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Film

The porn film that inspired David Cronenberg masterpiece 'Videodrome'

David Cronenberg recently returned to the world of cinema with Crimes of the Future which premiered at Cannes, capturing the attention of film fans everywhere. For a while, the Canadian auteur had been trying to distance himself from the horror genre but he has finally come back to the familiar domain of horror cinema.

Throughout his career, Cronenberg has used his cinematic projects to explore the moral wasteland of modernity by focusing on the grotesque nature of the human body. He has been cited by many as one of the pioneers of body horror because his visions of terrifying transformations of the body are unlike any other.

In an interview, the director explained his artistic motivation behind his fixation on body horror: “They talk about me as the inventor of body horror. But I’ve never thought of it as being horrific. Of course, you’re being a showman, and if you’re making a low-budget horror film—there were a lot of those around at the time—how do you get yourself noticed?”

Adding, “Certainly I was in the world, and not an abstractionist. I was trying to make movies and continue to make movies. But there’s the philosophical underpinning for all of it. If neurology is reality, that’s an incredible theme—how to structure a narrative that will discuss that? Immediately you’re into changing the body to change the reality, and that’s what led me to all of those things like Videodrome.”

Videodrome is definitely the one body horror film that always gets mentioned in any conversation about the genre or about Cronenberg himself. The 1983 masterpiece follows the dark journey of a TV station exec whose world is turned upside down after he embarks on an investigation of a signal that broadcasts snuff films.

Many have pointed out that Cronenberg’s philosophical subtext in Videodrome was deeply influenced by the writings of eminent Canadian scholars whose work analyses of the pernicious machinations of mass media are still just as relevant. In the internet age, Videodrome resonates even more as it depicts an unprecedented clash between the virtual and the real.

Although McLuhan provided much of the framework for the project, Cronenberg was actually inspired to write the film when he came across a porno titled Emanuelle in America. The 1977 Italian sexploitation work revolves around the titular journalist who dives deep into the sinister world of snuff films and sex cults.

The film was actually seized by the courts because they were convinced that the snuff footage was real. When the director Joe D’Amato was later asked whether he was familiar about the fact that Cronenberg actually drew inspiration from Emanuelle in America, he responded: “Yeah? Maybe I should ask him for some money.”

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