Scanners AKA Telepathy 2000
R2 - United Kingdom - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (29th August 2006).
The Film

Early in his career, David Cronenberg made some not-so-memorable movies ('Fast Company'?), but he still earned a reputation as a thinking man's gorehound. He combined some bloody scenes with layers of symbolism, all the time in a quite interesting story (except, of course, 'Fast Company', which is a strange David Cronenberg film in the sense that it's just so normal). 'Scanners' spawned two sequels and provides a hefty dose of those two things often found in Mr. Cronenberg's early works.

A bad guy (Michael Ironside, what a stretch!) is killing people part of an organization, so Patrick MaGoohan gets another guy to try to stop Mr. Ironside. These people, by the way, are scanners, and they have nifty Jedi-like powers. Actually, my brother and I figured out this would be David Cronenberg's version of 'Star Wars'. Mr. MaGoohan would be Obi-wan, star Stephen Lack would be Luke and Mr. Ironside is Darth Vader and Lawrence Dale is the Emperor. The good guys have to stop the bad guys from killing people. Well, that's where the similarities end, though. The plot, themes and atmosphere aren't really the same.

In any case, getting to the movie at hand, the movie is pretty good. In comparison with Mr. Cronenberg's earlier efforts, it's probably the best. To be fair, before he made it fairly big (which this movie helped do), this was his biggest budget and his more refined movie. The camerawork is nice and the direction is a bit more advanced than in, say, 'Rabid'. The budget, though, is not too big and the lack of money does show through a few times. (The acting also seems a bit odd at times, but this is a David Cronenberg movie. More about that later.)

As well as the camerawork, the themes and tone are very well made. Ideas later revisited (man melding with machine, for example) are explored here. The ideas are interesting and it's nice to see their evolution in Mr. Cronenberg's oeuvre. They were in their infancy here, so it's fun to see how Mr. Cronenberg handles them. The music by Howard Shore is likewise quite interesting. It's completely synthetic, yet strangely organic. It gives great atmosphere and sets a very nice tone in the scenes.

The atmosphere is quite nice. Mr. Cronenberg's usual cold direction style is not as obvious here, as it doesn't seem as cold as usual. Mr. Cronenberg seems to focus a bit more on the actual feelings rather than just showing the characters. The distinct acting style in the director's movies, though, is clearly here and though it might seem stilted or wooden, I'm sure it's what the auteur wanted. The direction is good throughout and Mr. Cronenberg got what he wanted out of the cast and crew.

Though the symbolism and themes might seem simple given the director's later works, this is a very enjoyable film, even on a superficial level. Some of the events might be a bit odd (why does Mr. Lack get a nosebleed that one time?), but it's generally understandable and enjoyable. On the other hand, the violence is never gratuitous, it's there for a reason, and giving it a bit of thought is much more fulfilling.

Video

1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For the age, this is an incredible job. Anchor Bay really put a lot of work into this movie. The darker colours miss definition - a black coat and the black night sky are undelineated - but the colours are strong and they don't waver. Grain is almost non-existent and specks and scratches are a non-issue. The compression is quite good, with no artifacts like pixelation or anything of the sort. The darker scenes may have some blurry areas, but it's to be expected for the colour schemes of the scenes. The picture is quite good and it actually surprised me a bit.

Audio

The DVD has three audio choices, all in English, of course: a Dolby 2.0 stereo track, a Dolby 5.1 track and a DTS track. I heard the DTS track, but the difference between it and the Dolby track are quite minimal. The DTS track offers some nice environmental sounds, like echoes in big rooms. It's crystal clear and nothing is muffled. The weird score comes out loud and clear from all speakers, and the dialogue is completely clear and centered. The subwoofer can be a bit week but given the type of movie, it's no surprise. I's a great track for the movie.
The movie comes with English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Extras

The biggest and best bonus feature is The Directors: The Films of David Cronenberg (59:02). It talks about Mr. Cronenberg's career from its start all the way to 'Spider'. It's a very nice overview of his career, with most of the stars of his movies talking about him (he seems smart, by the way), and their impressions of his movies. You even get the man himself talking about his movies. He talks about the troubles about making some movies, about getting the financing, about getting to do the movie he wants to do, and things like that. It's quite interesting, especially hearing Mr. Cronenberg speak about his own movies.

Next up is Inside Scan: Scanners (8:28), which has critic Alan Jones talking about the place 'Scanners' finds itself in David Cronenberg's body of work. He talks about the origins, casting and effects work, as well as less tangible things like symbolism and influence. It's a nice little piece.

After that you have some Trailers. One for 'Scanners' (2:12), one for 'Scanners 2' (2:15) and one for 'Scanners 3' (1:41) (though they're they're labeled as Trailer 1, Trailer 2 and Trailer 3, they're trailers for the trilogy). They're good trailers, and sell the movie. The first one is the head-exploding scene and it's pretty nifty. Good work by the marketing people on this one. The two other trailers are kind of cheesy (well, actually pretty cheesy), which is all I can say. The last trailer is for 'The Brood' (2:48) and is pretty nice. It sells the movie pretty well. I didn't like the movie too well, but maybe I'd like it more if I saw it again.

The rest are pretty small. You have some detailed Film Notes, which basically repeats what Alan Jones' little introduction says. A few Biographies for director David Cronenberg and actors Jennifer O'Neil, Michael Ironside and Patrick MaGoohan are next. They're pretty nice and give out good information. A Stills Gallery is last on the menu. A very nice selection here. None of them seem to be movie stills and they all look like genuine photographs. A good job by Anchor Bay UK on this!

Overall

You can view Adrian Busby's original review here.

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


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