Rabid AKA Rage (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 101 Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (8th September 2019).
The Film

101 Films presents Rabid (1977), an enduringly tense and gruesome horror that marked a landmark in David Cronenberg's early career. Title 009 on 101 Films' Black Label, this double Blu-ray is stacked with extras, including Part 1 of a new feature length documentary on Canadian horror film.

When Rose suffers terrible injuries in a motorcycle crash, she is taken to a nearby clinic run by Dr Keloid for experimental skin-graft surgery. At first, the revolutionary procedure proves successful, but it soon leaves Rose with a strange orifice protruding from her armpit and an insatiable thirst for human blood. Hell-bent on satisfying her bloodlust, Rose leaves a trail of insane and uncontrollably aggressive victims, as the unknown virus engulfs North America in an orgy of frenetic violence.

Video

Rose (Marilyn Chambers) survives a motorcylce accident and has to have various skin graft and plastic surgery operations using a new experimental technique developed by Dr. keloid (Howard Ryshpan). However, something goes wrong and she becomes a Typhoid Mary with a sting under her arm through which she seeks blood. Everyone she "stings" goes crazy with a form of rabies, and soon the authorities have their hands full containing the infection.

Early Cronenberg sci-fi-horror flick is occasionally a tad rough around the edges but remains a well-made, chilling effort. Not quite up to the standards of his run from The Brood (1979) through The Fly (1986) but not far behind and a distinct improvement on Shivers (1974). Chambers is surprisingly very good in her first starring, non-porno role. Ivan Reitman is listed as the music supervisor and the score is very effective. My only quibble is the bike crash at the beginning which looks like it'd be fatal and yet Chambers doesn't seem that badly burned afterwards.

This is a pretty straight forward looking film with a natural colour palette, naturalistic flesh tones although it does tend to favour a colder aesthetic with blues and greys prominent. I'd say that this transfer uses the same 2K master that Shout! Factory sprung for when they mastered their 2016 BD release (the running time is exactly the same ... to the second). Arrow's 2015 release, whilst generally excellent used an older master which had some mild inconsistencies like density issues at opticals. It also has a warmer overall look.

Black levels are satisfyingly rich with no signs of unintended crush at all; some exteriors shot in low light or dark do have some crush but as far as I can recall those scenes always looked that way. Fine detail is generally very strong throughout across all focal planes; closeups look nicely crisp and detailed. The prosthetic makeup effects, especially the stinger under Chambers arm looks latexy under the HD scrutiny; blood looks syrupy ... but that's to be expected.

Contrast is supportive allowing lighter coloured or white surfaces to retain texture and detail with no blown out highlights. Generally, this is a grim looking and dark film shot in the winter. Grain is plentiful despite the film having softish overall feel.

The encode is solid with some noise evident at times in coloured patches like sky and strong colours. I increased the sharpness to scrutinise it up close and grain looked a little like amoebas squirming. With the sharpness turned sown to it's normal zero setting things looked pretty good.

Thee is the odd fleck of very mild and fleeting damage but again I only really noticed it when I did some frame advances at various sections along with traces of tramline scratches that had been digitally cleaned up. At normal viewing distance with the settings at optimal and professional levels these anomalies are not noticeable.

The image quality is on a parr with the Shout! Factory US disc and a notch better than the otherwise excellent Arrow UK release. (The 101 Films gets A+, the Arrow A-)

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.66:1 / 90:52

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH

Nice clear mono track with no signs of any pops, clicks or digital splats. It has a modest range which would be in keeping with a low budget Canadian production - indeed any film of similar budget - from around this time. I heard no distortions such as warble or phasing issues; the music, which is low key to begun with, never interferes with dialogue.

All limitations are inherent in the source so I have no qualms about giving this top marks; it's as good as it can be shy of a complete rebuild from the sound stems and a 5.1 boost. (Both get A+)

Comparable in quality to Arrow's generally excellent 2015 BD release; I gave the two releases a quick side by side comparison and there's no discernible difference on the audio.

Extras

Audio commentary with film makers Jen and Sylvia Soska who made the 2019 Rabid remake
Audio commentary with writer / director David Cronenberg
Audio commentary with critic William Beard
Audio commentary with author Jill C. Nelson and Marilyn Chambers' personal appearances manager Ken Leicht (ends at 58:03 with the films soundtrack taking over)


The Soska track is fannishly enthusiastic to start with (they remade this film last year) but quickly becomes both informative and daffy with the girls giving us plenty of detail and insight but also taking off in comic directions when discussing rabies, genre etc. Cronenberg's oeuvre also gets covered.

Cronenberg's track is typically laid back and reflective. Moments of silence do occur but they're never too long. I could sit and listen to Cronenberg talk about his films for hours ... he"# that good, that interesting.

Beard is a very chatty, chummy guy and his track covers themes and story points; a more academic track when compared to the others but always with a lilt in the delivery.

The last, shorter track ends at 58 minutes and focusses almost entirely on Chambers and is also interesting with heaps and heals of personal reminiscences. A shame it runs so short.

"The Quiet Revolution: State, Society & the Canadian Horror Film - Part One, Gimme Shelter: Cinépix and the Birth of the Canadian Horror Film" 2019 documentary (69:35)

Superb, feature-length examination by co-producer / co-writer / director Xavier Mendik and co-producer / co-writer Ernest Mathijs of the era of Canadian tax shelter film making and specifically the Cinépix company run by Andre Link and John Dunning who made many key genre films. Worth the price of the disc all by itself.

Films discussed include: Valérie (1969), Cannibal Girls (1973), Shivers (1974), Rabid (1976), Death Weekend (1976), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1980) and Videodrome (1982).

Interviewees are: Pierre David (producer), Greg Dunning (Cinépix estate), Mark Irwin "(cinematographer), Jean Lafleur (editor), Don Carmody (producer), Paul Lynch (director), Professor Ernest Mathijs (University of British Columbia), William Fruet (director), René Verzier (cinematographer) and Dr. Jennifer Wallis (Imperial College London).

"The Directors: The Films of David Cronenberg" 1999 documentary (59:04)

A vintage do from the US TV series has been on many, many DVD and BD releases of Cronenberg films.

Interviewees are: Holly Hunter (actor), Peter Weller (actor), David Cronenberg (director), Marilyn Chambers (actress), Michael Ironside (actor), Deborah Harry (actor), Brooke Adams (actor), Anthony Zerbe (actor), Jennifer Jason Leigh (actor) and Willem Dafoe (actor).

"Young and Rabid with Susan Roman" 2016 featurette (33:05)
"Independent Spirit with Producer Ivan Reitman" 2014 featurette (12:29)
"Northern Exposure with Producer Don Carmody" 2014 featurette (15:37)


Three meaty featurettes ported over from the US Shout! Factory disc.

Archive Interview with David Cronenberg (20:36)

Archive featurette that's appeared on many releases over the years; seems to be from the early-mid 2000s. Cronenberg could recite the script to a soap powder commercial and it'd be fascinating; essential.

Trailer (2:08)

Vintage trailer from the film's first release.

Limited edition liner notes booklet "The Birth of Rabid" by Greg Dunning and "Stunned. Shocked. Exhilarated: Horror in the Early Films of David Cronenberg" by Alex Morris

Not sent for review so I can't comment; I requested the usual PDF but heard nothing back.

Overall

A very fine reissue only four years after the no-slouch Arrow disc; this release will be a nice companion for those UK fans who have the Arrow disc because it's superior transfer is great but also it ports over most of the extras from the US release. Only the visual essay off that issue isn't here. The extras on the Arrow are also mostly not mirrored; the shorter 15 minute Cinépix doc on the Arrow is far exceeded by the first part of the mammoth 101 Films doc which is to be concluded on a forthcoming release (
Shivers?).

Extras here are much more substantial and satisfying; if only one release was in your budget, this new 101 Films 2-disc set is the one to get.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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