RABID was released today back in 1977. That was some 40 years ago! It is in one of my favorite David Cronenberg films. It has a mood and an atmosphere I love, but can rarely find in other films. But beyond the great script, the horror and the direction, the element I find most fascinating about this film is the casting of Marilyn Chambers, a porn star.
In 1977, Marilyn Chambers was well known for starring in the porn classic BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR (1972). The film made her a porn star and shocked the advertising industry since previously she had been the face of Procter & Gamble’s Ivory soap bars (P&G dropped her after learning about her work in porn).
Porn stars and mainstream films have a mixed history. Sometimes we see one or two in art-house films trying to look radical (LOL) but very rarely in Hollywood films that get a wide release. It is true that RABID was never a big film. However, most directors, producers and distributors will always think twice before bringing into their careers and catalogues any porn actor or actress that may tarnish their brand.
Traci Lords was one of the few porn actresses who managed to have a steady and strong career in mainstream films, which means that the crossover is possible – although still rare and risky.
But back in 1977, porn was still a huge taboo – and twice as problematic for Marilyn Chambers since not only did she star in a porn film, she also had sex in the film with a black man (ex-boxer Johnnie Keyes). Twice the taboo!
The horror genre, for decades one that has been dismissed as trash and pushed by some to the border of mainstream filmmaking, has, many times, been friendly towards porn actors and actresses who want a chance to have a career outside porn. Few people may know, but THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2003), CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), MANIAC (1980), CHROME SKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011), FEAR CLINIC (2014), THE X-FILES (1994), WILLARD (2013), PIRANHA 3D (2010), THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 (FINAL SEQUENCE) (2015), SAW VI (2009), GHOSTS OF MARS (2001), SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990) and BLADE (1998) had porn stars in their casts.
What Cronenberg and producer John Dunning did was amazing: they gave Marilyn Chambers a leading role in their film and helped her grow as an actress.
Forty years ago today.
Yep, there’s no people like horror people. 🙂