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Hold onto your brains, because Scanners is the Greatest Movie EVER! Click on the movie poster or the title above to

download our review of the film, featuring M.O.M., the Mistress of Malapropisms.

Review in a Nutshell: Often mis-classified as a horror film, Scanners is better described as a genre-blending science fiction film with elements of espionage and body horror. Patrick McGoohan is full of bombast and bravura and Michael Ironside is delightfully villainous, and the special make-up effects are still horrifying and grotesque even today.


  1. timeliebe says:

    YES! Can’t wait to hear this, Paul – I love SCANNERS, and think it’s a lot deeper than the “action/body horror thriller” it’s widely considered.

  2. I love the government psychic part of it, the military/espionage application. Kind of like the corporate anti-psychics in Ubik, thinking about how these powers might exist in our world

  3. timeliebe says:

    Really loved the podcast – and glad to see MoM got into the movie and didn’t let the exploding head or the climactic Scanner battle upset her. I especially liked your addressing how effectively Cronenberg tells his story visually – it’s one of those things he’s done as a director pretty much starting with Rabid.

    I’ve seen Stephen Lack in a couple other film roles (playing a gay cop in Larry Cohen’s Perfect Strangers, and in an “erotic thriller” with Sally Kellerman which IMDB tells me is called Head On) , and I reiterate my earlier comment about his acting skills. Also, I remember an interview with Cronenberg where he said he’d hired Stephen Lack on the basis of his performance as a arts/drugs commune head in The Rubber Gun, and was dismayed to discover What He Saw Was What He Got.

    That said, you’ve made the best defense of his performance that I’ve heard – I had never considered that maybe his flattened affect and air of a kid playing dress-up was intentional. It’s true that when it comes to nonverbal acting (like his reactions when he’s Scanning or being Scanned), he’s really impressive. It’s possible it was either his choice as an actor to play the character this way, or Cronenberg’s decision after hearing Lack’s verbal acting – which is why it sucks he’s refused to do a Commentary track on this movie!

  4. timeliebe says:

    I’ve seen DePalma’s The Fury (one of my first movie reviews for my college newspaper!), and while some of the “How To Do Psychic Powers” stuff is similar, there’s a visceral element to Cronenberg’s work that isn’t in DePalma’s. In The Fury, bleeding only happens to the victims when they’re under psychic attack, and simple telepathy doesn’t cause it – and while the veins in the bridge of the nose pulsate when they’re in full-on psychic power mode, it’s not like veins popping out everywhere.

    I think you should give it a watch, Paul – it’s equally well-directed in DePalma’s Trademark Showy Style, and a good companion piece to Scanners, done in that time period when “Psychic Powers as Weapons” was a thing (King’s novel Firestarter was published in the Fall of 1980, about the same time as Scanners was released).

  5. zerolightimageaccumulator says:

    Avery here (and yeah, you can tell I’m a Videodrome fanboy, enough that I took my wordpress name from the TV cut of the film). I hate to link io9 but there’s a video, probably from a DVD extra, of the making of that scene.

    Another issue with Cronenberg and commentary is that he prefers his work to speak for him. For the longest time, has quoted his literary inspiration Vladimir Nabokov that reflecting on the making of something as like “passing around samples of one’s sputum”. It took until 2011 to get a commentary track for The Fly, supposedly after a conversation he had with a friend convinced him to do so, although he supposedly has done commentary for Dead Ringers, Crash, and his more recent work.

  6. timeliebe says:

    @zerolightimageaccumulator – actually, he also did Commentary tracks for both SHIVERS and RABID on the Somerset House DVDs, along with lengthy interviews talking about his early work, as well as a track for the Criterion VIDEODROME (all of which I own).

    That’s what makes the lack of a commentary track on SCANNERS so frustrating.

  7. zerolightimageaccumulator says:

    @timeliebe, yeah, I think I was going off information from ten years ago. I remember buying the DVD version of the Criterion Collection release of Videodrome and was so disappointed that it didn’t have director’s commentary. That’s when I heard about Cronenberg’s then-aversion to commentary and alternate cuts. I’m glad that the Blu-Ray that came out in 2010 actually has commentary now, although a little disappointed it doesn’t have those TV edit additions.

  8. timeliebe says:

    @zerolightimageaccumulator – now, I just wish he’d break down and do a commentary track for Scanners! I know he’s mentioned he started without a completed script and was writing parts of it on the fly – but I’d love to know if he always had the Thalidomide Baby and Cain&Abel analogies in mind, or if those are things that came to him once he started shooting and saw that Michael Ironside could handle the vocal acting parts as well as the “look crazed and spooky” parts.

    I remember him saying in an interview for Videodrome during production that it was the first movie where he’d actually cast for acting talent rather than “having the right vibe” for the character he’d written – that quote’s mine, not his, because I forget exactly how he put it at the time! In his early work, his actors were all over the map – from Joe Silver’s character actor professionalism, to Marilyn Chambers semi-professional vulnerability, to some truly stilted brief performances.

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