Before diving into one of October’s 4K Criterion releases, I want to acknowledge that this is not a never-before-seen 4K as Arrow in the UK has released Videodrome previously. Now, I do not know, with any form of certainty, if this is a different transfer than that of Arrow’s but I can say, without a doubt, this is the best Videodrome has ever looked in North America. As we welcome the New Flesh into our households, it is very important to note that this Criterion 4K UHD release is also the unrated version of the film, and there is no option to choose a different version. However, again, I cannot comment on the differences as I did not do a side-by-side viewing.
Videodrome may be one of director David Cronenberg’s (Crimes of the Future) best movies as it was so original and one of the most twisted films seen at the time. It, arguably, holds up to the test of time with its brilliant use of practical effects and masterful cast bringing the film to life. With its 89-minute run time, the film has not a second of unused momentum while bringing forth the nuanced message of how society is always looking for something they shouldn’t be and the near adrenaline-like high we get when we discover the “forbidden.” The movie focuses on Max Renn (James Woods) as he is looking for the sleaziest, most hyper-violent thing he can find for his news broadcast station. However, he discovers something more sinister than he could possibly imagine, and that is Videodrome, what would be possibly described as the darkest corners of the internet today. What Cronenberg manages to create with this disturbingly prolific tale is something that has stuck with audiences for 40 years and has garnered a cult status that is unmatched.
The film truly focuses on Max Renn and his obsession with finding the next new thing to bring to his television network. He is driven more than ever to bring forth the newest, most disturbing, most demonic things he can find, and stumbles across something called Videodrome. It transports Max into a world of sadism that he cannot escape and he becomes engrossed with the world of Videodrome, eventually getting consumed by it. This doubles as a metaphor for the need society feels to find the next “big” thing and how reliant we are as a society on technology and creation of chaos.
This new restoration is simply stunning and is absolutely magnificent in its presentation and upgrade from the previous Blu-ray. The picture is crisp and sharp which can only be compared to seeing the film in print. This is not surprising considering this is a Criterion release and they always manage to deliver such incredible editions of films that belong in every cinephiles collection. The 4K digital restoration is the unrated version which was approved by director David Cronenberg and is supported by Dolby Vision HDR, which could explain why this Criterion looks so crisp and pristine. There is no grain throughout the film (which naturally would be there) and the special effects are rendered so effortlessly that they truly capture the world of Videodrome, creating such a world of unease and disturbing essence for the audience that demonstrates why David Cronenberg is one of the best at his craft.
With Videodrome coming to 4K, it allows audiences familiar and unfamiliar with David Cronenberg’s work to find and get lost in this world of sheer chaos and brilliance in one of the best formats to exist today. It creates an experience for the home viewer to explore the themes and ideologies of the movie in the clearest and most refined picture. As well as it being David’s personal preference in the unrated version of the film, it would be a challenge to find the original version, but this version is the one most have seen and discovered. While the New Flesh may not be something we welcome into our homes, Videodrome on 4K Ultra HD should certainly be a welcome addition to any cinephile’s shelf.
The only disappointing part of the 4K restoration from Criterion is where the changes end from the Blu-ray. The features, packaging, and booklet are the same on the Blu-ray as they are on the 4K. However, the packaging has always been simply perfect for Videodrome, so why change something that is already perfect? On the 4K itself, the features are the commentary tracks, one with David Cronenberg and Director of Photography Mark Irwin (Scanners), and the other with James Woods (Casino) and Deborah “Debbi” Harry (Hairspray). The rest of the features are on the Blu-ray.
Videodrome Special 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
- Essays by writers Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas, and Gary Indiana
Available in 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD October 10th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Criterion Collection Videodrome webpage.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.