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Digital Dismemberment: David Cronenberg’s Rabid Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Director: David Cronenberg
Producer: John Dunning and Ivan Reitman
Special FX: Joe Blasco, Joe Elsner and Al Griswold
Cast: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman and Ronald Mlodzik
Released By: Scream/Shout! Factory
Release Date: 11/22/16

The Premise

 “With Rabid, acclaimed director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch) delivers a high-tension thriller filled with “a highly entertaining horror show that hasn’t lost an iota of shock value” (DVD Savant)!

After undergoing radical emergency surgery, Rose (former adult film star Marilyn Chambers in her first leading role in a mainstream film) develops an insatiable desire for blood. She searches out victims to satisfy her incurable craving, infecting them with an unknown disease which in turn swiftly drives them insane… and makes them equally bloodthirsty.

Follow the lovely but deadly Rose through her terrifying ordeal as victim by victim, the spreading circle of casualties grows… until no one can escape their grisly fate of becoming… Rabid.”

In his fourth feature film, Cronenberg continues in the vein of scientific modifications to the human body that results in catastrophic events.  Partly funded by the Canadian government and riding of the success of SHIVERS, the film shocked many people when porn actress Marilyn Chambers took the lead role (hopes had been for Sissy Spacek to be the lead) and ran with it.

As much as a “body horror” film as it is a commentary on social breakdown, Cronenberg manages to get the most from his cast and crew.  The scenes of martial law being enacted and how the government responds to the crisis are just as hair raising as the infected victims tearing apart their victims. Chambers really presents herself well and shows a dynamic range in her acting, displaying that she was so much more than an actress who did porno for a living. It really is a shame that she never got more opportunities to showcase her talents as a leading lady in other genres.

Many people saw the film as an allegory to the budding AIDS crisis that was overtaking the world (remember, this was 1976), and whether it was intentional or not, it brought another level of tension to the film that the viewing public had rarely seen till this point.  Even though he is uncredited, much kudos goes to Joe Blasco for the fantastic gore FX in this film as well…

The Plot

*SPOILER ALERT*

As the film opens, we see the young couple of Rose (Marilyn Chambers) and Hart (Frank Moore) enjoying a motorcycle ride during the fall/winter outside of Montreal.  As they zip down the road, they are involved in a horrific crash after a van stalls out in the road in front of them. Hart escapes with minor injuries, but Rose is critically injured. The accident is witnessed by some patients at a nearby plastic surgery clinic and an ambulance is dispatched to the scene. Rose’s injuries are so severe that she is rushed into surgery to save her life, with the lead doctor, Dr. Dan Keloid (played by Howard Ryshpan), using an experimental and controversial skin graft technique to try and restore her beauty.

Hart is heartbroken at the thought of having possibly killed Rose, but he is assured by the doctor that everything that could be done to save her has been done. Keloid promises to call Hart the moment that Rose regains consciousness and is told he can visit her any time he feels like it. Rose remains in a comatose state for over a month as the clinic monitors her healing progress until she wakes up screaming from her coma. A concerned patient hears her screams and comforts her, but while she is holding him, something emerges from a graft under her arm and impales itself into his side, easing her pain and almost putting her into an ecstatic state…

Rose falls back into her comatose state for a bit and the man that was attacked begins to exhibit strange signs of numbness and lethargy.  He is sent to a major hospital to be looked at, but checks himself out before any real examination can be done. He hails a cab, but before long, he attacks the driver before the car crashes into another and is then hit by a tractor trailer. Meanwhile, Rose awakens again and leaves the hospital, eventually stopping in a barn to get out of the weather. Her urge to feed again strikes, and she attempts to feed on a cow in the same manner she did to the patient in the hospital, but she becomes sick from it.

The owner of the barn comes in and tries to sexually assault her, but she stabs him in the eye with the mysterious appendage and runs back to the hospital. Once there, she feeds on another patient that is rest ing a hot tub and the calls Hart, telling him that something is wrong and she wants him to come get her.  As Hart heads to her, Keloid talks with Rose about her condition and is mystified by what is happening to her.  He too falls victim to her, later cutting off his wife’s finger while they are in surgery and attacking other staff members. Rose uses the distraction to escape, and when Hart arrives, the police are there trying to handle the situation…

It seems that Rose’s victims are infected with a new strain of rabies, and everyone that has been bitten or attacked is given shots to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Sadly, they have no effect and the disease begins to spread everywhere as Rose attacks different victims along the way to Montreal. The government, at a loss for what to do, institutes martial law, even going as far to say that shooting the victims of this disease is the best way to deal with the situation.

Rose makes it to a friend’s house, going out to feed on various people. Hart does his best to track her down and witnesses several attacks and how the army disposes of the infected,  As a last ditch effort, he tracks her down to where she is staying and sees her feeding on her best friend. As he tries to talk to her and find out what is happening, they struggle and he is knocked out by Rose. She leaves and runs into another man, going back to his place. She calls Hart to tell him she is trying an experiment to see if she is really the one spreading the disease, locking herself in the room with the victim. Hart implores her to leave, but before she can, she is attacked by one of her own victims. The next day, her body is found in an alley and disposed of by the army…

*END SPOILER*

Blu Ray Features

NEW 2K Scan From The Negative At Director David Cronenberg’s Preferred Aspect Ratio (1.66:1)

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author Jill C. Nelson (Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women Of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985) And Marilyn Chambers’ Personal Appearances Manager Ken Leicht
  • NEW Young And Rabid – An Interview With Actress Susan Roman
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director David Cronenberg
  • Audio Commentary With William Beard, Author Of The Artist As Monster: The Cinema Of David Cronenberg
  • Archival Interview With David Cronenberg
  • Interview With Executive Producer Ivan Reitman
  • Interview With Co-producer Don Carmody
  • From Stereo To Video – A Video Essay By Caelum Vatnsdal, Author Of They Came From Within: A History Of Canadian Horror Cinema
  • Original Theatrical Trailer And TV Spot
  • Radio Spots (U.S. And U.K.)
  • Still Gallery

Discs: 1
Format: NTSC
Color: Color
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.66:1)
Language: English

The Verdict

Scream/Shout! Factory has once again proven that they are amongst the best in the world at not only giving us a cult classic that has been long overdue in a pristine format, but they also give us a wealth of Bonus Features that tells us everything that we could ever want from this film! I found that the 2K scan suffers from very little grain or print damage, even popping with vibrant colors and rich sound. The audio commentaries hold a wealth of information and all three of them show a positive experience on set.  The archival interview with Cronenberg has been seen before but is a welcome addition to this release, and the inclusion of the new interviews with Actress Susan Roman, Executive Producer Ivan Reitman and Co-Producer Don Carmody again display a sense of warmth and passion for the project.  The video essay is certainly worth watching as well and gives us great insight to Canadian film making in general.

Overall, a must own for genre fans and well worth picking up!

Movie Rating: 4/5
DVD Rating: 9/10


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