Rabid (1977 film)

Last updated
Rabid theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Written byDavid Cronenberg
Produced by John Dunning
CinematographyRené Verzier
Edited byJean LaFleur
  • Cinema Entertainment Enterprises [1]
  • DAL Productions [1]
  • The Dibar Syndicate [1]
Distributed by
Release date
  • April 8, 1977 (1977-04-08)
Running time
91 minutes
United States [3]
BudgetCAD $530,000 [4]
Box office$1 million (Canada) [5]

Rabid is a 1977 independent body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg. An international co-production of Canada and the United States, the film stars Marilyn Chambers in the lead role, supported by Frank Moore, Joe Silver, and Howard Ryshpan. Chambers plays a woman who, after being injured in a motorcycle accident and undergoing a surgical operation, develops an orifice under one of her armpits that hides a phallic/clitoral stinger she uses to feed on people's blood. Those she feeds upon become infected. Their bite spreads the disease, and they cause massive chaos starting in the Quebec countryside and ending up in Montreal. Rabid grossed $1 million in Canada, making it one of the highest-grossing Canadian films of all time. [5] A remake of the same name, directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, was released in 2019.



Rose and her boyfriend Hart get into a motorcycle accident in the Quebec countryside, caused by a van parked in the middle of the road. While Hart suffers a broken hand, a separated shoulder and a concussion, Rose is severely injured and burned by the incident. They are both transported to the nearby Keloid Clinic for Plastic Surgery, where head doctor Dan Keloid decides to perform a radical new procedure on Rose. He uses morphogenetically neutral grafts to her chest and abdomen in the hope that it will differentiate and replace the damaged skin and organs. One month later, Hart is released while Rose remains in a coma.

Rose abruptly awakens from her coma screaming, prompting patient Lloyd Walsh to calm her down and hold her hand, but she pierces his skin as she holds him. When asked, Lloyd cannot remember anything afterwards and the doctor does not know what caused the injury on his right arm; it is only known that his blood is not clotting from the wound and he cannot feel anything on his right side. While Keloid transfers him to Montreal General Hospital for further evaluation, his experimental procedures on Rose have caused a mutation in her body that made her able to only subsist on human blood. A new organ resembling a red stinger emerges from a small orifice below Rose's armpit; it pierces her victims and draws their blood. One night, Rose leaves the clinic to feed upon a nearby cow's blood, which makes her vomit. A drunken farmer tries to attack her, but she pierces and feeds on him before calling Hart to pick her up.

The next day, the farmer turns into a pale zombie-like monster and attacks a waitress at a nearby diner. Lloyd discharges himself from the clinic. While taking a taxi to the airport, he begins foaming at the mouth and attacks the driver. The car crashes into the freeway before a nearby truck kills them both. At the clinic, Keloid is infected by Rose's stinger and attacks from within, which causes panic. During this time, Rose escapes from the hospital despite calling Hart to come to her aid, and hitchhikes rides from various people to Montreal. She infects one of the truck drivers, causing the driver to attack his colleague. Hart and Keloid's business partner, Murray Cypher, while searching for Rose, meet up with police chief Claude LePointe and public health officials in talks about an upcoming epidemic. During this time, Hart witnesses an officer become infected before being shot by uninfected police officers. He calls Rose's friend Mindy and asks her to keep Rose in her apartment if she appears until he can come over. Rose arrives in the city and stays in Mindy's apartment.

While Mindy watches a television broadcast detailing a new strain of rabies now all over Montreal, Rose goes to a sex cinema and infects a leering patron. Mindy notices an infected woman while riding the subway and attempts to avoid eye-contact. The rabid woman attacks a nearby passenger by biting off part of his ear in a bloody frenzy, culminating in a panic of fleeing passengers. LePointe, while riding a limousine with local health officials, is attacked by two infected crewmen who use a jackhammer through the vehicle door and drag the driver out to feed on him. The other official and LePointe, forced to leave their driver behind, escape by driving in reverse. With the infection becoming worse in the city, and the standard rabies treatment having no effect, Dr. Royce Gentry advises a shoot-to-kill policy to prevent future infections. As Christmas approaches, martial law is declared within Montreal, and the doctor works on developing a cure. National Guard road blocks are set to check for infected people, and a convoy of NBC-suited soldiers ride into the city to assist the authorities with body disposal.

Murray and Hart arrive at the former's home and as Hart drives away in Murray's car, Murray calls for his wife, but there is no answer. Murray wanders into his baby's nursery where he finds what is left of his baby and is attacked by his infected wife. Hart goes into the deserted city to search for Rose. An infected civilian jumps onto Hart's car before being shot, and the bio-warfare suited soldiers spray disinfectant on his car before permitting him to continue driving.

Mindy watches a report which says that a possible carrier of the infection may be immune and has been traced back to the Keloid Clinic. Rose walks into the room and feeds on Mindy. Hart finds Rose in the act and tries to reason with her about treatment, but she refuses to believe him and is in denial that she is responsible for the epidemic that has now claimed many people. He chases her in the apartment, but he is rendered unconscious and she infects a man waiting in the apartment lobby. When Hart awakens, Rose brings the newly infected man to his apartment and locks herself inside the room before calling Hart about her plan; she wants to test Hart's accusation and see if the man turns infected or not. While Hart frantically tells her to leave the apartment and hopelessly sits at the receiver, the infected man awakens and attacks Rose. The next morning, Rose's corpse is found by the bio-warfare suited soldiers in an alleyway and they dump her in a garbage truck.



The film, originally titled Mosquitoes, was financed by the Canadian Film Development Corporation. The CFDC publicly distanced itself from the film because of the controversy over Cronenberg's previous film Shivers but could not deny him funding because his films were among its only profitable productions. [6]

Cronenberg stated that he wanted to cast Sissy Spacek in the film lead, but the studio vetoed his choice because of her Texan accent. [6] Spacek's film Carrie was released during this film's production and proved to be a massive hit (and a movie poster for Carrie appears in Rabid when the main character walks by a movie theater). [7] The director says that the idea of casting Chambers came from executive producer Ivan Reitman, who had heard that Chambers was looking for a mainstream role. Reitman felt that it would be easier to market the film in different territories if the well-known porn star portrayed the main character. Cronenberg stated that Chambers put in a lot of hard work on the film and that he was impressed with her. Cronenberg further states he had not seen Chambers' most well-known film, Behind the Green Door , prior to casting her. [8] The film was shot in Montreal. [6]


Rabid opened in Montreal, Canada, in June 1977. [9] It was released theatrically in the United States by New World Pictures in 1977. [1]

Box office

Rabid grossed $100,000 in the first ten days after opening in Montreal in June 1977. [9] The film was one of the highest-grossing Canadian films of all time, grossing $1 million in Canada. [5]

Critical reception

The staff of Variety called the film "an extremely violent, sometimes nauseating, picture". [10] Les Wedman of The Vancouver Sun criticized the film for "relying heavily on shocking special effects" as opposed to suspense; Wedman called its story "dreadful", and, with the exception of Joe Silver, wrote that "there isn't a decent performance in the movie." [11]

Conversely, a reviewer for Time Out called the film "far better staged" in comparison to Cronenberg's preceding work, the 1975 film Shivers , and concluded: "None of the other recent apocalypse movies has shown so much political or cinematic sophistication." [12]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 77% of 26 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.3/10. [13]

Home media

Warner Home Video released the film on VHS in 1983. It was later re-released on DVD by New Concorde Home Entertainment in 2000. [14] The DVD itself was re-released again in a Special Edition version by E1 Entertainment in 2004. [15] The film was released on dual format Blu-ray Disc/DVD by Arrow Video in the UK on February 16, 2015, [16] and Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray on November 22, 2016.


A remake of the film, directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska and starring Laura Vandervoort as Rose, was released on December 13, 2019. [17]

A novelization by Richard Lewis was released in 1978, [18] while in 2002, the film's script was published by Faber & Faber in the collection David Cronenberg: Collected Screenplays 1: Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid. [19]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Rabid (1977)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  2. "Rabid". Library and Archives Canada . Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  3. "Rabid". American Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  4. Vatnsdal 2004, p. 112.
  5. 1 2 3 "Canada-Only B.O. Figures". Variety . November 21, 1979. p. 24.
  6. 1 2 3 "Rabid". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2021-12-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Cronenberg, David (2004). "Rabid". Somerville House.
  8. Cronenberg, David (2004). Rabid (DVD). Somerville House.
  9. 1 2 Kohl, Helen (13 October 1979). "It's a Horrible Way to Make a Living". National Post . Toronto, Ontario, Canada. p. 172. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  10. "Rabid". Variety . 31 December 1976. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  11. Wedman, Les (6 June 1977). "Yup, it's Rabid". The Vancouver Sun . Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. p. 19. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  12. DP. "Rabid 1976, directed by David Cronenberg". Time Out . Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  13. "Rabid (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes . Fandango Media . Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  14. "Rabid: The Director's Series". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  15. "Rabid: Special Edition". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  16. "Arrow Video's "RABID" Blu". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  17. Abrams, Simon. "Rabid". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  18. Lewis, Richard (1978). Rabid. Mayflower. ISBN   0583128521.
  19. Cronenberg, David (2002). David Cronenberg: Collected Screenplays 1: Sterero, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid. Faber & Faber. ISBN   0571210171.