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‘Secret Weapons’: David Cronenberg’s made-for-TV dystopian sci-fi biker movie, 1972
09.22.2014
05:52 am

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Movies
Television

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David Cronenberg


 
In 1972 David Cronenberg’s resume as a filmmaker consisted of Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970)—both of those movies, incidentally, are available quite affordably if you order the 2-disc Fast Company DVD set. The latter title, Crimes of the Future, would also function pretty well for Secret Weapons, a 22-minute movie Cronenberg directed for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1972. Secret Weapons appeared on some kind of anthology show called Programme X. His friend Norman Snider wrote the script; he would work with Cronenberg again much later, on the screenplay for Dead Ringers. That’s Snider as “The Wise Man”—so IMDb has it—but in all honesty I’m not sure which character that refers to. More recent pics of Snider would make you think that Snider played the main character, but I’m just not sure.
 

 
Secret Weapons is some kind of a tossed-off dystopian movie; it’s a mite overdetermined. It cribs liberally from both Huxley and Orwell and probably Kubrick too, and its scary countercultural attitudinizing probably had the identical flavor as a lot of sci-fi of that moment. The premise is that we’re five years into the future—1977—and the United States is embroiled in a civil war. A company named General Pharmaceutics runs society—as the voiceover states, “This gigantic producer of medicines and drugs succeeded in its takeover of technology and soon after, all of society.” General Pharmaceutics has developed mind control drugs and is desirous that a talented young researcher accept their party line, but he’s far too apathetic to care either way. They send him out for some indoctrination and he meets with the leader of the only thing that passes for a resistance, some biker gangs that operate outside of organized society which are, intriguingly, headed up by a woman.

To call this a biker movie may be going too far—motorcycles are on the screen for just a few seconds. This was Cronenberg’s first movie with synced sound, and it shows. What Secret Weapons mainly is is talky, and the voiceover chimes in frequently just in case you hadn’t absorbed enough desultory chatter (actually, there are two voiceovers). Cronenberg has made so many fascinating movies that an early short about mind control can’t help but be interesting, but really my takeaway is that he had a ways to go. His first feature, Shivers, would be released three years later.

You have to admire Cronenberg for wanting to cram so many ideas into his movie, though—even if they were a bit clichéd for the era, a bit half-baked. My favorite thing in it is whatever was brushing and prodding the protagonist’s interviewer around five minutes in. We’re given the impression that the interview is happening in the same room as some committee, but we never see them, we just see objects occasionally intrude into the frame and stroke or otherwise touch the interviewer.

Did I mention this is pretty low-budget?
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Canada: Here’s William Shatner singing the Canadian National Anthem

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It’s Canada Day, when all good Canadians celebrate the birth of their country.

Today marks the anniversary of the unification of three colonies under the name Canada, which came together through the enactment of the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867.

Canada now consists of 10 provinces and 3 territories, and is sometimes overlooked when compared to its noisy neighbor. However, Canada has a fine political system, a publicly funded health care system, was the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, and has a wealth of incredible cultural talent, from David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, to Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies.

Of course, Canada also has the iconic and irrepressible William Shatner. And here is Mr Shatner giving his version of the national anthem “O, Canada”.
 

 
Via Open Culture
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Sucked’: Audience notes from a ‘Videodrome’ test screening

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This was the kind of crap David Cronenberg had to endure from the audience at a test screening of his film Videodrome. Thankfully, Mr Cronenberg and his producers were made of stronger stuff, so they could shrug of such comments as:

“I fail to understand what would be accomplished by releasing such a movie on the public. What sort of person could enjoy it.”


Or:

“I consider myself to be an open minded individual - but I would not accept that such a thing would be captivating to the public.”

Oh really?

See a few more audience comments here.
 
videodrome_01
 

 
With thanks to Tara McGinley, via Nerdcore and Criterion
 
More bellyachin’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
J.G. Ballard’s Crash!  (A Film By Harley Cokeliss)

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And speaking of David Cronenberg...the Canadian wasn’t the first director to take a stab at J.G. Ballard’s novel.  The San Diego-born (but London educated) Harley Cokeliss directed a version of his own in ‘71.

Since Crash, the novel, was still two years down the road, Cokeliss based the film on some fragments found in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition.  And, perhaps even more suited to the role than James Spader, Ballard himself starred as the film’s lead.  From the Ballardian:

With his brooding, hypermasculine presence, Ballard plays a version of Atrocity’s ‘T’ character alongside the actor Gabrielle Drake, her own role a composite of the book’s archetypal ’sex-kit’ women.  The film was a product of the most experimental, the darkest phase of Ballard’s career.  It was an era of psychological blowback from the sudden, shocking death of his wife in 1964, an era that had produced the cut-up ‘condensed novels’ of Atrocity, plus a series of strange collages and ‘advertisers’ announcements.’

The Ballardian link includes a scene-by-scene description of the hard-to-see short, but, since it’s a recent addition to YouTube, you can start watching it right now below:

 
Crash! Part II

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Cronenberg & Burroughs On Naked Making Lunch

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Ah, Criterion!  What with your glorious transfers and generous heapings of bonus material, you make it all too easy to justify the dropping of 30 bucks to secure a copy of, say, Dillinger Is Dead.  Now, though, thanks to YouTube, you can often skip right to the bonus material without paying for the movie. 

Case in point, Naked Making Lunch, director Chris Rodley’s account of David Cronenberg‘s ‘91 effort to bring to the screen William Burroughs‘s Naked Lunch.

Far more than just another “making of,” Naked Making Lunch not only has Burroughs himself chiming in on his “unfilmmable” novel‘s transference to the screen, but it takes the time to go on a number of fascinating detours, none more so, perhaps, than a discussion on the aesthetics of rubber.

 
Naked Making Lunch Part II, III, IV, V

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment