April 13, 2009

Marilyn Chambers (1952-2009)

Marilyn Chambers, star of Rabid, was found dead today at 56.

Marilyn Chambers is best known as a porn actress who starred in Behind the Green Door and other adult films; however, she made attempts to be known as more than a porn star. In the 70s and 80s, she tried to break into mainstream film. During this period, she became known to horror and zombie fans for her role in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1977).

In Rabid, Marilyn played Rose: a female motorcycle accident victim whose life is saved by an experimental transplant surgery. This surgery leaves her with a mutated, blood-sucking appendage and an insatiable, almost sexual, need to penetrate others and feed from them. Her victims develop a rabies-like disease that drives them to insanely attack and bite other people. I consider Rabid to be a zombie film for the way it avoids the tropes of the vampire and prefigures the "infected" as zombie similar to those which would later appear in films like Nightmare City, 28 Weeks Later, and Quarantine.

I also consider Marilyn a lost talent. I'm not too familiar with her adult film work, but in Rabid she brought a lot of heart to the film in her role the doomed woman. The movie succeeds because her emotions appear honestly conflicted. I think it is a shame that Marilyn never found mainstream success.

Marilyn Chambers was found dead in her Los Angeles home.

The Los Angeles coroner's office said an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of her death late on Sunday night.