Scanners (1981)

March 9th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director/Script: David Cronenberg

Producer: Claude Heroux

Cast: Jennifer O’Neill, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside, Stephen Lack, Robert Silverman, Lawrence Dane

103mins Canada        1981                           Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller

Sci-Fi has had a bad rap in recent times, due in the main to a plethora of massively-budgeted juggernauts thundering forwards in the total absence of a good story, dependent solely on the style of ever more outrageous Special Effects.

There remains however, a few standout titles which have weathered this storm of mediocrity, a list including (among others) Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator and Cronenberg’s Scanners, where an original storyline was enhanced by a Sci-Fi setting and some choice Special Effects.

Second Sight are releasing Scanners on Blu-Ray on April 8th, with extras that include interviews with David Lack, Cinematographer Mark Irwin, Exec Producer Pierre David, actor Lawrence Dane and Make Up/Effects man Stephen Dupuis, in the days when effects were still created in latex…

Arguably Cronenberg’s most memorable film, although he is well known for quite a body-count of gruesome flicks such as The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch and Crash. Scanners is all the more remarkable because it was shot on a very tight budget and schedule to the point where Cronenberg was actually writing and filming on the fly. All the more extraordinary then that the complex story hangs together so well in the execution.

Michael Ironside’s Darryl Revok is the villainous darkside to the ‘telepathically enabled’, named ‘scanners’ after their ability to remotely ‘read’ peoples brains. Stephen Lack the young scanner enlisted by McGoohan’s Dr Ruth to combat the threat of Revok simply taking over the world (hmm. Have we been here before?).

And it’s the attention to detail that’s so good here; any Sci-Fi film needs to adhere strictly to a set of given rules and to make logical sense at all times. So often this is where Sci-Fi falls down, where the story hasn’t been properly thought through and crucial elements are either glossed over, or conveniently forgotten. But Scanners remains reassuringly solid throughout. Even if the basic premise is somewhat… silly.

The thing that also finally lets it down is some indifferent acting in a few key scenes, but the effort and thought that has gone into the story construct is to be hugely admired and the reason it has stood the test of time.

This said, great turns also by Silverman, McGoohan and of course, the peerless Ironside in particular. A well-above par addition to anyone’s Blu-Ray Sci-Fi Horror collection. AT


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