David Cronenberg's second feature-length body horror picture makes it onto Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Arrow Films, in a highly presentable package that's also available in a steelbook edition should you be a collector of such lovely shiny items.
When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is injured in a motorcycle accident her only chance for survival lies with the nearby hospital. Unfortunately it's the David Cronenberg Keloid Plastic Surgery Clinic for Wildly New and Untested Techniques That Could Prove Disastrous. Rose's intestines have been mangled by the motorbike and skin grafts are taken from her thighs, denatured and implanted within her in an attempt to encourage them to grow as new bowel tissue. None of this is very obvious, by the way, and even on the commentary it's not clear, but in previous interviews with Cronenberg he has stated this was the intention.
Unfortunately the denatured tissue decides to do its own thing and causes a blood sucking proboscis (the original title was MOSQUITO) to develop in Rose's armpit. Rose becomes a science-fiction vampire. All she can eat is blood, and her activities cause the unwanted side effect of the spreading of a virulent form of rabies. She escapes the clinic, hitchhikes to Montreal, and the scene is set for a plague scenario that expands upon Cronenberg's previous SHIVERS.
Maybe I'm getting old, but RABID really doesn't feel that dated. Of course the clothes and hairstyles are period mid 1970s, but Cronenberg's approach to the science gives it a timelessness that means RABID is still a very worthwhile viewing experience. It's also a grim and humourless one, and it's a testament to Cronenberg's skills that a scene in which Dr Keloid looks at porn star Marilyn Chambers' breasts and says 'The grafts appear to have healed well' isn't in the slightest bit funny. Even now, after VIDEODROME, CRASH and other assaults on the senses, RABID still boasts arguably the most depressing and heart-breaking ending of any Cronenberg film. If you've seen it you know what I mean, and if you haven't why are you reading this when you could be watching this unique classic of science fiction-horror?
After the problems suffered by SHIVERS on Arrow's previous Blu-ray release of a Cronenberg film, it's a relief to report that RABID has suffered no such indignities. The print looks excellent and there are no obvious jumps or cuts. There are two commentary tracks. The first is from David Cronenberg who neither introduces himself nor gives us much idea when this is from, but I'm guessing it's the commentary from the previous US region 1 release. The track is what you might expect from Cronenberg, and it's actually rather pleasing to see how seriously he still considers the film. There's also a separate commentary from William Beard, author of The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg. We also get an archive interview with Cronenberg and new interviews with producer Ivan Reitman and co-producer Don Carmody. There are featurettes on Joe Blasco and the Legacy of Cinepix, and a 1999 episode of The Directors TV series detailing Cronenberg's career and featuring interviews with Holly Hunter, Marilyn Chambers and others. Add in a trailer, reversible sleeve and collectors' booklet and it all adds up to an excellent package.
Arrow Films are releasing David Cronenberg's RABID in a standard dual format Region B Blu-ray & Region 2 DVD edition, and as a Region B Blu-ray steelbook, on Monday 16th February 2015