Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)
Rabid (1977)

Genre: Horror
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage
Duration: 91 min.
Rating: 7.3  

A young woman develops a taste for human blood after undergoing experimental plastic surgery, and her victims turn into rabid, blood-thirsty zombies who proceed to infect others, which turns into a city-wide epidemic.

Rabid (1977)

Rabid is the second commercial feature film written and directed by David Cronenberg.  Undeterred by the negative backlash over the content of his previous film Shivers, and the mini scandal it caused in Canada because of the taxpayer funding it received, Cronenberg returns two years later with another controversy stirring film exploring the same themes.

Very much a direct follow-up to Shivers if not quite a sequel, it was again shot in and around Montreal.  However, instead of parasites in this case, the source of evil is a mysterious virus caused by experimental plastic surgery.  Patient zero is a motorcycle accident victim named Rose (played by porn actress Marilyn Chambers), who develops a nasty side effect of thirst for human blood.  A thirst that can only be quenched by feeding from a part phallus, part mosquito stinger looking mutation that protrudes from her armpit.  To make matters worse, her victims are infected with a highly communicable virus that causes rabies like symptoms and quickly spreads throughout the entire city.

The setup works well, taking a bit more time to develop the story before revealing something is wrong.  Also the scope of the narrative is a bit tighter, at least in the beginning, with the focus mainly on the main character instead of randomly cutting here and there.  However, the acting is spotty, though not the fault of Marilyn Chambers, who acquits herself surprisingly well, but by the horribly wooden performances by much of the rest of the cast, especially from Frank Moore who plays her boyfriend.  The film also loses it's way about midway through with Cronenberg perhaps running out of ideas of where to take it, until the end where he delivers an excellent and lasting finish.   

The creepy effects handled once again by Joe Blasco, and used sparingly in his first film are brought to the forefront in this one, with multiple closeups of a grotesque pulsating orifice that hides a nasty surprise.  Those used to seeing modern effects may scoff at those on display here, but there is just something about the organic look of prosthetic effects that I prefer to see in film.

Props to the very clever and ironic sequence of Rose seeking a male victim in an adult theatre.  Also to the quick glimpse of a poster of Carrie that she walks past afterwards, alluding to the fact that Cronenberg originally wanted Sissy Spacek for the lead role.  Also one thing I never noticed before, there's an interesting shout out to Sigmund Freud, which must be the first hint of Cronenberg's fascination with psychology, and ties in nicely with his upcoming film about Freud, A Dangerous Method.

Rabid is a slightly more polished effort that builds nicely on his previous film, and shows the progression of an artist now comfortable with his tools, and well on his way to becoming a master.  Not to mention practically inventing stem-cell research years ahead of its time.

Bonjour Tristesse

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)


Bonjour Tristesse said...

I would kill to see him make a film like this today with a big budget and good actors.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks.  Yes this one made for watching after midnight.

Jack Deth said...

Hi, all and sundry:

Excellent photos and review, Bonjour!

I caught the Conenberg bug kind of in reverse order starting with 'Scanners', then working backwards to forward.

'Rabid' shows all the signs of a vivid, somewhat dirty imagination our for its first stroll. With promises of greatness to come.

The cast is hardly top tier and some of the scene are stilted, but overall. The film works! Erotic parasites, infestation and all. A topic that Cronenberg would return to time and again through his early career.

Alex Kittle said...

I saw this at a 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon (though I see this as more horror) and thought it was pretty fun but definitely less well-paced and interesting than other Cronenberg films I'd seen. Then again it was like 3am and I was a little sleepy! Great post, gives it a more focused review than I could have managed!

The Angry Vegetarian said...

I'm almost positive I've seen this before. I need to watch it this weekend to refresh my memory, but your review and the pictures seem so familiar.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yes this one and Shivers both feel like precursors to the 'infected zombie' genre. 

Msmariah said...

An oldie but a goodie.  Great post. 

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

@blahblahblahtoby:disqus Wow, that's a very interesting hypothetical continuity there. (O_O)

The Reel Foto said...

sounds like a bloody good time!

d_4 said...

Alright so "A thirst that can only be quenched by feeding from a part phallus, part mosquito stinger looking mutation that protrudes from her armpit." sold me, but then the acting takes a few steps back. I'll be wary, but I think it'll make for fun times.

blahblahblahtoby said...

i can't put my finger on why i enjoyed this one so much more than other early cronenburg. i saw it just after 28 days later was released and to me it felt like alex garland had seen rabid and taken the concept and applied it to zombies, and 28 days later was actually 28 days after the end of rabid.

FrontRoomCinema said...

FREAKY!! You ain't getting near me with the stinger in your armpit love!

Love the Carrie poster story too!!

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