Cronenberg's film of William Burroughs' novel fleshes out the plot with details from the junkie author's life. He casts Weller as Burroughs' alter ego, Bill Lee, a cockroach exterminator who experiments with injecting his own bug powder. An appointment with the sinister Dr Benway (Scheider), Lee's meeting with a strange creature, and the murder of his wife (Davis) precipitate Lee's flight to Interzone, more mental state than actual place, a decadent, nightmare world run by bureaucrats who control the market in a rare drug, The Black Meat. Under the hallucinatory influence of the drug, Lee's grasp of reality disintegrates as he uses a speaking insect typewriter to file obscure reports. Through his most complex and brilliant cinematic metaphor to date, Cronenberg links these drug-induced images with Lee's eventual salvation, as he comes to terms with his repressed homosexuality and discovers another, more permanent way of altering reality - the writing of his novel 'The Naked Lunch'. Burroughs purists may be disappointed, but this dark distillation of the novel's themes gets closer to its essence than any 'straight' adaptation could hope to do.
Cast and crew
Robert A Silverman