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Episode No. 30: David Cronenberg’s Scanners

On this episode of the Diabolique Webcast, David Klieler and Steve Head consider the career of director David Cronenberg; with particular emphasis on his 1981 film Scanners, which has recently been released on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection.

About Steve HeadAbout David Kleiler

Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros Years

About Stephen Slaughter Head

Stephen Slaughter Head was co-editor of the Star Wars website, co-founder of the much-loved movie news website IGN FilmForce, and editor of the movie section at AOL’s As a film journalist he has more than 2,000 published articles at His work has also appeared on, and in Esquire magazine and the Boston Phoenix. Stephen hosts the Diabolique Webcast.


  1. I don’t normally feel the need to defend an artist’s work, but after listening to this episode, I really feel the need to chime-in in defense of this film.

    First, I thought you did a real disservice to this film by allowing Mr. Kleiler’s wholesale dismissal of the film to go, for the most part, unchallenged. That said, I would like to take a moment to rebut some of what I felt were Mr. Kleiler’s more unenlightened observations.

    1) The world of scanners was meant to look cold and grey, much like Zulawski’s Possession. It’s also a world where control, control even down to the genetic level, is the measure of true power, hence Cronenberg’s tight and controlled directing style, which, properly understood, served to underscore the film’s weltanschauung.

    2) Stephen Lack: Much has been written and said about Lack’s performance, and most of it is pretty bad. Personally, I think his performance is pitch-perfect given the nature of his character. Remember this is supposed to be a person who is trying to shut the world out for the sake of his own sanity. Everything is turned inwards, as the outside becomes a life-threatening intrusion. Is it any wonder then that his character comes across as a borderline mental wreck?

    Also, Stephen Lack has a small part in Dead Ringers. He’s the artist Irons approaches to make the “surgical instruments for operating on mutant women.”

    3) Lucy/Luc Besson: Throughout the episode, Mr. Kleiler keeps comparing Scanners to Lucy. How is this relevant? Scanners is a film that’s almost 35 years old (hard to believe, huh?). It was, and remains, in many ways a ground-breaking film in terms of its depiction of on-screen gore, much like all of Cronenberg’s earlier body horror films. For that alone the film deserves its due share of praise, at least from genre enthusiasts such as myself who have very fond memories of reading about the making of it in Fangoria.

    And how is Luc Besson a “serious” filmmaker and Cronenberg isn’t? Cronenberg is arguable one of the most talented/imaginative filmmakers alive. Seriously, how many filmmakers today have an entirely new sub-genre of film names for them? Certainly not Besson, who, imo, never made a film the equal of Le Femme Nikita.

    4) What about Cronenberg the actor?: I would have thought with the upcoming release of the restored/director’s cut of Nightbreed being released soon you’d have taken the opportunity to discuss Cronenberg’s excellent performance in the film as Dr. Decker. His performance in the film, much like the flow of the Scanners, is tight and controlled one with unpredictable outbursts of creative violence. Very, very underrated, imo.

    Finally, why if Mr. Kleiler dislikes the film so much did you choose to cover it? Previous to this episode all of your other ones were all quite positive in their praise for the films being covered. So why choose Scanners, of all films, to deviate from your previous style of commentary?

    • Robert, Joe (Managing Editor) here, thank you for these comments. We appreciate your thoughts, and I think that they are fair criticisms. I guess everyone is due their right to an opinion, but it is not a reflection of the publication as a whole. I, on one hand, am more in agreement with you, I think Scanners is a brilliant film. We also just had a review, written by Josef Luciano that goes over the film in a more positive light, but is a bit critical too. I do think that it is important, even though it is not my call, that the podcast not be just a place for nonstop appraisal of films. Perhaps we could have done more to make it balanced, but I think that the reputation of the film will be safe regardless. Thank you for taking the time to listen and comment. We will keep this in mind for the future!

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