified the story, allowing the novel to remain as close as possible to the actions in the film. There are some differences however, such as the inclusion of the "bathtub sequence", a scene never filmed in which a television rises from Max Renn's bathtub like a Venus in a conch shell. 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.


    In 2009, Universal Studios announced that it had obtained the rights to produce a remake of Videodrome. Ehren Kruger was named to write the script and produce the film with partner Daniel Bobker. They had originally hoped for a release date in 2011.


    Videodrome Wikipedia
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