I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Scanners is my favorite Cronenberg film, because it really isn’t. But, whenever his name is mentioned, it is the first film that I picture in my head. I don’t know if it is because of the exploding head scene at the beginning of the film, or if it is Michael Ironside’s spectacularly eerie “scanning” face, but either way, at the mere mention of his name, it is immediately the film I associate with David Cronenberg. As a matter of fact, if you were to ask me what my favorite Cronenberg film was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I have debated with myself for a long time now about this very thing. The problem is, Cronenberg’s body of work is so diverse, that it’s hard to pinpoint just one of his films to label as THE Cronenberg film. I know most people associate him with body horror, to the point that anytime a new horror film comes along that features a killer within a human host, it is immediately referred to as “Cronenbergian”, and, he has earned that credit, to say the very least. But when you really look at his complete filmography, he is so, so much more than that. David Cronenberg might be one of the most diverse genre filmmakers that has ever existed. Even his “horror” films are completely different when compared. The world of Blu-ray has felt a little less complete, due to the lack of a Scanners release, but I assumed since Criterion had previously released Naked Lunch and Videodrome, that it would be here eventually, and be placed in the best possible hands for a restoration job, and that day has finally come. Criterion have released the definitive edition of the explosive Sci-Fi epic, and it sits nicely on the shelf next to Scream Factory’s Blu-ray double feature release of Scanners II and Scanners III.
With Scanners, David Cronenberg plunges us into one of his most terrifying and thrilling sci-fi worlds. After a man with extraordinary—and frighteningly destructive—telepathic abilities is nabbed by agents from a mysterious rogue corporation, he discovers he is far from the only possessor of such strange powers, and that some of the other “scanners” have their minds set on world domination, while others are trying to stop them. A trademark Cronenberg combination of the visceral and the cerebral, this phenomenally gruesome and provocative film about the expanses and limits of the human mind was the Canadian director’s breakout hit in the United States.
If you’ve never experienced a DVD or Blu-ray release from Criterion, then Scanners is the perfect film to use as your first exposure, because this release is fantastic. I had a lot of Criterion DVDs before the Blu-ray format launched, and I have working slowly to build my Criterion Blu-ray collection. So far, I really only have a few, because the normal price for these releases is way beyond the price point that I generally find acceptable for a single movie. That’s not to say that they’re not worth it, because they very much are. The amount of care that goes into a Criterion Collection Blu-ray is unrivaled. They go out of their way to ensure that the video and audio presentation are the best that they could possibly be, reaching out to the original filmmakers if they are available to supervise the restoration, to make sure that what we see on our screens is the precise way that the filmmaker intended it to be seen. Such is the case with Scanners, as director David Cronenberg was brought in to supervise the process, in which the film was not only rescanned from the original elements, but cleaned up in both physical, and digital ways. I’m not talking about DNR, I’m talking about physically removing dirt particles, seams, and any other damage to the print, as well as digitally enhancing the color timing of the film. It is a long, strenuous process, and the end result is a breathtaking video and audio presentation of one of Cronenberg’s most iconic films.
On top of the loving restoration process, Criterion releases generally come with a wealth of bonus content, and they really put together a special package with the release of Scanners. I will list all of the extras below the review, but suffice it to say that, if you wish to learn more about the film after you revisit it, or even watch it for the first time, you will be an expert once you peruse the extensive special features on this disc. On top of the documentaries, and other various behind-the-scenes footage, there is also a 2K restoration of the film Stereo, David Cronenberg’s first feature films. Technically, you’re getting two fully-restored Cronenberg films for the price of one, phenomenal Blu-ray release. Most of the couple of dozen times that I have watched Scanners, was done on a previously-viewed VHS that I had purchased from a local video store, so compared to that, this was an eye-opening experience. I do have one of the DVD releases of Scanners, and I thought I watched it once, but it wasn’t a particularly great exhibition. Most of you that are reading this, I figure have a lot of experience watching this film either on VHS, or on premium cable channels during the late eighties and early nineties. This, like I said before, is the definitive edition of Scanners. There will never be another release of this film that rivals this one. You know, unless Criterion keep the license to release it during whatever the next generation of home video playback will be. Scanners is now available in a dual-format edition, featuring both Blu-ray, and DVD, as well as a DVD-only release as well. Visit The Criterion Collection to secure a copy for yourself.
- New, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director David Cronenberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- The “Scanners” Way, a new documentary by Michael Lennick on the film’s special effects, featuring interviews with Cronenberg’s collaborators
- Mental Saboteur, a new interview with actor Michael Ironside
- The Ephemerol Diaries, a 2012 interview with actor and artist Stephen Lack
- Excerpt from a 1981 interview with Cronenberg on the CBC’s The Bob McLean Show
- New, restored 2K digital transfer of Stereo (1969), Cronenberg’s first feature film
- Trailer and radio spots
- PLUS: An essay by critic Kim NewmanNew cover by Connor Willumsen