Videodrome (Criterion Collection): 4K UHD Review

The 80’s were impactful decade for filmmaker David Cronenberg.  Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone & The Fly helped bring the his taste for body-horror to the mainstream. This week the director’s 1983 sci-fi/horror film, Videodrome arrives on 4K UHD, courtesy of Criterion. Long live the new flesh!

Max Ren (James Woods) is the president of a Toronto based UHF television station called CIVIC-TV. Being a small station, Max scours the globe for content that is sure to shock his viewers and drive up the viewership. When Max’s friend shows him a broadcast of people being tortured in a strange room, he is instantly hooked. The broadcast, which was picked up by their unauthorized satellite dish, seems to be coming from Malaysia. Impressed with how real the torture looks, Max wants to get Videodrome for his station.

When Max meets radio psychiatrist Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry), he shows her a tape of Videodrome, which surprisingly turns her on, so much so, that she wants to actually be in the show. When Max digs deeper into finding out who is behind the broadcast, he starts to have weird hallucinations. It doesn’t take long for the truth behind the videos to unravel for Max and by then it may be too late.

What’s fascinating about Videodrome forty years later, is just how much of what is alluded to in the narrative has actually come to pass in real life. Especially when it comes to technology as-well-as being brainwashed by our political system. If you watch many of Cronenberg’s films, he has always had a knack for seeing where the world was headed and that is quite impressive. Woods also nails the role of the sleazy network hustler.

Cronenberg approved this 4K restoration of the unrated cut of Videodrome, presented in Dolby Vision HDR. While Criterion’s 2010 Blu-ray looked good for its’ time, the new 4K release is a drastic improvement. Rick Baker’s make-up effects work looks incredibly detailed, especially when it comes to the scene of the very public demise of the film’s baddie. The daytime city shots look very detailed and flesh tones look very natural.  The audio is serviceable with the uncompressed monaural soundtrack. While there isn’t much special when it comes to the audio, the video presentation is where this release truly shines. I can’t imagine a future release looking any better than what we have here.

Bonus Features:

  • 4K digital restoration of the unrated version, approved by director David Cronenberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray with the film and special features
  • Two audio commentaries, one featuring Cronenberg and director of photography Mark Irwin, the other actors James Woods and Deborah Harry
  • Camera (2000), a short film by Cronenberg
  • Forging the New Flesh, a short documentary by filmmaker Michael Lennick about the creation of Videodrome’s video and prosthetic makeup effects
  • Effects Men, an audio interview with special makeup effects creator Rick Baker and video effects supervisor Lennick
  • Bootleg Video, the complete footage of Samurai Dreams and seven minutes of transmissions from “Videodrome,” presented in their original, unedited form, with filmmaker commentary
  • Fear on Film, a roundtable discussion from 1982 with Cronenberg and filmmakers John Carpenter, John Landis, and Mick Garris
  • Original theatrical trailers and promotional featurette
  • Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos and posters
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: Essays by writers Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas, and Gary Indiana

By: Marc Ferman