As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
From filmmaker Ted Post, the director of my fourth favorite Planet of the Apes film and first favorite Dirty Harry film (Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Magnum Force respectively) comes The Baby. A beautifully bizarre shocksploitation gem from 1973 that challenges both conventional ideas of nature vs. nurture as well general audience taboos.
As the film opens we are introduced to social worker Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer of The Appaloosa, Guns for San Sebastian) as she is going over her new case. Gentry newest case is that of the ultimate man-child, the eponymous Baby played to perfection by David Mooney (credited in the film, perhaps ironically, as David Manzy). Ann’s crusade to help Baby is stifled at every turn by his coddling mother, the maniacal Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train) and his two sinister sisters, Alba and Germaine, who abuse Baby both physically and sexually. As the film crawls toward it’s grisly climax, we soon learn that Ann’s interest in Baby is not quite as altruistic as it seems.
For a film with no nudity and relatively reserved violence (save for the film’s wonderfully explicit finale), it is amazing how otherwise lurid and depraved this little psychological horror title can be. Look no further than the infamous babysitter/nursing scene. Director Post masterfully crafts an admirably uncomfortable cult favorite worthy of Waters’ Pink Flamingos. Mooney’s wonderfully regressed infantile performance is a pure hoot. Roman’s role as overbearing mother lends Golden Age Hollywood glamour to this drive-in drama (much akin to Elsa Lanchester’s similarly overbearing mom in 1971’s Willard).
Susanne Zenor and Marianna Hill are phenomenal as the films two twisted sisters, Zenor having appeared in minor roles in Play it Again Sam and The Way We Were, Hill featured in such classics as High Plains Drifter and The Godfather Part II. Comer is wonderfully sly as Ann, our good natured protagonist with a hidden agenda up her sleeve, and we get an exceptional cameo from 70s/80s character actor Michael Pataki (Rocky IV, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins) as he attempts to hit on Ann during one of the most bizarre birthdays in cinema history.
More than 45 years after the film’s initial release, Arrow Video beautifully restores this oddity of 70s cinema in a high def (1080p) Blu-ray release replete with a brand new audio commentary track by Arrow regular Travis Crawford, a new retrospective, Down Will Come Baby, hosted by Fangoria’s own Rebekah McKendry, archival interviews with the director and cast, and more. This Blu-ray release is a must have for grindhouse fans everywhere.