Shivers (1975) from Tuna

Shivers (1975) marked the feature film directorial debut of David "Deprave" Cronenberg, the king of venereal horror.
He wrote the script, which had a working title of "The Parasite Murders," and had no trouble at all convincing Cinépix, the Canadian equivalent of Roger Corman, to make the film. He had an uphill battle getting them to let him direct it. They felt that he had no experience making a feature film, and they were right. On the other hand, the script looked like the entry into the American market that they were looking for. After nearly three years, they let Cronenberg direct, and he remembers attending the first production meeting, and having no idea at all what each person at the meeting did. Cinépix had anticipated this, and kept the budget low ($179,000.00), and surrounded Cronenberg with people who knew what they were doing.

When Cronenberg saw dailies from the first day, he panicked. Nothing looked the way he had intended. He began to despair about his ability to direct. By the third day, he had enough figured out that the dailies looked good. He decided that, not only could he direct, but that he might be very good at it. He preceded to make a film that would define his style and themes for the rest of his career. Cronenberg films tend to be horror, tend to be bloody, and tend to isolate one aspect of people, usually a sexual one. The plot device is usually an alien creature, or a medical condition.


The nurse, played by Lynn Lowry, does a very sexy strip where she knows the doc can see her. She is later seet wet and braless in the pool.

Cathy Graham is topless during the operation

One of the men first infected tries to infect his wife, Susan Petrie, and bares her breast in the process. She is also seen frequently in the film poking through her top.

There is also a wet t-shirt see through from horror veteren Barbara Steele.

The budget didn't allow hiring many trained actors, so much of the cast was amateur, including some women who were also seen nude.

Shivers could be thought of as an "Alien" clone, except for one small problem -- it was released 4 years before Alien. The film takes place in a high-rise apartment community on an island. A former medical professor has developed a parasite that, when, inside a human host, will raise the libido, and propagate venerealy. The good professor has been using a young woman who lives in the building as a test subject. When he realizes that his parasite has a far stronger effect than he planned, and is far more aggressive in multiplying, he decides to kill the parasites in the girl (played by Cathy Graham). He overcomes her, strips her, slices open her stomach, then goes after the parasites, which look very phallic, with acid. This fails, and he slits his own throat.

This would have been the end of it, but Graham, it seems, was a very popular young lady with the male tenants, and several of them have the parasite. The high rise has its own clinic, and the doctor discovers and tries to combat the parasite, which spreads rapidly through the building, turning all of the tenants into sex-crazed monsters. Susan Petrie had not yet gained the skill to cry on command, and relied on Cronenberg to slap her very hard in private before a scene that required tears. This raised a few eyebrows on the set before the reason was explained.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • The entire original version (fullscreen)

  • interview with Cronenberg.

  • transfer quality is amazingly good for a 25 year old film.

Is it a good film? From an historical perspective, it is certainly important. It was Cronenbergs first and defining film, and the first mass market horror film made in Canada.

Maltin was not impressed. Other reviewers see it as flawed but worth seeing, and some call it the most important horror film of the 70s. I give it a solid C. If you like horror at all, you need to see this one. The DVD has the entire original version (a cut version circulated under the title "They Came from Within), and interview with Cronenberg. 

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 1.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.7,
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is about a C.

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