The prolific career of David Cronenberg extends from the 1970s to his recent success with the film Cosmopolis, but like all directors, he had to start somewhere. Before he broke out with his first feature Shivers in 1975, the horror filmmaker produced a number of made-for-TV shorts in his native Canada, the likes of which remain largely unavailable. Now fans can see one of the elusive works on YouTube, with a hat tip from Criterion Corner/LaFamiliaFilm.

Entitled Secret Weapons, the 21-minute film was produced for the Programme X TV series in 1972. Written by Norman Snider – who later collaborated with Cronenberg on the thriller Dead Ringers – the voice-over and dialogue heavy short depicts a dystopian America six years in the future. With the country in the midst of a civil war, a man invents a drug that “purports to increase fighting ability among those who take it.” The story follows the main character as he and his colleagues decide whether to hand the drug over to the oppressive government regime or to the rebels. See the full film below:

One can recognize this short’s importance as insight to Cronenberg’s development into a modern auteur. Even at this early stage in his career, there are hints of the atmospheric style that later came to define his often unsettling work, an element that also explains why it was shelved by the TV studio and never made available in any commercial form. Besides the YouTube video, you can also stream the film on Indie Movies Online, so take the opportunity to watch it while you still can.

What do you think of Secret Weapons? Do you think the studio should release the film for purchase, perhaps as part of a collection?

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