Disc Reviews

Rabid Blu-Ray Review

rabidAnother classic horror title given new life by Arrow Video. This time it is David Cronenberg’s early back catalogue that comes under the knife (so to speak), with this new high definition restoration of his 2nd feature film Rabid.

Rabid followed hot on the heels of Shivers, and is in many ways something of a companion piece to it. The story centres on a young woman who called Rose (Marilyn Chambers) who; after suffering terrible internal injuries in a motorcycle accident, undergoes experimental plastic surgery to save her life. The surgery, while successful, and groundbreaking, has an unexpected consequence. Due to her mangled intestines; her body becomes unable to process normal food, and instead mutates itself. Rose develops a new orifice under her left arm. Said orifice contains a proboscis type organ that enables Rose to feed directly on the blood of people she comes into close contact with. These ‘victims’ then become crazed, foaming at the mouth nutters, attacking other people, and spreading the contagion further.

Apologies for the slight spoilers in that synopsis, but hey; this movie has been knocking around since Mull of Kintyre was riding high in the charts, so it’s a little academic.


The Restoration

So, if you know anything about David Cronenberg’s filmography; you’ll know that he started at the very lowest end of low budget filmmaking, and while Rabid was a significant step up in budget from Shivers, it was still made for around half a million dollars at a time when Star Wars, by comparison cost $11m. That being said; the film was successful on this budget and made money.

However, one must still take these relatively humble production values into account when evaluating the quality of restoration on offer here. With this in mind; the picture quality is actually pretty good, and nicely punches above its weight. It’s no Jaws (but then, very few older movies come close to that particular HD high watermark).

Incidentally, a very good indicator of the quality improvement/restoration on films like these is watching the supplemental material if any is present. One can look at the quality of clips used in these interviews or documentaries, and compare it to that of the restored main feature. Often (but not always), the clips have not been culled from the restored version (often due to the ‘carry over’ nature of some of this material i.e. it was made before the restoration took place), and therefore it is easy to see just how grainy and poor the film was looking. I would add a qualifying note here, which is to say that these comparisons often do not take into account the existing DVD quality the film might be found in. That is to say; you may find you are comparing the restored Blu-ray picture to some terrible degraded TV pan and scan clip, and the standard def DVD might be a lot closer to the quality of the Blu-Ray. Anyway, this is an area that immediately gets very convoluted, so we shall move on.

The movie was shot in this author’s most vilified aspect ratio (1.85:1), which is not surprising, as the budget would probably not have allowed for shooting with anamorphic 2.35:1 lenses etc. so latitude must be given. It does however remind one of how great John Carpenter’s risky and expensive choice of spending half of his (admittedly slightly larger) budget for Halloween on shooting in CinemaScope was. It just adds so much in terms of cinematic quality and richness.

Anyway, we digress, so let’s talk about the audio.

Audio on this Blu-Ray is unfortunately limited to the original mono soundtrack the film was assembled with. I guess unless some pretty amazing planets line up in conjunction; there isn’t a great deal the restorers can do with a mono soundtrack except clean it up. To the film’s credit; the soundtrack is indeed clean, and the original sound-mix, reasonably well chosen (although some of the music stings can appear a little harsh and overbearing).


Special Features on disc

Commentary with David Cronenberg – Excellent commentary with the film’s director. Cronenberg is contemplative, informative, and direct. His unwaveringly even tone however, can become a little soporific after a while.

Commentary with William Beard

Interview with David Cronenberg – In this 20 minute on screen interview, Cronenberg outlines the various difficulties he had getting Rabid made, particularly in terms of the production being so much more adventurous in scope (and cost), than Shivers had been. He is engaging and verbose, and comes across as transparent and open in terms of the quality and directness of his responses to the (offscreen and unheard), prompts/questions. This is actually the interview’s one real failing: The interviewer is both unseen, and unheard; Cronenberg therefore comes across as more relentless and monotone than he no doubt would have appeared had the interview been edited in a more conversational way. However, a minor gripe to be sure.

Interview with Ivan Reitman – In this 12 minute onscreen interview, producer Reitman reminisces about his days at Cinepix, and how he and Cronenberg made Shivers, and then Rabid. Reitman is always good value, and although this interview is not very long; It does pack in a reasonable amount of information.

Interview with Don Carmody – A 15 minute interview with Shivers’ co-producer, with his reminiscences on many aspects of the film’s production.

Interview with Joe Blasco – A 3 minute short with the film’s creature and make-up effects creator.

Documentary – The Directors: David Cronenberg – An hour long episode of this long running series. Made around the time Cronenberg had just released eXistenZ.

Documentary – Raw, Rough and Rabid – 15 minute documentary made in 2014



It could be said that David Cronenberg did not really hit his stride until Scanners or even Videodrome, and that all of his work prior to those movies were just stepping stones to get there in some way. I think in some respects there is some mileage in this, however there is also a great deal of disingenuousness to it also. Shivers, Rabid, and The Brood collectively changed horror cinema, and certainly broke new ground in the sub-genre we’ve come to know of as ‘Body Horror’. It would be incorrect to give Cronenberg the title of ‘creator of Body Horror cinema’, for what are films like the original The Fly, or The Quatermass Experiment if not examples of this genre. He did however, become curator and primary exponent of it. Rabid, despite its absurd, almost comical premise; is a big part of that, and it is fantastic to see it again in high definition with a very enjoyable, if somewhat lashed together clutch of bonus materials.

3 Stars



Ben Pegley





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