Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman and Frank Moore
Director: David Cronenberg
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Writer: David Cronenberg
Released: April 8, 1977 (Canada and US)
Availability: In print, DVD and Blu-Ray
What the Critics Said:
"The title tells all. The film is highly exploitable, extremely violent, sometimes nauseating. It's about a young woman affected with rabies, running around Montreal infecting others. Marilyn Chambers, the Ivory Snow girl turned X-rated film star, plays a cross between Typhoid Mary and a vampire. Her upper torso is often left uncovered. Actually for a grisly horror film, it's not too bad. Director-writer David Cronenberg has taken an incredible tale and put it in a realistic atmosphere."
-- Nevada State Journal, 1977
Marilyn goes scream queen for director David Cronenberg in his second feature film; it was her first legitimate mainstream film role, a feat which heretofore was unattainable by a pornographic film star. She plays Rose, a young woman who's seriously injured in a motorcycle crash with her boyfriend. She's taken to the nearest hospital, a plastic surgeon's facility, and given skin grafts on the affected areas. She develops not only a strange phallic-like appendage under her arm but an insatiable lust for human blood. As she goes around drinking blood the unsuspecting victims become zombie-like creatures. Soon Montreal is in chaos but Marilyn is still fabulous.
Hear that song in the background around the 25 minute mark? That's Marilyn singing her disco tune "Benihana."
David Cronenberg originally wanted Sissy Spacek for the lead in Rabid after seeing her performance in Badlands. However, he was dissuaded because of Spacek's thick Texas accent. Ivan Reitman, producer of Rabid, had heard that Marilyn was seeking legitimate film work and recommended her to Cronenberg. Reitman told Cronenberg to screen test Marilyn and if he didn't like her he didn't have to use her. But Cronenberg liked her and hired her for what would be her first non-adult mainstream movie.
David Cronenberg: "I always thought she was really good in this movie, and really good to work with, so I was surprised that she didn't move on because she got quite good reviews for this movie and I know her whole exercise of doing Rabid was to show that she could actually act and do a straight movie and play the lead, which she did very well." (Rue Morgue magazine, May/June 2004)
Straight.com, March 26, 2014: As good as Cronenberg’s [DVD] commentaries are, there are always questions left unanswered. Take the Montreal-shot 1977 film Rabid, starring Marilyn Chambers as Rose, a motorcycle-crash victim transformed by radical plastic surgery into a sort of vampire. A fascinating scene has her preying on a creep who tries to pick her up at a porno theatre. The irony of having a real-life porn star turn the tables on a porno-theatre predator is fairly rich, but Cronenberg explains—obligingly filling in a blank in his commentary—the scene “was totally written before she was cast, and those ironies, when they come, they come. The later term for that was baggage. What baggage does the actor bring? Any actor who’s got a career ultimately has either some role they’re famous for or some scandal that they might have been involved in. And you really have to ignore it, unless it’s so overwhelming that it will destroy your film. Other than that, you have to assume people are discovering this actress for the first time, and of course for Marilyn, that was the case for anyone who hadn’t seen porno films. So I didn’t change anything one way or another. There was never a discussion of, ‘Will this make people think of that other Marilyn Chambers?’ It was just, that’s the script, let’s make it work dramatically.”
Rare behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Rabid. Above right: Marilyn and Chuck pictured with some of the film's cast and crew. David Cronenberg is behind Marilyn's left shoulder.
Front and back covers of the Japanese pressbook for Rabid. The photo on the left also was used for the Japanese one sheet poster.