• Rabid

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 22nd, 2016.
    Director: David Cronenberg
    Cast: Marilyn Chambers, Patricia Gage, Joe Silver, Frank Moore,
    Howard Ryshpan
    Year: 1977
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    The Movie:

    Rose (Marilyn Chambers) and her boyfriend Hart Read (Frank Moore) are out enjoying a motorcycle ride together. It all goes wrong when they get into an accident. Hart is thrown clear but Rose is severely burned and sent off to the nearby hospital – The Keloid Clinic - for treatment. It’s seemingly quite lucky for Rose that some of the clinic’s employees were nearby when the accident happened.

    Once she’s arrived, an unconscious Rose finds herself under the care of Dr. Dan Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) and his assistant Murray Cypher (Joe Silver). Together these men use the latest plastic surgery techniques and some experimental regenerative tissue to pretty much put Rose back together, looking just as good as she did before she was burned. When Rose wakes up a month later, she instantly panics. When this happens, a man, a fellow patient, holds her to calm her down. Shortly after that he’s seen walking down the hallway of the hospital, and he bleeds to death. It isn’t long before other similar incidents occur within the walls of The Keloid Clinic. It seems that Rose has developed a taste for blood. If that weren’t enough, there’s an unusual growth developing under her arm.

    Rose might look great on the exterior, but something is very, very wrong with her. When she escapes from the hospital and heads back to Montreal, she finds different and more effective ways to stalk and kill her prey. It isn’t long before she’s essentially caused an outbreak…

    David Cronenberg’s second theatrical feature remains a pretty gripping horror picture. Like a lot of the director’s early work, the film deals in body horror, a theme that would permeate most of his work up until the mid-eighties. Although this film was made with a modest budget and is noticeably less polished than some of the movies he’d make just a few short years later, it never feels cheap or haphazardly made. Rather, there’s a lot of attention to detail here, not just in the visuals but also in the character development and the pacing. The movie might take a little while to hit its stride, but once it does what came before doesn’t feel like padding. The first half hour or so is slow but it does a great job of setting up what’s to come. Stick with it. Cronenberg’s films rarely move at a thousand miles an hour, instead the reward the patient viewer and Rabid has a fantastic payoff in its second half.

    Also worth noting is the casting of Marilyn Chambers in the lead role that Cronenberg originally wanted to use Sissy Spacek for (producer Ivan Reitman suggested Chambers in her place). Previously known only for her adult films she’s quite good here in her mainstream film debut. She handles the dramatic side of the film well enough but it’s when she becomes a sexual predator in the literal sense of the word where she really shines. The script gives her ample opportunity to use her sex appeal to lure her prey – the best example being where she enters an adult movie theater and simply sits and waits for the men who clearly notice her entrance to move in on her. It’s an eerie scene but a remarkably effective one. The rest of the cast also do really solid work but Chambers is the focal point of the film and it’s her work here that really sticks with you.


    Shout! Factory brings Rabid to Blu-ray framed in the director’s preferred aspect ratio of 1.66.1 widescreen in a new AVC encoded transfer taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. The picture quality here is impressive. Detail is very strong and the image consistently film-like. There are no issues with crush or with compression artifacts nor is there any obvious artificial sharpening or edge enhancement. Grain is prevalent throughout the movie but never overpowering and there doesn’t appear to be any noise reduction or digital smoothing to complain about. Skin tones look lifelike and natural as does color reproduction while black levels are nice and deep. Contrast looks spot on, never too bright or boosted while the image remains free of all but the most minor instances of print damage. No complaints here, the image quality is excellent.

    Audio options are offered up in English language DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles available in English only. The single channel track sounds good. There are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable while the subtitles are free of any noticeable typos. Again, nothing to complain about – the audio quality on this disc is rock solid.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from writer/director David Cronenberg, carried over from past releases. Those who haven’t heard it before should give it a spin as it’s a pretty fascinating dissection of the picture. He talks about where some of the ideas came from, getting the picture funded, working with the cast and crew, the locations and a lot of the themes and ideas that the film so deftly exploits. A second commentary features William Beard, the man who wrote The Artist As Monster: The Cinema Of David Cronenberg. This is an interesting mix of critical analysis and trivia. Beard is clearly an expert on Cronenberg and his output and he spends a lot of time detailing how and where this movie fits in alongside a few of his other films, particularly the early works, but he also discusses how some of the body horror concepts that permeate the director’s work are used in this film. He offers insight into the effectiveness of various performances, observations on some of the cinematography and quite a bit more. Both tracks are a valuable addition to this release.

    Also included is an all new audio interview with author Jill C. Nelson (the author of Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women Of Classic Erotic Cinema) and Marilyn Chambers’ personal appearances manager Ken Leicht. This runs about an hour and plays out as basically a third audio commentary but it doesn’t follow the standard commentary format. Rather, it’s a talk about Chambers’ life and times, starting with her early days in the adult films business through to her attempts to crossover into mainstream work with pictures like this. There are a lot of great stories here about some of the ups and downs she experienced along the way, celebrities she had some encounters with and a lot more. Interesting stuff.

    Also exclusive to this release is a half hour piece called Young And Rabid wherein actress Susan Roman gets in front of the camera to share her experiences working on this film. She talks for thirty-three minutes about how and why she wound up cast in the film, her experiences working alongside Chambers and being directed by Cronenberg, and what she’s been up to since making this film including her work as a voice actress.

    Shout! Factory has also included a few archival interviews, starting with a twenty-one minute piece where David Cronenberg talks on camera about how and why he came to make this picture, working with the producers to get some government arts grant funding, having to write the picture knowing he wouldn’t have a massive budget and more . It covers quite a bit of the same ground as the commentary but it’s an interesting talk nevertheless. Producer Ivan Reitman is on hand for a thirteen minute piece in which he discusses working with Cronenberg, casting the picture, working with Chambers and other details. Co-producer Don Carmody gets sixteen minutes to tell his side of the story, talking up how he went about trying to get financing for the film, his thoughts on Cronenberg and more. There are a lot of interesting stories in here – great stuff.

    From Stereo To Video is a ‘video essay’ by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema, that spends twenty-six minutes covering Cronenberg’s early directorial offerings starting with Stereo and going up to and including Videodrome. Vatnsdal covers a lot of ground here, examining the director’s recurring themes, telling some stories from various productions he was involved in, and various other aspects of this period of the director’s work. Earlier and later projects are touched on here, but only briefly.

    Rounding out the extras is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, two minutes of radio spots, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes with reversible cover art featuring the original one sheet image on one side and the newly created painted cover art on the opposite side. Shout! Factory has also included a slipcover to accompany the standard sized Blu-ray case.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of David Cronenberg’s Rabid is a top notch effort all around. The movie looks and sounds excellent and the disc contains an impressive array of supplements that document its history and offer some interesting critical analysis of the film. The movie itself remains a bit of a masterpiece, a low budget horror picture done right and a testament to this particular director’s ardent creativity and vision. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!