10 Things You Didn't Know About... Videodrome
Over the next few weeks we'll have a range of films on offer from the folks at Arrow Video, with a range of cult classics on offer in stores and online, both on Blu-ray and DVD. You can find the full range of films here in our online store and we'll be revisiting some of the best titles, continuing this week with David Cronenberg's cult classic, Videodrome. Here are 10 things you may not know...
CIVIC-TV is based on an real Canadian TV channel
David Cronenberg based the trashy TV station CIVIC-TV on a real-life Toronto-based CITY-TV, an independent station that launched in 1972 and became infamous for its late-night programming. Examples of their output included a softcore pornography showcase series called Baby Blue Movies and a daily show called Naked News, which featured female news anchors gradually removing their clothes as they read out that day's news stories.
One of Videodrome's characters, a TV station executive named Moses, is reportedly named after one of CITY-TV's co-founders, Moses Znaimer.
The 'alive' television set was controlled using a modified synthesizer
Many of the special effects employed in the film were created by Rick Baker, a renowned make-up artist and special effects supervisor who has worked on countless films from The Exorcist and American Werewolf in London to Star Wars and Maleficent. Baker spent months devising and creating the television set used in the film, devising ways to make the set pulsate and breathing using hydraulics, compressed air and various other techniques. All of these were controlled by a modified synthesizer which was programmed to activate different effects when its keys were pressed.
Betamax cassettes were used because they made the special effects easier
Another of Baker's innovations for the film included creating the prosthetic torso fitted to James Woods in order to insert video cassettes into an orifice that opens up in his stomach. This involved having the actor partially embedded into a sofa with the prosthetics glued to his body. Because of the size and complexity of the prop, betamax cassettes were used instead of VHS because they were slightly smaller and fitted better with the design.
Professor O'Blivion is based on a tutor at Cronenberg's former University
Pop culture analyst and philosopher Professor Brian O'Blivion, played by Jack Creley, is based on a well-known academic named Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian professor best-known for coining the term “the medium is the message” and the phrase “global village”. Although not a student of his, Cronenberg had studied at the University of Toronto where McLuhan was a lecturer in media studies, and had been influenced by his book Understanding Media.
The man who plays the Japanese porn salesman became a real-life politician
David Tsubouchi's acting career began and ended with a bit part in Videodrome, where he played a salesman pedalling a Japanese pornography film called Samurai Dreams for possible broadcast on CIVIC-TV. He abandoned his fledgling acting career to take up a career in politics instead and spent six years as a local councillor before serving another eight years as a cabinet minister in Canada.
Incidentally, his character's name in the film is Hiro Nakamura, a name you might recognise from Tim Kring's superhero series Heroes.
An epilogue was planned, but never filmed
Cronenberg had planned to film an additional scene which featured Bianca O'Blivion (Sonja Smits) and Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry) with their own chest-slits that protruded mutated sex organs, but due to overrunning costs and the fact that Harry had stomach flu, the scene was abandoned.
Andy Warhol was a fan of the film. James Woods' mum, not so much...
Warhol loved Videodrome and referred to it as "the A Clockwork Orange of the 1980s”. The same can't be said of James Woods' mum however; the actor told Den of Geek in a 2014 interview that while she normally loved his work, she said of Cronenberg's film: “I'm sure there's some kind of message here, but honestly, it's silly. It's bullsh*t.”
The ending was James Woods' idea
When the film began shooting, Cronenberg was reportedly working from an unfinished script and there was a fair amount of experimentation during the filming of several scenes, including the film's ending. Three different end scenes were shot, but the one Cronenberg ended up using was actually suggested by the film's lead actor, James Woods.
The film inspired a scene in a later Cronenberg film, A History of Violence, but it didn't make the cut
During the making of A History of Violence, Cronenberg and the crew spent an entire day making a gory 'dream sequence' scene in which Ed Harris' character is killed with a shotgun, but even though it was a very difficult scene to shoot the director later decided not to use it in the final cut. On the DVD extras for A History of Violence there's a featurette named The Unmaking of Scene 44 in which we see how the scene was made, followed by some behind-the-scenes footage of Cronenberg explaining to the cast and crew why he was dropping it. “It would be in homage to myself” he tells the cast, before adding “which I'm not above doing... but I think not.”
The trailer was made almost entirely with a Commodore 64
If you're old enough to remember the Commodore 64 then you probably used it for playing games like Lode Runner or International Soccer, but while this 8-bit machine might not seem like the most sophisticated computer now, at the time it was cutting edge stuff and Cronenberg found a use for it that went way beyond endless rounds of Double Dragon. Aside from the live action sequences spliced into the trailer, the rest was all done using the computer's graphics programs and its though to be one of the first to use these in a cinematic trailer.