Rabid (1977)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #215

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Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: April 8, 1977
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: Canada
Budget: $530,000CAD
Running time: 91 minutes
Director: David Cronenberg
Producers: Ivan Reitman, John Dunning
Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Special Effects: Al Griswold, Joe Elsner
Cinematography: René Verzier
Score: Howard Shore
Editing: Jean LaFleur
Studio: Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), Cinépix, Cinema Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., Famous Players Film Company, The Dilbar Syndicate
Distributors: Cinépix Film Properties Inc., Ventura Distribution, New World Pictures, Warner Home Video
Stars: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman, Roger Periard, Lynne Deragon, Terry Schonblum, Victor Désy, Julie Anna, Gary McKeehan, Terence G. Ross, Miguel Fernandes, Robert O’Ree, Greg Van Riel, Jérôme Tiberghien

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Suggested Audio Candy

Howard Shore “Rabid”

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David Cronenberg is a particularly profound individual. It can be considered a blight being a deep thinker as a person of his imposition is not destined to sleepwalk through their existence but David has used this to his advantage and committed his entire adult life to expressing himself through the media of film. I would imagine mind-bending psychotropics must’ve played some part in his development within his chosen craft as his mind is one of rare insight and genius. His films are too; there may be some mildly lesser works on his lengthy résumé but there isn’t a single catastrophic misfire among them.


Is that any great surprise? I mean, look at the cranium on him. You just want to polish it right? Within his gloriously protracted head is a cerebral cortex far more involved than that of the average, no actually above average man. It’s a finely tuned engine that purrs like a caressed cat when stimulated. I have literally archives of useless information within my own head but this man appears to have hundreds of minions slaving away at any one time, each one boasting a brain of equivalent dimensions to my own. Indeed, I believe this is how Stephen Hawking would look if it wasn’t for his cruel affliction.


Cronenberg may have moved away from the horror genre in recent years but, while his goals may have changed, the standard of these pieces has never once dipped. However, when he began his pilgrimage he did so with an assemblage of ghastly low-budget body horror movies. Shivers, Rabid, The Brood and Scanners are a formidable quartet of macabre and nightmarish offerings which gave the world our first glance into the twisted psyche of this great man.

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Sexual undertones are consistently at the hub of his work and he has always harbored a fascination with the naked form; both male and female. For Rabid he enlisted the skills of adult entertainment starlet Marilyn Chambers; probably the most triumphant cross-over actress in porn history. Marilyn regrettably passed away in 2009 but not before enjoying considerable success in with features such as Insatiable and her most famous feature Behind the Green Door. However, it was Cronenberg who gave her the serious acting break she so badly wanted.

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Originally Sissy Spacek was earmarked for the role of Rose but collaborator Ivan Reitman wasn’t keen and introduced him to the sultry siren. In truth, she is better suited to the role and, despite her lack of experience acting fully clad; she displayed all the sexual vigor he required to play his leading lady. Wisely perhaps he kept her character’s lines at a minimum and preferred instead to focus on her more carnal side; thus playing to her strengths. She did remarkably well and while she stuck to her erotica roots; she was perpetually indebted to him for giving her the wider exposure she desired.

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The film was met with a varied response from critics although they will not have been aware at the time of Cronenberg’s bigger picture. A mind akin to his has planned far ahead before the single-minded press is enlightened. He wants to be known for his life’s work, not just for one moment of brilliance. If this man has a bowel movement it is a thing of twisted beauty.

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Rabid or Enraged in the Sexual Fury as it was known in Brazil, told the story of Rose, a young woman who contracted a strain of rabies after undergoing experimental skin grafting for injuries sustained in a horrific motorcycle accident. She developed a new orifice and commences feeding on anyone she came in contact with, turning her victims into rabid, blood-thirsty zombies who proceeded to spread the sickness, turning the disease into a city-wide epidemic.

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Ordinarily folk deodorize daily in order to stave off undesirable body odors and give them the round-the-clock protection they require. Not Rose, she used her roll-on as lubrication and this was attested by a rather phallic looking parasite nestled underneath her wing which she used to pass the diseased dutchie. Only Cronenberg, the mind responsible for birthing Shivers two years prior, could come up with such a cockamamie premise and actually make it frighteningly convincing.

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Cronenberg’s film showed his almost prophetic ability to predict not only the upcoming outbreak of venereal disease but also mankind’s preoccupation with altering one’s body in order to comply with social norms as to what we regard as beautiful. In a society where porn stars augment their breasts to unnatural proportions, and conceal the effects of aging with various surgical techniques, it seems only fitting that he chose to cast Chambers as his leading lady.

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Cronenberg spattered Rabid with metaphors on sexuality, disease and experimentation although it was not as perceptive as his later works would become known for. Like Shivers before it, it was utterly preposterous but it was also a fascinating piece of work and a film notably ahead of the field. Like the victims of Rose’s stubby underarm phallus, we were powerless to resist its numerous charms.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Plenty of ick and goo to help relieve you of your dinner and the customary grotesque imagery which accompanied all of his early works. Nothing tops that underarm pecker though, as a cum-tanked teen it wasn’t enough to stop me desiring to dry hump the telly every time Chambers was on-screen, but after watching Videodrome I began to have second thoughts.

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Read Xtro Appraisal
Read Night of the Creeps Appraisal
Read Shivers Appraisal
Read The Deadly Spawn Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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