Ruth Roman – once a respected Hollywood leading lady in the 1950s – starred in a series of low budget exploitation films in the 1970s like THE KILLING KIND, IMPULSE and DAY OF THE ANIMALS, as well as this bizarre offering. Along with 1971's BLOOD AND LACE (when is this AIP gem ever going to see a home video release?), this has to be one of the nastiest films to get away with a PG rating. Over a decase ago, Image Entertainment released this title on DVD with the tagline, “The rarely seen 70s cult shocker”, and now Severin Films' spiffed up HD transfer (released on DVD just a few years ago) gets a surprise Blu-ray issue.
Roman stars as Mrs. Wadsworth, an eccentric single mother with two attractive but very weird daughters (Mariana Hill and Susanne Zenor) and her full-grown, but mentally retarded son, Baby (David Manzy). Baby lives up to his name by crawling around the house in diapers or sucking on a bottle in his playpen. The family wants no part of trying to improve Baby's state of mind, they'd much rather see him as the infantile mess that he is. Without any success, social workers have come and gone to the Wadsworth house, one even disappeared altogether.
One sympathetic social worker, Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer, who also went south of the border to star in Rene Cardona Jr.'s NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS) arrives at the Wadsworth doorstep to investigate the situation. She soon becomes obsessed with Baby, seeing growth potential and wanting to take him to an outside clinic, but the family detests Ann's devotion to their backwards sibling. Mrs. Wadsworth deliberately declines Ann's suggestions to help Baby, and she forbids her to come around anymore. After the bitter falling out, Mrs. Wadsworth makes amends and invites Ann to a birthday party for Baby. When she arrives, she is greeted to a house full of oddballs, not a suitable atmosphere for a "baby." In the midst of the celebration, the mother and the two daughters drug Ann and tie her up in the basement, scheming to do away with her once all the guests have left. Ann is able to set herself free and escapes with Baby, and it turns out she has a scheme of her own when Mrs. Wadsworth and her daughters break into her house to get back Baby.
I don't want to give too much more of the plot away, but if you're seeing this for the first time, you're in for a nice surprise. THE BABY has a unique, suspenseful script by Abe Polsky (REBEL ROUSERS, THE GAY DECEIVERS), and competent direction by veteran Ted Post (BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, MAGNUM FORCE). Post is able to get great, over the top performances from his cast, especially Roman who is perfectly bitchy as Mrs. Wadsworth. Hill also starred in another now-classic low budget 1970s horror film, MESSIAH OF EVIL, and Zenor often appears in dumb blonde roles (check out the great 1973 black comedy telefilm, THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO). Exploitation favorite Michael Pataki (RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE) plays a pot smoking womanizer in the party scene.
THE BABY exhibits some very morbid scenes. A babysitter goes to Baby's room to comfort the full-sized infant and he forcefully starts feasting on her breast. She doesn't reject him, and when the family bursts into the room, Mrs. Wadsworth starts whipping the hell out of the poor girl, leaving her with a kisser full of blood. Other sick scenes have Baby being punished with a long shock stick, and Hill is seen disrobing and getting into Baby's crib in the middle of the night. Some of the scenes with Baby resemble a tasteless “Saturday Night Live” skit (they unconvincingly dub in the cries of a real baby) and due to its limited budget, at times the film comes off like an ABC Movie of the Week. But it's the tension between Comer's character and the trio of crazy females that make THE BABY interesting, as well as the unforgettable climax.
Severin’s released THE BABY on DVD in 2011 in a transfer restored from the original negative, but have now used the same source for this excellent-looking HD presentation on Blu-ray. Presented in full 1080p resolution in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image is solid, with distinct colors, pleasing fleshtones and fine detail, even in some of the darker scenes. The overall picture is mostly dirt and debris free and the LPCM 2.0 English mono track (which was very scratchy on the old Image Entertainment DVD) is perfectly clear. The Image disc did offer an isolated track for Gerald Fried’s score and a secondary Spanish language track, but unless those factors are really important to you, this Blu-ray makes that original release worthless and it’s definitely worth an upgrade even if you have Severin’s previous DVD.
The extras on the Blu-ray were previously available on Severin's DVD release. “Tales From The Crib: A Conversation With Ted Post” (19:59) is a telephone chat with the late director, discussing THE BABY exclusively. Post recalls reluctantly doing the project at writer/co-producer Abe Polsky's persistence, and he now seems content with end result. Post discusses some of the characters (the babysitter scene is of course touched upon), the hiring of Ruth Roman and how he wanted to do something different than the average horror film. Actor David (Manzy) Mooney is also in hand for a telephone discussion (11:46) which covers all the bases. He discusses getting the part and how he approached it, how he got on with all his co-stars, and the after-effect the film had on his career. The original sleazy theatrical trailer rounds out the Blu-ray's extras. (George R. Reis)
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