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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Rabid  (1977)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: November 22, 2016) – Icky and provocative, "Rabid" purveys Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg's clear interest in body-horror as a subgenre. When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is severely injured in a motorcycle crash, plastic surgeon Dr. Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) performs a radical procedure to save her life. When she wakes from her coma, she is overtaken by an insatiable thirst for blood, setting into motion a deadly outbreak of human rabies. Adding to this lurid scenario is the source of Rose's disease: an orifice under her armpit housing a ravenous stinger with a mind of its own.

An early feature among writer-director David Cronenberg's illustrious oeuvre, 1977's "Rabid" remains effectively squirmy, gruesome, and even prescient nearly forty years after its release. A fantastically wry spin on classic vampire and zombie cinema, the film predates the AIDS epidemic discovered in the 1980s while imagining a virus with an unavoidably sexual undercurrent. As Rose prowls around searching for victims and finding it exceedingly easy as lecherous men crowd her from all sides, Cronenberg seems as interested in commenting on the objectification of women as he is in playing to the horror crowd. The blending of the thematic highbrow and carnally splatterific lowbrow works wonders in smoothing over the rough edges of a screenplay that occasionally misses the mark on exploring Rose and her tilted psyche. Still, "Rabid" involves and startles just as it should, a diabolically apocalyptic vision undaunted by its low budget.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

The first few minutes of "Rabid" are littered with frozen dirt and debris, a result of the optical effects involved in the opening credits. It's all uphill from there, as Scream Factory's new 2K scan from the original negative (presented in David Cronenberg's preferred 1:66:1 aspect ratio) is so vibrant, detailed and dimensional it often looks like it was made yesterday. This is a superb transfer, surely as clean and vivid as it has ever looked before on home video. Colors appear fresh and accurate, while black levels are strong and absent of crush. Image depth to the wintry Canadian locals is noteworthy throughout, while the picture's grain structure is thick, even, and pleasingly filmic. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio suffices nicely considering its age. There are a few instances where pops and crackles can be heard, but these instances are rare. By and large, this is a clear audio presentation that does its source material proud.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with Director David Cronenberg
  • Audio Commentary with Writer Jill Nelson and Ken Leicht
  • Audio Commentary with Film Historian William Beard
  • "Young and Rabid - An Interview with Actor Susan Roman" Featurette (33:05, HD)
  • Interview with Director David Cronenberg (20:36, HD)
  • "Independent Spirit with Producer Ivan Reitman" Featurette (12:28, HD)
  • "Northern Exposure with Producer Dan Carmody" Featurette (15:37, HD)
  • "From Stereo to Video" Video Essay with Caelum Vatnsdal (26:23, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:09, HD)
  • TV Spot (0:32, HD)
  • Radio Spots (1:38, HD)
  • Photo Gallery (5:49, HD)
Bottom Line
It is always worth celebrating when a new David Cronenberg film arrives in the domestic high-def marketplace, and Scream Factory has done one better by releasing two Collector's Edition Blu-rays (the other being 1988's "Dead Ringers") in the span of two weeks. "Rabid" is arguably the lesser known of the two, and it is certainly worth seeking out for fans of quirky, under-the-radar '70s horror gems. An excellent new 2K HD transfer and hours of new and old bonus content make this the definitive home-video release of "Rabid." Highly recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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