Plot: What’s it about?
As evidenced by other reviews, I have a certain fondness for the director David Cronenberg. He can turn some people off with his visceral filmmaking that never shies away from staying for just a second too long on the aftereffects of any given horrible affliction his characters face. It can be a jarring experience, but for some reason it holds a hypnotic sway over me (and many other fanboys.) In any case of what people may think, he is a certifiable original with his films sticking out like a sore thumb. My personal favorite is A History of Violence, but I also really appreciate his early films that are best described as “body horror” films. The movie Shivers came first and was followed by Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome. All of these movies have devotees, but I am most partial to Scanners and Videodrome out of those titles. I had been wanting for a long time to check out Rabid to see Cronenberg honing his skills before his later breakthroughs (The Fly, Dead Ringers.) Luckily, the team at Scream Factory has provided a fantastic 2K transfer of the film along with numerous supplements from the UK only Arrow Video release.
Rabid stars adult film actress Marilyn Chambers as Rose. Rose has a horrible motorcycle crash with her boyfriend and is rushed to the local experimental hospital due to its proximity. After the experimental surgery is successful, Rose’s body begins to crave blood and she develops a strange appendage that sticks into people and drains them of some blood without killing them. This has the unfortunate effect of turning them into carriers of a virus that essentially turns them into zombie-like rabid cannibals. Rose continues to spread the virus without showing the effects of the disease as the city in crisis goes under martial law.
Rabid is an entertaining flick that is one of the least subtle of Cronenberg’s films. Everything is spelled out for the audience pretty quickly, and while the premise is essentially ridiculous it has a logic that seems to make sense together. While not a perfect film, there is plenty here that shows the promise of Cronenberg as a director. Even this early in his career he already was showing off his originality and his unique predilection towards using bodies as his canvas to frighten audiences. I was impressed by how well Marilyn Chambers performed in the title role. It is a shame that she didn’t get to star in more professional films because she brings something a little special to the screen in the film. I also really enjoyed the look of the film. Cronenberg has always been a fan of more drab colors, but this film also has some great looking scenes that take place in the city as Rose navigates the streets. I also enjoyed the music that was supplied by Ivan Reitman. It fits the film like a glove.
While not the best of Cronenberg’s output, I am stoked to finally own Rabid in a beautiful new transfer.
Video: How’s it look?
Scream Factory have presented an almost perfect presentation of the film that compares favorably to the beautiful restoration Criterion recently gave to The Brood. The new 2K transfer is presented in Cronenberg’s preferred ratio of 1.66:1. Unlike Dead Ringers, only the 1.66:1 aspect ratio is provided, which was fine by me. It looks fantastic. Fine detail is excellent and particularly shines in the many scenes in the city. Clarity is very good and the film maintains grain without ever becoming oversaturated. I would go as far as to say, until a 4K transfer exists this will be the closest to reference we are likely to see. Fans will be exhilarated.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is pretty great. I was convinced for most of my viewing experience that the film was in stereo, so that just goes to show that the track has been put into good hands. There is typically a lot going on throughout the film and the audio mix handles small details nicely. The score by Ivan Reitman works really well in the film, and sounds great in the HD mix. I could not detect any hiss or dropping out of audio. Fans will be overjoyed by the attention to detail given to this track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – interview With Author Jill C. Nelson (Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women Of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985) And Marilyn Chambers’ Personal Appearances Manager Ken Leicht. This commentary track held the least interest for me.
- Young And Rabid – An Interview With Actress Susan Roman – (1080p, 33:05) – a fairly long interview with the actress who played a small role in the film. She went on to have a long career in choice acting. I wasn’t as interested in this feature.
- Audio Commentary – With Writer/Director David Cronenberg – obviously this is an awesome track. Cronenberg goes into great detail on the ideas and motivations behind the film.
- Audio Commentary – With William Beard, Author Of The Artist As Monster: The Cinema Of David Cronenberg – an enjoyable track with a knowledgeable writer.
- Archival Interview With David Cronenberg – (1080i, 20:36) an excellent interview with the director where he discusses how the film came to be. His discussion of the vulnerability that he felt for a moment during the course of the production is really profound advice for young directors.
- Interview With Executive Producer Ivan Reitman – (1080p, 12:28) a good informative interview with the producer who went on to have a great career directing films. He also was in charge of all the music throughout the film. Pretty interesting! This was originally on the Arrow release.
- Interview With Co-producer Don Carmody – (1080p, 15:37) Another cool feature that details the Canadian-government backed production company Cinepix that produced Rabid.This feature was also originally on the Arrow release.
- From Stereo To Video – A Video Essay By Caelum Vatnsdal – (1080p,26:30) Author Of They Came From Within: A History Of Canadian Horror Cinema discusses Cronenberg’s from his beginnings until Videodrome. There is some excellent information in here and despite the somewhat dry delivery, this is a good piece.
- Original Theatrical Trailer And TV Spot
- Radio Spots (U.S. And U.K.)
The Bottom Line
Rabid is an enjoyable early film from the master filmmaker David Cronenberg. While the film itself is not quite as good as Scanners or The Brood, it still has a lot of style and that strange Cronenberg magic. The supplements and transfer provided by Scream Factory are top-notch, so if you are a Cronenberg fan I highly recommend going ahead and adding this one to your collection. If you have never seen a Cronenberg film you may want to start out with The Brood or Scanners and work your way back to this one.