Cronenberg Collection (1975-83)

10 Aug

cronenberg

An excellent starting point for any cinephile keen on experiencing one of cinema’s most boundary pushing auteur; this Cronenberg Collection brings together three films which offer a fair representation of Cronenberg’s inimitable style.

Shivers, one of the director’s earliest films, remains an audacious piece for any fledgling director. A futuristic tale in which a rogue doctor seeks to correct what he sees as unnatural, hyper-civilized developments in the human race; he accidentally unleashes a parasite upon the inhabitants of the gated community in which he lives a parasite that reduces them to their basest sexual desires. The parasite itself, a grotesque, slug like creature, introduces viewers to Cronenberg’s visceral, visually assaulting style of film making. The film concludes in sexual revelry, unapologetically finding satiation in total hedonism; a masterclass in defying convention. Despite it’s early negative reviews, Shivers has gained appreciation in the intervening decades, and now stands as a breakout film by a budding visionary.

Cronenberg followed Shivers with Rabid, also included in the box set. Keeping with the themes of unfettered sexual desire, disease, and contagion; Rabid also tells the tale of an experimental doctor causing mass illness through his creation. This time round a young woman, Rose, is involved in a fatal motorcycle accident and given an experimental skin graft. The new tissue causes her to turn into a walking parasite/contagion, feeding off the blood of her victims and infecting them with her own aberration. The film is less bold and successful in its storytelling than its predecessor, nevertheless, it is still an interesting piece of cinematic history and notable for casting Marilyn Chambers in one of her few mainstream movie roles.

The box set concludes with one of my favourite Cronenberg films, his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. A near complete departure from his usual style, The Dead Zone is one of his few truly Hollywood style films, for which I think we are the poorer as he genuinely excels when his film making is constrained to pushing the boundaries of conventional film making. The film follows young teacher Johnny (a very bright, youthful Christopher Walken), who wakes from a coma after many years to find that the love of his life has moved on with someone else, and that he has psychic abilities. Goaded by the media, and keen to get away from the physically draining pain of those around him, Johnny moves to a new suburb to pursue a quiet life of tutoring, but is compelled to help when a serial killer continues stabbing victims in his town. Dynamic, and terrifically paced, The Dead Zone is one of Cronenberg’s most generally entertaining thrillers to date.

Though not a collection of entirely Cronenberg’s finest works, Cronenberg Collection, is as good an introduction to one of the world’s most daring film makers as the uninitiated are likely to get. For seasoned fans it serves as an excellent base to their collection. A must for genuine cinephiles.

 

Ed.

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