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You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Burl reviews Videodrome! (1983)


Beep boop and chugalug, it’s Burl, here with another review, and do you know what? Ha ha, it’s my one thousandth review! That’s a round 1000! Yes, I’ve gone and reviewed a thousand movies so far, and what I’m trying to decide is, should I keep going? Do enough people read and enjoy these reviews to make it worth it? I like doing the reviews, so there’s that, but sometimes it seems I’m just laughing into the void! I suppose that shouldn’t matter since I enjoy it and all, so I guess I’ll just figure out for myself if I ought to keep going with my little funtime reviews! Your input is welcome, though – feel free to tell me if you think I should just hang it up!

Anyway, today I’m reviewing another great favourite of mine! It’s a picture I’ve seen many times, but only once on the big screen: at the late, great Scala Cinema (celebrated, as you’ll recall, in the documentary Scala) on a double bill with another quality Canadian picture, Un Zoo La Nuit! The movie under discussion today is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome – perhaps his finest film, and by garr, to me that’s saying a lot!

Because after all, I’m hugely fond of Dead Ringers, Crash, Scanners, and almost all his other movies! But Videodrome somehow stands above them all, even if it’s maybe the shortest full-length feature he’s made! Certainly it’s the most outré, and one of the Cronenbergiest, ha ha! Like much of his best work it serves as a strangely accurate peek into the future – it predicted all manner of techno-organic interfusioning and manipulation by media and virtual reality metadonaldination, and also foresaw James Woods going bonkers!

Woods, whose hollow cheeks we’ll recall from Night Moves and Best Seller, is Max Renn, a low-level Toronto TV magnate who’s always looking for racy late-night content for his disreputable cable channel! When his in-house tech wizard Harlan, played by Peter Dvorsky from Millennium, shares some fuzzy S&M video he’s managed to pick up while cruising the contraband airwaves, Max knows this is exactly what he needs for his station and he gets on the trail of the snuff program known as Videodrome!

Debbie Harry, the child-eating witch from Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, is a sultry radio hostess called Nicki Brand, and she first becomes Max’s love interest, then shows up as a guest star on Videodrome! Ha ha! In his quest to figure out what Videodrome is, and as he begins to realize that exposure to the program is doing a weird number on his own mental and physical self, Max bumps shoulders with a number of familiar Canadian thespians, including Sonja Smits from The Pit, Les Carlson from Black Christmas, Jack Creley from Tulips, Lynne Gorman from Nobody Waved Good Bye, and Julie Khaner from Spasms!

Of course Max is trapped and doomed from the moment he first lays eyes on the signal – ha ha, the New Flesh will have its way no matter what he does! Hallucination and reality become one, tumorous weaponry sprouts, new orifices develop, airwaves and brainwaves meld, and, in an ending that feels a little bit made up on the spot because, in fact, it was, Max finds himself aboard a rustbucket lakeboat watching the last TV show he’ll ever see! Ha ha, and while I can’t say it’s a happy ending, for an improvised conclusion it does manage to feel inevitable!

I’ve really liked this picture for a long time, and my admiration has not diminished with the years! It still seems a brainy, diabolical, occasionally gruesome, and very Toronto piece of work! It has some rubbery trick effects courtesy of Rick Baker, who’d made the greasy dog in An American Werewolf in London, and a terrific cold-as-a-mackerel score from Howard Shore! And it seems to be about something, which, let’s face it, most movies aren’t, and what it’s about seems to shift cunningly from viewing to viewing! I think Cronenberg was firing on all cylinders here, and being a motorcycle and general racing enthusiast, he has a lot of cylinders to fire! Ha ha, I give Videodrome four smears of pizza sauce!


  1. Great film! Death to Videodrome! Long Live the Burl Flesh!

    (Joebob Briggs claims James Woods is an extra in The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!)

    1. That's astonishing! The youngest I've ever seen him is in Night Moves I think, and he was pretty well fully-formed by then!

  2. Hello Burl!
    I found your site about a year ago and have wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your reviews! I must admit the idea of you stopping is disquieting! The thought of a future without a hearty Ha Ha and a satisfactorily succinct yet capricious review by Ol' Burl is akin to staring into a black abyss containing radioactive detritus and porcine offal! I have read all of your archived reviews and check daily to see if you have posted a new review! When ever I need a positive diversion from the woes of the ol' worl' I turn to Ol' Burl! I sincerely hope you will continue to publish as often as you are able!

    I appreciate your style and knowledge - your enthusiasm for the art of film comes through with every sentence! Your exclamatory statements convey energy, conviction and adoration for the art with every sentence - even if you don't like the movie! It's obvious you enjoy language and its labyrinthine intricacies and lexical delights in your application of vocabulary, on occasion moderately arcane/obscure but always applicable! Now and then we witness words in your reviews that don't appear in dictionaries but provide insight and entertainment! I have learned much from your teachings and would help nail your manifesto to the narthex, just below the notices for upcoming Feasts o' Roasted Beasts! You have opened my eyes to several specific movies and genres that I had not previously explored! For all this, I am grateful!

    To sum up: I dig your style and I suspect many others do! I look forward to continuing to read your phraseology and wordmakeuppery in new reviews. As I would tell my students: "Get After It"!

    PS: "Videodrome" really confused me as a youth! I recall a few moments of profound horripilation It spurred several contentious debates between myself and my kunckle - headed friend! That's correct - we called him kunckel - headed. He couldn't even spell knuckle. I do recall enjoying Debbie Harry strutting around and also hoping I would not turn out like James Woods. His character was a butyraceous, adipose cup of lard! I just watched him in "The Way We Were"! I believe it was one of his earliest screen appearances - he was a mild mannered Communist at Cornell and a surprisingly agile dancer!

    1. That's a wonderful comment, thank you very much! I'm glad to think of intelligent, perceptive people enjoying these reviews, and it's very nice that just about everyone who comments here seems to be that! And I'm doubly glad if I can be of some inspirational value now and then, leading folk to movies or genres they haven't seen before! Ha ha, I've never seen The Way We Were, but I like to think of Woods playing a gentle undergrad Commie!

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