Monday, October 8, 2012

Behind the Green Gore: "Rabid" (1977)

Cute couple Rose (Marilyn Chambers) and Hart (Frank Moore) are involved in a horrible motorcycle accident that leaves them maimed.

Luckily, the accident occurred within sight of the Keloid Clinic, a plastic surgery retreat run by Dr. Keloid (Howard Ryshpan). Rose is in worse condition than Hart, and Keloid does some experimental skin grafts on her. He takes skin from her thighs and grafts them on other parts of her body, where the skin genetically alters itself from thigh skin to what ever skin might be surrounding it. Everything is a-okay.

A month passes, but Rose is still in a coma, and Frank is sent home to Montreal. Yummy Rose wakes up and suddenly attacks another patient Lloyd (J. Roger Periard), who does not remember the attack later. Rose slips in and out of coma, leaving the clinic to attack a horny farmer. In a great action sequence, an infected Lloyd attacks a cab driver, and the rest of the film has the population of Montreal and surrounding suburbs succumbing to a rabies-like disease that is being carried by Rose, and Hart's efforts to find her before she can do more harm.

This was one of Cronenberg's early films, and it shows. The first half of the film is great, building suspense and featuring some pretty impressive makeup and gore effects (including the now infamous "killer penis" probe that pops out from Rose's armpit). Once the Rose, and the film, leaves the clinic, the story quickly degenerates into a series of predictable attacks as smiling extras run for their lives.

Chambers is actually very good in this straight role. Cronenberg has her get dressed an awful lot, but she serves as an inspiration for the similar role Natasha Henstridge played in "Species." It is too bad Chambers could not parlay this into more mainstream roles. She is also gorgeous, and very sympathetic. The rest of the supporting cast is okay, no one really stands out except the always reliable Joe Silver as Murray, Keloid's business partner who eventually helps Hart.

Because the last half is so much worse than the first half, my rating will have to fall in the middle of the spectrum as well. "Rabid" is one of those films you have always heard about, and one I finally saw, and now I can go on with my life. (* * *) out of five stars.