13 April, 2009


Product choices...

Drive-in culture...

56 is too young to die.

That was my first thought upon hearing about yesterday's death of Marilyn Chambers.
Born the same year as myself (1952) I remember her image on the boxes of Ivory Snow and saw her breakthrough film BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR at a local adult theater when it first came out in 1972. I wasn't really that impressed with the film or her. I did find it better than that other 1972 hardcore cultural landmark, DEEP THROAT, and found her a more mysterious and fascinating presence than the also late Linda Lovelace.
Then came a summer 1977 drive-in visit to David Cronenberg's RABID. I was immediately taken by the way she made the disease carrying Rose, the main character, sympathetic and ultimately tragic. Her performance was compelling, moving and haunting. I still think it's one of Cronenberg's best and most subversive films, in a career of subversive, personal, fantastic cinema.
I wish she had appeared in more films like RABID. But she was a singular presence and brought something unique to erotic cinema.

[Two corrections and a comment: The Mitchell Brothers movie was BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR not BEYOND... and her image appeared on containers of Ivory Snow. So much for my memories of 1970's iconography! I read the NEW YORK TIMES obit today and was reminded that she was replaced as the wholesome Ivory Snow lady. Her image as a "pure" mainstream mother was tarnished forever in their estimation. BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR, though, also projected her into mainstream consciousness with a polar opposite image. That was when hardcore managed to get a degree of mainstream acceptance. After RABID she found that she couldn't finally, in her own words, "cross over." That was the mainstream's loss, in my opinion. Given that RABID was perhaps the first AIDS allegory-horror film she gave it a human heart playing the tortured soul at its center. She displayed a wide range of emotions, from confusion to desperation, as she seduced and "stung" her victims with a phallic-like stinger in her armpit. It's grotesque to watch but it's also a clever reversal of act of sexual intercourse with the female as the penetrator. The Canadian Somerville House disc is highly recommended and features an interview with Cronenberg who discusses how Chambers handled herself on the set.]

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Anonymous said...

What a strange coincidence. I just picked up the Canadian disc of RABID a few days ago. I had seen the film years ago but remembered little of it. But you're right, Chambers turns in a moving performance.

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Cronenberg's earlier work is miles away better than the recent stuff he has been giving us. RABID is a favorite, but I have a soft spot for SCANNERS.