Today, we’re celebrating horror maestro David Cronenberg’s seventy-third birthday with a look back at his brilliantly twisted oeuvre. Dedicate your afternoon to honoring the legendary Canadian filmmaker and artist, by revisiting a selection of essays, photo galleries, and videos exploring his classics—from Naked Lunch and Dead Ringers to Scanners, The Brood, and Videodrome.
- First, Chris Rodley examines the genesis of Cronenberg’s adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, describing the author’s impact as a “colonizing influence” on the director, who was once an aspiring writer. “From the outset, Burroughs’s influence was like a neurological connection,” writes Rodley in his essay “Naked Lunch: So Deep in My Heart That You’re Really a Part of Me,” which originally appeared in the 1992 book Everything Is Permitted: The Making of “Naked Lunch.” “Beyond its startling language and literary form,” Rodley notes, “beyond its ‘forbidden’ subject matter and obsessions (and sympathetic reaction to the repressive era in which it was written), the work spoke most immediately to Cronenberg’s viscera. More an infection than an influence.”
- Next, go behind the scenes of Cronenberg’s twisted adaptation of Burroughs’s book: See a selection of on-set photos of Cronenberg and his meticulous crew, as well as a gallery of drawings, clay maquettes, and models of the Mugwump, the book’s infamous reptilian creature, brought to life in Cronenberg’s film.
- Enjoy the hilariously negative audience notes from an early test screening of Cronenberg’s sadomasochistic body-horror masterpiece Videodrome.
- Then read Gary Indiana’s stimulating essay, Videodrome: The Slithery Sense of Unreality, which begins with a quotation from one of Cronenberg’s filmmaking forebears: “ ‘Eroticism,’ Luis Buñuel told an interviewer, ‘is a diabolic pleasure that is related to death and rotting flesh.’ ” And “no filmmaker conveys this idea with more ingenuity and macabre gusto,” Indiana continues, “than David Cronenberg, whose movies (hilariously, terrifyingly) illustrate the equation of penetration with contagion and infection.” Videodrome, he writes, “which gives the term open-minded an archly ironic meaning, is open-minded in the more familiar colloquial sense. [. . .] The apocalyptic premise, (beautifully) horrific images, and understated, sinister score by Howard Shore don’t at all disguise the intelligent, reflective approach Cronenberg takes in this vastly entertaining, funny, chillingly sexy meditation on mass media and its effects.”
- Watch a fascinating clip from Michael Lennick’s Criterion documentary, The “Scanners” Way, about the cerebral sci-fi mind-bender’s special effects—namely, how they were utilized to create the cult classic’s signature explosion.
- See a gallery of the custom surgical implements Cronenberg had made for his chilling gynecological psychodrama Dead Ringers.
- Finally, read Carrie Rickey’s exploration of 1979’s The Brood, Cronenberg’s demonic take on parenthood. “The Brood was released the same year as another film about a custody dispute, Kramer vs. Kramer, which subsequently took the Oscar for best picture,” writes Rickey. “In 1979, Cronenberg, himself recovering from a difficult divorce and custody contest, noted of his most personal film, ‘The Brood is my version of Kramer vs. Kramer, but more realistic.’ ”