70s movies

Rabid

This David Cronenberg body horror entry is pretty bawdy too. Rabid is one of the funnier film’s in the director’s oeuvre, but then again, that’s akin to being Tyler Perry’s most cerebral Madea. Still, we don’t go to him seeking a yuk-fest. We go to DC for some prime earth-shattering, teeth-chattering horror.

In the early Cronenberg movies we are frequently cautioned about encroaching scientism, evil precision tinkering that spans the macro to the micro-scope.

And that’s what we get in spades in Rabid.

There’s a gloomy research hospital in the middle of some misbegotten landscape. And it must spring into action to perform trauma surgery on a young woman (Rose, played by Marilyn Chambers), something for which they’re not really equipped. Instead, under the direction of the terrifically-handled Dr. Keloid (named, appropriately, after a collagen scar) the patient receives an experimental graft.

Graft is an interesting double-entendre, something that Rabid really explores: it’s both a piece of transplanted tissue, and also bribery, used to secure illicit gain, something Cronenberg explores as of course, investors are interested in profiting from this out-there medical practice.

Rose, still in a coma from the fiery crash, is visited by a friend, Lloyd. Suddenly, she springs to life and bites him, and the wound sustained to his rib cage isn’t clotting when he’s given an examination at the local General. And he doesn’t remember any of what had transpired.

We suddenly see that Rose is experiencing a nasty treatment side-effect: a vaginal, pulsating orifice under her armpit which extrudes a proboscis.

With Lloyd and Rose infected, the Keloid Clinic becomes Ground Zero for a rabies-like outbreak (there’s even mention of swine flu by a talking head on the evening news), which spreads throughout the Quebec countryside as the twosome venture farther afoot, she by hitchhiking, he by cab.

Rabid has a drab, austere setting (apparently, Cronenberg’s tax shelter films were frequently put into production in winter and early spring), which serves it well, and the interiors complement the interior / body horror, as you get the trademark claustrophobic feel.

**** (out of 5)

[Please check out our podcast discussion of Rabid!]

Don’t Torture a Duckling

With more bungled police work than the entire Amanda Knox case, this Italian crime curiosity is notable for showcasing some of the hallmark gore Maestro Lucio Fulci would later bring to the big screen in The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.

Don’t Torture a Duckling, aka Non si sevizia un paperino, like the later New York Ripper, also features Donald Duck; however, it’s in passing reference, and not as a key killer character trait (the killer in the latter adopting that quacky voice to thwart NYPD detectives, which has haunted horror hounds since 1982).

Here, the fictional small town of Accendura is rocked by the death of three local rapscallions, Bruno, Michele, and Tonino. What ensues is a media circus not unlike the one cartwheeling weirdo Amanda Knox brought to the city of Perugia (where the giallo, Torso, is set, incidentally).

Martelli (Cuban-born Italian genre stalwart Tomas Milian) is a big-city journalist who brings gumption and Burton Cummings facial hair to the town, asking probing questions and eventually befriending a nympho Milanese supermodel, Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet, see accompanying poster) and a priest (as one does) to get to to the bottom of the killings.

Don’t Torture a Duckling, released by Arrow on Blu-ray, features a number of hilarious set-pieces, and enough weirdness to carry the day.

This includes: a village idiot and peeping Tom, Giuseppe (taunted by the boys in a truly bizarre set-up involving ladies of the evening retiring to a country shack); some of the most laughable exposition you’ll ever see (even for an Italian horror), Voodoo dolls; and yes, Patrizia securing Orangina* from a youngster while she reclines in the buff (again, see accompanying poster).

Fulci fans will forgive a veritable Smørrebrød of pickled red herrings, as he is able to create some unforgettable elements (as usual) and enough to keep the viewer engaged.

Of particular note, the incredible score by Grammy winner Riziero Ortolani, who provided the soundtrack to our nightmares in Cannibal Holocaust (1980), House on the Edge of the Park (1980) and Madhouse (1981).

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our Don’t Torture a Duckling discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

*a delicious, lightly carbonated Italian fruit drink.