Marilyn Chambers, probably best known for her role in Behind The Green Door, the first hardcore pornography to go mainstream, has passed away. Chambers had worked as a model and an actress before stumbling into the career that made her one of the great cinematic icons of the ’70s.
To many film fans, myself included, Chambers will best be remembered as the lead in David Cronenberg’s second commercial feature film, Rabid. Chambers plays Rose, a woman who undergoes experimental surgery that inadvertently changes her physiology such that she craves blood, with her victims becoming infectious psychopaths. Cronenberg originally wanted Sissy Spacek for the role, but when that didn’t turn out, producer Ivan Reitman suggested Chambers. Reading that back, I realize that Canada was a truly groovy place back then.
As great as Spacek would have been, Chambers’ combination of wide-eyed naivety and predatory sexuality adds a considerable amount of weight to what could have been Cronenberg’s sophomore slump. An ordinary woman transformed against her will, and without the capability to understand the damage she’s causing, Rose is one of the great misunderstood cinematic monsters of all time, and Chambers handles it wonderfully.