Rabid. The title first burrowed its way into my psyche in the very early 80s when, not quite into my teens, I perused the densely printed “catalogue” (pamphlet, really) of Tadley Video Hire – a business that would deliver tapes from a car to your door during the nascent home-video boom, in the days even before rental stores were particularly established.
I had no idea at the time what the film was actually “about”, specifically – beyond its title; and I certainly had no inkling back then that it was directed by one David Cronenberg, who would later ascend to claim the very throne of my cinematic obsession-empire. I just knew it had to be almost unbearably terrifying; a film that I should – in all likelihood – never, ever watch.
You see, in those days, I was really only afraid of two things – that I can recall: nuclear holocaust, and Rabies.
The first of these was a shadowy, far-off spectre; it might or might not come, and if it did there was next to bugger all I could do about it, and roughly 4 minutes in which to do it. (According to the cheery information pamphlets – ahh, ‘Protect and Survive’… and public service films.)
Rabies, however, was a menacing threat poised at the very edge of Europe, just salivating at the jaws (I know, I know) to find its way across the Channel and set up home on our Island. Every summer holiday in France would start on board a ferry literally festooned with posters proclaiming “RABIES IS A KILLER”, and imploring us “DON’T SMUGGLE DEATH”. The first night on enemy soil we would usually not have made it to our ultimate destination further south, and would park the caravan up for the night in a layby – usually one bordered by woods and fields. Going out in the dark for the last nature-call before bedtime would be an exercise in fear; I was certain that from those shadowed depths I was being watched by crazed, yellowing eyes, and sized-up by foaming teeth.
That there was a film promising to bring my worst nightmares to excuciating life (so I thought – I imagined it to be like ‘The Mad Death’ crossed with ‘Friday 13th’) was too much to contemplate.
Roll forward some years, and of course I found the film – as with several others in that heady tome of rentable nightmares – to be nothing like I’d imagined. In fact it is a far more nuanced and interesting work, one central to Cronenberg’s early “Body Horror” oeuvre. As such, it had been on my hit-list for location visits for many years, but this part of Canada had always managed to elude my travels. However, I finally rectified that this past April when – via running the 2017 Boston Marathon and then a brief overnighter in NYC, we took the Adirondack route Amtrak from Penn Station and, some 11hrs later, rolled into Montreal.
Most of an incredibly grey and wet Friday morning was spent walking between various points of interest – including two Rabid locations. The first of these was the ‘adult’ cinema that Rose visits to snag another victim. The original Eve Cinema was largely destroyed by fire years ago, but its reincarnation can be found on Boulevard St. Laurent, near the junction with Sainte-Catherine:
It now resides under the name ‘Club Soda’, and is a venue for live music and theatre, but the frontage still looks very similar to how did in the 70s:
As an interesting side-note: in the main image to this page, Rose is stood next to a poster for Brian De Palma’s ‘Carrie’, the star of which – Sissy Spacek – was Cronenberg’s original choice to play the Rose role in Rabid.
An interlude followed in the Rabid-rambling; in the spirit of holiday-equity, we walked a distance North to find a yarn shop that my wife wanted to investigate. (It was by her account excellent, and she spent many happy minutes looking at all its wares.) Fortuitously, it was also not hugely far as the crow flies – or indeed as the cinephile walks – from another Rabid landmark, Hôpital Notre-Dame – the hospital in which Rose’s first victim is treated, and from which his self-discharge initiates the main outbreak in Montreal. The hospital can be found at 1560 Rue Sherbrooke E, and – as with much we saw in the city – it retains its 70s grimness rather well. (Seriously – Montreal is quite the treat for fans of concrete and brutalist style architecture.)
After the Hospital, we made our way back to St. Laurent and up to Schwartz’s Deli for lunch, where I sampled the much-renowned “smoked meat” sandwiches (delicious). Great place, think Katz’s Deli reduced to the size of a greasy spoon and without so much faff. I mention the lunch stop specifically, because on request they gave me a plastic bag to keep a half-eaten pickle in. More of which in another post…
The following morning, whilst my wife went off to run a 5K over on Ile St. Helene / Notre Dame, I went off in search of the final Rabid-landmark for the visit, the tower block where Rose stays at her friend’s apartment. This can be easily found at 2121 Rue St. Mathieu, just a short walk from the Guy-Concordia metro stop:
As can be seen from the movie-still above, and the photo I took below – very little has changed. It’s still 70s concrete-a-go-go, and even the light fixtures look pretty much identical.
That wrapped it up for Rabid on this visit; there are a couple of other landmarks – amongst them Cavendish Mall – that were just a bit too out of the way to include in my itinerary. Similarly, there are a couple of locations from ‘Scanners’ that will have to wait for another visit, one day.
Remember to keep your windows up and your doors locked once you get into the city. Maybe the bug can’t get you now, but that… that won’t protect you from the crazies.