Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by John Dunning
Written by David Cronenberg
Director of Photograpy Rene Verzier
Music by Various
Cast: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver & Howard Ryshpan
1977/91 mins/Color/2.0 Dolby Surround
1.85:1/English/Canada/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Somerville House Releasing DVD
Despite the fact that the man hasn't had a big commercial hit in several years, in 2004 we appear to be seeing a David Cronenberg renaissance with the recent release of his obscure drag-racing film FAST COMPANY, the announcement that VIDEODROME will be hitting DVD in a special edition later this year, and now we have a new special edition DVD of his 1977 film RABID. However, as you'll soon see, RABID's second outing on DVD is still far from perfect.
RABID stars Marilyn Chambers as Rose, a woman who is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. She, and her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore), who was driving the motorcycle, are taken to the nearby Keloid Clinic, a hospital for plastic surgery. In order to treat Rose, Dr. Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) decides to give her an experimental treatment in which skin grafts are neutralized so that they will adapt to any part of the body. The surgery appears to be a success until Rose awakens and finds that she now has a stinger-like appendage which now emerges from her armpit in order to suck blood from other humans. (I promise, I'm not making this up.) As if that weren't bad enough, anyone that Rose attacks soon exhibits violent, out-of-control behavior, and then dies. Consumed by her insatiable need to feed, Rose attacks more and more people, which leads to an epidemic of sadistic behavior.
Many of Cronenberg's films are known for wild stories which present science running amok, and RABID certainly fits the bill on that front. The skin-graft idea (which, Cronenberg points out on the audio commentary, pre-dates stem-cell research) and the phallic stinger which protrudes from Rose's armpit are both WAY out there, and you're unlikely to see anything like them in another movie. Cronenberg also puts a nice twist on vampirism, as Rose can only ingest human blood, and adds a Romero-esque zombie touch with the manic victims of the infection. The Rose attack scenes and the footage of the epidemic taking effect are unsettling and Cronenberg's distant style makes them seem more realistic.
But, while RABID has an interesting premise and some intense scenes, Cronenberg has difficulty maintaining any suspense or narrative flow. In short, much of RABID is quite boring. We never learn anything about Rose or Hart, save for the fact that they're a couple and they like motorcycles. The characters at The Keloid Clinic are also underdeveloped. The latter half of the film is simply a series of scenes where Rose wanders around and eventually "bites" someone. Marilyn Chambers isn't necessarily bad in the lead role, but she has very little dialogue and her on-screen time is usually reserved to scenes where she is attacking someone or changing clothes. The scenes of Montreal during the film's final act are ambitious for such a low-budget picture, but they do nothing to liven up the story. RABID certainly lives up to its reputation for being a weird and twisted film, but the lack of action and a real story weaken it. It's Cronenberg, but it's certainly not Cronenberg at his best.
RABID spreads onto DVD courtesy of Somerville House Releasing and Ventura Distribution. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The "digitally remastered" image is somewhat sharp, but shows a fine sheen of grain throughout the film. The picture is littered with minor defects from the source print, such as black specs. Cronenberg's early films all have a sterile look, but this transfer of RABID looks especially washed-out. The framing is somewhat off, as the bottom "black bar" has a jagged edge to it. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 2-channel stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue which is somewhat soft at times. The track shows a very slight hiss, but it's not distracting. Overall, the technical specs of the DVD are somewhat disappointing, but it's an improvement over the 2000 DVD release of RABID from Concord Entertainment.
This DVD does contain several extras. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director David Cronenberg. This is an excellent talk as Cronenberg discusses everything from the story to the actors to the motorcycles used in the film. He has an amazing recall for specifics of the production and is often candid in his feelings about the movie. This is followed by a 21-minute interview with Cronenberg where he discusses RABID. Unfortunately, some of the information from the commentary is repeated here. The extras are rounded out by the theatrical trailer for RABID (which feels quite dated), text biographies for Cronenberg and Marilyn Chambers, and a still gallery.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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