Last night's Late Late Show was this double-bill of classic early Cronenberg, which I watched on the new local blu-ray set released by Madman last week. Was great to revisit both films for the first time after at least a dozen or so years. Both Shivers (1974) and Rabid (1977) remain so vital and effective and the central themes in the films remain as intriguing as they are disturbing and often repulsive, because they deal with the human condition and fears that are still very real today. And both films still pack a heavy punch at the end.
The films are also incredibly well-crafted and composed, especially considering the small budgets the Canadian filmmaker had to work with at the time, and Cronenberg always fills his films with lots of interesting, if often unknown, faces. Casting porn star Marilyn Chambers as the female lead in Rabid was certainly a risky creative decision, though a smart move from a marketing/commercial perspective, but she acquits herself quite well, coming off as not only sexual and terrifying but also effectively sympathetic at times.
While the films themselves are as powerful as ever, the transfers on Madman's blu-ray set are rather grainy at times (a complaint I have also heard about overseas blu-ray releases of the same films). Ironically, clips from both films that appear on the documentary featurettes seem to be of higher quality than the film themselves. I haven't watched the third film on this set (Cronenber's 1983 adpatation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone) as yet.