|Marilyn Chambers as Rose, "Typhoid Mary" for a new strain of rabies|
Rabid, Cronenberg's second feature, tells the story of Rose (Marilyn Chambers) a young woman involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. When the ambulance comes to whisk her away, none of the bystanders question the fact that it arrives so soon with no phone calls having been made. And so it is that she's taken, not to a state hospital, but to a private plastic surgery clinic nearby, where the chief of surgery is all too eager to try out a new experimental technique. It seems he's developed a process whereby skin grafts can be transformed into something like embryo cells, able to match the structures of nearby tissue. Although the technique has shown considerable promise, there's also the risk of rapid tumor development, and so Rose is kept under observation for 30 days in an induced coma.
|Frank Moore as Hart, Rose's erstwhile lover|
If that is the goal, then Rose is the realization. She awakens in the middle of the night as almost an entirely new kind of being. She rips the IV from her arm; it seems she no longer has the need for traditional sustenance. Instead, her biological imperative is now centered on a new "organ" grown from the experimental tissue grafted on to her. Under her arm is a tiny, grotesque orifice from which extrudes, in moments of passion or bloodlust, a phallic "stinger" with which she feeds.
|The sexual or venereal overtone to Rose's mutations in unmistakable|
For all of the fantasy in its construction, Rabid is a remarkably prescient film. The controversy which would erupt over the use of embryonic stem cells was still two decades away, and yet that is exactly the foundation of Rabid's transformational science. Likewise, had it been release even a few years later, the sexual basis of this deadly plague would have made an AIDS allegory seem inevitable.
|Montreal under martial law, as body disposal units drive by|
As the woman at the center of the plague, Marilyn Chambers does quite a good job depicting Rose's desperation to understand and to resist the new instincts driving her. Although far from a world-class performance, there's a much-appreciated understatement to her take on the role that suggests she could have developed into an actress of reliable talent had she been given the chance. It seems a real shame that the stigma attached to her participation in the adult film industry kept her from a legitimate acting career.
|The rabies vaccine doesn't seem to be working|