Picks and Pans Review: Videodrome

updated 03/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Before this film drowns in a tide of bloody gore and drippy foolishness—and it doesn't take long—there are some signs of a biting black satire on the influence of television in modern society. James (The Onion Field) Woods plays the owner of a small cable TV station in Toronto that caters to an audience craving soft-core porn and violence. Woods is anxious to give them "something that'll break through, something tough," and decides he has it when one of his engineers intercepts a satellite signal from Pittsburgh showing programs consisting of nothing but murder, torture and dismemberment. It seems indeed to be his lucky day,, especially when he goes on a talk show and meets Deborah Harry (brown-haired but, yes, that Deborah Harry), the masochistic hostess of a local call-in show called Emotional Rescue. Woods is a fine actor, Harry is an entrancing presence, and the idea is involving. Then writer-director Jack (Scanners) Cronenberg lets the movie dissolve in an idiotic succession of grotesque effects—holes opening in Woods' stomach, TV sets coming alive, bodies splitting open. These may or may not be hallucinations resulting from a broadcast signal that causes brain tumors in viewers and drives them crazy in pursuit of some never-quite-defined villainy. It's never clear who's doing what to whom or why; it's only clear that blood and guts are spilling out of people—not to mention TV sets—every minute or two. (R)

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