Experimental drugs, covert authoritarian organizations, the inner labyrinth of the human mind, technology run amok, and an obsession with violence: we’re talking about the work of David Cronenberg. One of the director’s earliest films displays his fascination with these themes. A 1972 made-for-TV movie called Secret Weapon was created for the Canadian anthology television series Programme X. The series develops during an American Civil War, set in the future (1977), where corporations slowly take over society. A roving motorcycle gang fights against the dystopian forces and leads a revolution.
Enter Cronenberg, who concocted a story about a scientist that created a drug that inspires an obsession with violence, making soldiers want to kill. There’s also a sidebar about magic and a mustache-twirling agent that engages in cryptic conversations while someone gently flogs him with bizarre instruments out of frame (we’re still watching the film as we write this, so perhaps that weirdness is explained, later). The crux of the story? Geek Tyrant sums it up: “The big question is will he give the drug to the theocratic government, or the rebels?”
The script was written by Norman Snider, who collaborated with Cronenberg on Dead Ringers a decade later. While we prefer the filmmaker’s 1988 twinned tale of devastating drug abuse and psychodrama, this is a fascinating look at early Cronenberg that’s rough around the edges and shoots straight from the hip. See more, below.