B.L.O.G Presents Rabid (1977) with Marilyn Chambers

David Cronenberg. Does the name itself not conjure images of distorted human forms? Videodrome, The Fly, Scanners, The Brood and Shivers. The five I refer to as “better when not watched in a row“. Not because any of them would be bad, but to prevent all the therapy you may need in the aftermath. So when pair the master of body horror with a woman who’s body is seen as temple of pleasure by millions, what do you get? Well first you get…
Ms. Chambers passed away recently, and in a few of the posts written about her death I found reference to this flick. So how could I pass up the queen of 70’s porn getting her Cronenberg on? Well, I could not. It nearly didn’t even happen. It seems ol’ DC wanted Sissy Spacek for the role, but he got overruled because of her accent. Ivan Reitmen (yep, that Ivan Reitman) who was producing the film (as well as a few other jobs) suggested Marilyn for the part. Let me tell you folks. I really wanted to get my hands on this film and watch it, it was driving me mad, in fact, and I was positively….

Rabid (1977) starring Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, and Susan Roman. Directed by David Cronenberg. 

Racing along through the country on their motorcycle, Rose and Art (Chambers and Moore) never had time to dodge the van stalled out on the road. They crash and Rose and pined under the bike when it explodes in a ball of fire. An ambulance races to the scene, and she is taken off to the nearby clinic of Dr. Keloid (Ryshpan), a plastic surgeon, where she is put into emergency surgery.  The doctor uses experimental skin grafting techniques, and Rose lives but slips into a coma. A month later, Rose wakes. She feels weak. She feels the need to eat. She has a thirst for blood.

The Bugg Speaks

Talk about a film with layers, this one has more than Dagwood Bumstead’s favorite snack. Many of Cronenberg’s favorite themes show up here, sexuality, loneliness, and the societal breakdown. Plus you get some decent thrills, some good pacey sequences, and an extremely beautiful woman to look at. Of course this is a woman driven to kill. Casting Marilyn Chambers in this role was incredible luck, and it really made all the parts of Rabid come together. 

Marilyn Chambers practically exudes sexy, and for a generation of folks, she practically embodies it. With Rabid, she tapped into her girl next door sensuality, and what greater nightmare could there be than to be seduced by a woman who looked like Marilyn Chambers only to be killed when she sticks her blood sucker in you. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that. That’s right, Chambers' Rose is packing some kind of mutated thing under her arm that shoots out of her and sucks blood out. Sounds pretty bad, huh? Well, while the film never gets very graphic with its depictions, what it does show it thoroughly horrifying and, in not overdoing it, shown just enough to be totally disgusting. 

So yeah, Rose has a pecker in her pit. Most of the film is spent following her around from hot tub, to truck cab, to porno theater, to watch her cut down one man after another. Though to be fair she does take one female victim, and appropriately enough it was in the hot tub. Rose’s victims run the gambit from people who are trying to take advantage of her to people that are trying to help her. There is no real rhyme of reason to the people she kills other than convince, and the one of the faults of the film is that the killings become rote and boring after a while. After the first couple, they lack focus to add anything to the narrative. The man she kills in a porn theater seemed to only have been filmed to exploit Chambers' blue movie past. 

My only other gripe with the film comes in the film of Frank Moore as Rose’s pensive boyfriend, Art. Moore is all emote without emotion here, and the character actor, who is still active in films and television today, brings nothing to the character. I know he’s supposed to have inner conflicts and guilt because he blames himself for their accident, but I get that more from what characters around him say than the man himself. Thankfully, Moore is coupled in a great many of his scenes with Joe Silver. If you don’t recognize the name Joe Silver then you will know him when he opens his mouth. Making the most of a throwaway part as Murray, an accountant who is trying to drum up investments for a chain of plastic sugary resorts, Silver creates a memorable and very enjoyable character. However since he spends most of his time with Moore, there’s only so much the man can do to save those scenes. 

I think it’s high time that I mentioned zombies. Yes, that’s right. Rabid is not just a woman with a bloodthirsty pecker under her arm because what’s so rabid about that. Well, it seems that the people that Rose feeds from come back with a taste for human flesh. So they bite people, who come back, and… oh, well you know how it goes from there. The zombie angle does come in late, but it helps to balance out Rose’s feeding schedule with Cronenberg’s try at some social commentary. It never get’s too heavy handed, and it allows for a bit more gore to creep into the flick. 

Cronenberg worked with Rene Verzier, the cinematographer who was fresh off The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane, and while Rabid was obviously shot with a low budget, there are some shots that are extremely stunning. The two that spring to mind instantly are a slow motion bit that follows the killing of the girl in the hot tub. It captures perfectly the peaceful feeling that drinking blood is giving to Rose. The other is in a stairwell, and the simple shafts of light piercing the metal steps give the scene a wonderful feeling that adds to the change between concern and menace that washes over Rose’s face. 

There’s not much to say about the music in the film. It’s simple and effective, but not something I would listen to out of context because it seems very derivative of Carpenter’s scores, but I have to mention it because the only credit for music is Music Supervisor, Ivan Reitmen. Yep, that Ivan Reitman.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen Rabid, and I haven’t convinced you yet, then I will finish convincing you now. This is a flick that you need to see. Marilyn Chambers looks great and proves that she deserved to have a mainstream career. I don't know if I have done justice to how good Marilyn's acting really is. I'll just say that even the skeptcal will have a hard time dismissing her chops.  The script is inventive and entertaining, and when that runs out, there’s still zombies around the corner. It’s Cronenberg doing what he does best, coming up with toms deeply disturbing stuff and spinning it into an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. 

Bugg Rating 


  1. Hey dude, glad ya dug this one. I ain't seen it in years, but when I first watched it at 13, the idea of a hot chick having a vampiric penis in her armpit was truly terrifying and hot, all at once.

    have you seen Shivers? If not, check that one out too!

  2. Thanks for reviewing this! I haven't seen it in years, and this has made me want to go and revisit it.

  3. Great post. I really liked this film. It's been a long time since I've seen it. Been wanting to see it again since Marilyn's recent passing.

  4. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobMay 8, 2009 at 8:33 PM

    i still think the final scene in this film is one of the most unnerving in the history of cinema, and that picture of marilyn in her hot pants has got to be one of the sexiest images of all time.

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