David Cronenberg has repeatedly claimed that he does not make Hitchcockian appearances in his own films, which is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. Cronenberg appears in no less than five of his own films and perhaps more, in addition to making a handful of wonderful cameos in the films of others.
Here’s my list with an invitation to our readers to hunt for more of Cronenberg’s hidden cameos.
Cronenberg doesn’t appear in person, but instead lends his voice to a garage attendant, in his most controversial and erotic drama. When Spader and Unger pick up lover and leader Vaughn’s crashed car near the end of the film, Cronenberg can be heard saying in his distinct voice, “Well, I can give you the forms now, but you’ll have to come back between 7:30 and 4:30 to register a claim. What’s your attachment to that thing?” Simple and elegant, like the film itself.
3. The Fly
Cronenberg’s most famous and extensive cameo (appropriately in his most famous film) was his stint as a gynecologist delivering a baby maggot in The Fly (and saying the one thing no woman wants to hear in the delivery room: “Wait, there’s more in there. A lot more.”). Cronenberg has previously and quite convincingly explored the ideas of the monstrous child in The Brood, but the horrific dream sequence of The Fly was a new level of intensity. Not since John Hurt started to cough in Alien was there such a great maternal shock in film.
It’s wholly unsurprising that this blog loves Videodrome in all its gory glory, and Cronenberg’s cameo-by-necessity is one of the fun and confusing stories surrounding the classic film. When incredibly talented but notoriously paranoid actor James Woods refused to don the glowing Accumicon helmet for fear of electrocution (others say it was just the heaviness he objected to), Cronenberg stepped in and wore the helmet (as well as Woods’ amusingly small clothing) for one of the film’s most haunting shots. Described in the script as “bizarrely beautiful … like a modern techno-interpretation of a medieval piece of armor,” the helmet, and shot, would stand out as a memorable image in a film full of extreme imagery.
My favorite Cronenberg cameo comes from the little sex-screamer called Shivers. As sex-parasites rapidly infect an apartment complex, driving everyone into an erotic frenzy, protagonists encounter a hallway of rabid potential lovers. Cronenberg is behind door number 82 and throws it open, groping blindly for our hero with a look of ecstatic delirium.
There’s then a brief and very interesting POV shot from door 82 as Cronenberg’s arm reaches out blindly to try to grab at two writhing bodies on the floor before him.
Here’s the entire clip, beginning at 6:00, in the midst of an excellent documentary called The American Nightmare:
Supposedly, Cronenberg makes a cameo in the 1977 film Rabid as well, but I was unable to track this one down. If anyone can find that shot, or any other Cronenberg cameo in one of his own films, I’d love to see it.
Videodrome courtesy of the excellent Videodrome: Studies in the Horror Film by Tim Lucas
Britta R. Moline 12/14/11
Have you found another Cronenberg cameo? If so, leave it in the comment section–