Cronenberg’s work from The Brood has got­ten plen­ty of love in the U.S. dur­ing the DVD and blu-ray eras but his ear­lier work hasn’t had the same luck. Shivers and Rabid were only avail­able for a while on DVD and until recent­ly nei­ther had made it over to high-def­i­n­i­tion.  Thankfully, Scream Factory has bro­ken this embar­go with a rabid-blunew blu-ray edi­tion that not only looks good but offers a nice­ly curat­ed set of extras.

The trans­fer for Rabid is derived from a fresh 2K scan tak­en at the director’s pre­ferred screen ratio, 1.66:1.  The results have a nice, nat­u­ral cel­lu­loid look to them, with the earth-toned ‘70s col­or scheme pre­served and a much-improved lev­el of detail.  The audio for this trans­fer is a DTS pre­sen­ta­tion of the orig­i­nal mono mix and does solid work with this vin­tage sound­track.

Fans who nev­er got the old DVDs or held off on the U.K. blu-ray from Arrow will be inter­est­ed to dis­cov­er that the Scream Factory disc mix­es bonus fea­tures from those past edi­tions along with a few items pro­duced espe­cial­ly for this set.  Here’s what you can expect:

Commentary 1: this is a solo David Cronenberg track that dates back to the last U.S. DVD release.  It’s an excel­lent scene-speci­fic affair that cov­ers a vari­ety of top­ics: praise for Marilyn Chambers’ per­for­mance, broad thoughts on the film­mak­ing process, the themes and inspi­ra­tions that informed the script and the excel­lent train­ing his low-bud­get fea­ture work pro­vid­ed.  A must-lis­ten for the director’s fans, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who love his hor­ror work.

Commentary 2: this pairs mod­er­a­tor Ken Leicht with Jill C. Nelson, who has writ­ten a few books on gold­en-era adult film­mak­ing.  It focus­es on the life of Chambers, includ­ing her near-miss­es at main­stream suc­cess, inter­ac­tions with John Holmes and more.  Both par­tic­i­pants had inter­ac­tion with Chambers — Nelson inter­viewed her and Leicht man­aged her when she was appear­ing at con­ven­tions — so they have unique anec­dotes and a more inter­est­ing, per­son­al­ized per­spec­tive on the arc of Chamber’s career and life.

Commentary 3:  Professor and Cronenberg schol­ar William Beard, who pro­vid­ed a com­men­tary for Scream Factory’s Dead Ringers set, returns here for anoth­er ana­lyt­i­cal track that focus­es on analy­sis and back­ground detail.  He places the film in con­text of run­ning themes of Cronenberg’s work, draws atten­tion to his pre­cise visu­als and com­ments on how the film presents exploitable sex­u­al con­tent while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly avoid­ing the erotic.  There’s also inter­est­ing mate­ri­al on how the film ref­er­ences the 1970 Quebec upris­ing and the unique­ly Canadian the­me of “the inef­fec­tive hero.”

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Susan Roman Interview (33:05): the Canadian char­ac­ter and voice actress enthus­es about the thrill of her first film role, telling anec­dotes about work­ing with Chambers, her infa­mous glass­es and how she found her­self in the odd posi­tion of con­tra­dict­ing Cronenberg on one occa­sion.  She also tells some fun sto­ries about her work as a voice actress on the ani­mat­ed cult faves Heavy Metal and Rock And Rule.

David Cronenberg Interview (20:36): this is anoth­er DVD-era inclu­sion and it’s a gem.  It’s more of a speak­ing engage­ment than an inter­view, with no inter­view­er nec­es­sary as Cronenberg gives a con­ver­sa­tion­al yet high­ly-detailed stream of infor­ma­tion and obser­va­tions.  He talks about how his con­tro­ver­sial first film impact­ed his abil­i­ty to get gov­ern­ment financ­ing, a moment of self-doubt that almost derailed the film and his grat­i­tude to his b-movie pro­duc­er boss­es for the valu­able lessons they taught him.  He also gets into some inter­est­ing detail on his bat­tles with crit­ics over accu­sa­tions of misog­y­ny and pro­mot­ing con­for­mi­ty.

Ivan Reitman Interview (12:28): a breezy chat with the pro­duc­er-turned-direc­tor about his ear­ly days in the Canadian film busi­ness.  He talks about his revul­sion at the Ilsa movies Cinepix pro­duced, how Chambers was cast for Rabid and his side-job of pick­ing music library cues for the film.

Don Carmody Interview (15:37): Carmody is an asso­ciate of Reitman’s and, like him, his chat is ori­ent­ed around mak­ing exploita­tion films in Canada in the ‘70s.  There’s a neat sto­ry ear­ly on about how he got his start on McCabe And Mrs. Miller before he gets into details about his work on both Shivers and Rabid.  You’ll hear more about tan­gles with the gov­ern­ment over financ­ing and how Cronenberg’s attempt to stop pro­duc­tion involved com­ing up the idea that would lat­er become Dead Ringers.

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From Stereo To Video (26:23): a video essay by Caelum Vatsndal, who wrote an the amaz­ing Canadian gen­re cin­e­ma his­to­ry They Came From Within, that focus­es on the ear­ly days of Cronenberg’s career.  It cov­ers every­thing from his short films to Videodrome, com­plete with clips from each film.  It makes a case for how his work dur­ing this era led to the cre­ative free-mind­ed­ness that has dom­i­nat­ed his sub­se­quent work and has plen­ty of inter­est­ing pro­duc­tion details about all his hor­ror-era films.  It even cov­ers his rarely dis­cussed car-rac­ing film, Fast Company.

Additional Extras: the­atri­cal trail­er and t.v. spot, radio spots and an ani­mat­ed image gallery

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Rabid, click here.