Criterion Collection, $39.95

In David Cronenberg's seminal 1983 horror picture (on disc Aug. 31), TV producer James Woods discovers just what he needs to break through the clutter and grab audience share for his low-budget station: a snuff-flick purveyor called Videodrome. "Like video circus," he explains to a colleague. "It's just torture and murder. No plot, no characters, very realistic. I think it's the next thing!" But the minute he puts the snuff cassette into his VCR, the producer is doomed, very like the victims in the Japanese Ringu movies and their Naomi Watts knock-off (which Cronenberg says was inspired by his film). A slit opens in his abdomen, into which videocassettes disappear, as does his pistol—which re-emerges from his belly and fuses with his hand. After nicking and branding an S&M sweatmeat named Nikki Brand (Blondie's Deborah Harry), he discovers she's turned into a giant pair of lips on a pneumatic TV tube that sucks his face into it. When the flesh gun starts shooting blobby bullets that cause cancer, things really start getting weird.

I think the satirical philosophy of Cronenberg's first true signature flick is overrated and the paranoid plot underbaked, but you can't argue with its otherworldly aura. Rick Baker's goopy prosthetic makeup and props are great even when they're cheesy or unrealistic, and the elaborate making-of DVD features explain how they worked. The veiny, breathing TV was operated by a pipe-organ-like device; the contortions it produces on the TV set were produced by playing Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in G Minor on its keyboard. The extras are extravagant: a mini-doc, Fear on Film, with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, and John Landis; faux snuff and porn flicks; scads of commentary. "I have officially stopped being an actor, now I'm just a walking slit!" Woods complains. "Now you know what it feels like!" Harry retorts. One disappointment: we don't get to see the mutant, belly-slit-dwelling sex organs Baker designed for the never-used orgy finale.

MICHAEL MOORE's Fahrenheit 9/11 (Oct. 5.) won't disappoint Dubya haters needing another reason to pull the lever for Kerry. Another notable political title being re-released is the political documentary The War Room. Jamie Foxx doesn't distinguish himself in Breakin' All the Rules, nor does Halle Beery in Gothika. Kate Hudson fares little better in Raising Helen. For fans of musicals, there's a two-disc package of the exuberant 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and a three-disc set of the That's Entertainment! series. Though we're not fans of the lugubrious The Shawshank Redemption (Oct. 5), its new special-edition set will appeal to Stephen King partisans.


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