Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DVD Review: The Baby (1972)

The Baby (1972)

Label: Severin Films
Release Date: June 28th 2011
Region: Region 0 NTSC
Rating: PG
Duration: 84 mins
Video: 1.66:1 Widescreen 16x9
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Director: Ted Post
Cast: Anjanette Comer, Ruth Rothman, Marianne Hill, Suzanne Zenor, Rod Andrews, Michael Pataki, Beatrice Blau, David Manzy
Tagline: Pray you don't learn the secret of... The Baby!

The crazy 1970's unleashed some strange cinematic experiences upon theatre goers and this is one of the strangest of all. Sure, there's the usual assortment of odd films, the offbeat and weird and then there's the really WEIRD - and this is one of those latter strange brews you'll not soon forget. Coming to us from Ted Post, the director of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Magnum Force (1973), the plot of The Baby deals with a social worker named Ann (Anjanette Comer) who's been assigned to the rather bizarre case of the Wadsworth family. The head of the clan is the intensely creepy Mrs.Wadsworth (Ruth Roman, Strangers on a Train), who along with her two knockout but equally nutty daughters Germaine (Mairianna Hill, Messiah of Evil) and Alba (Susanne Zenor), care for a child named only Baby.

No ordinary infant by any means "Baby" is in fact a 21 year old man with severe mental retardation. He wears adult sized diapers, has a crib and a playpen, bottle feeds, and soils himself. Social worker Anne is concerned by the man-child's lack of development and suspects that years of cruelty and negative reinforcement at the hands of the family have stunted his natural development. Anne tries to teach Baby rudimentary words and to stand and walk on his own but the family wants nothing to do with furthering his development which leads to a bitter war of words. Eventually Anne becomes more and more obsessed with the child for her own demented reasons and takes Baby from the home which sparks a vicious battle for the infant-minded man.

Well, Anne was right. There are indeed some sleazy goings-on at the household, and it's not just relegated to the women of the house either. The teen babysitter even gets in on the freaky action in a weird encounter that ends with Baby suckling her breast, what a sexually confusing scenario for all concerned, you just know she's gonna be fucked-up for life, just like everyone else in the film. Ruth Roman's mother character is a mix of Mommy Dearest intensity and John Waters' Serial Mom insanity. The sisters are an odd pair, too. Germaine is a creepy beauty with quite the hair-do whom lends some implied incestuous overtones to the proceedings by shedding her nightgown and crawling into Baby's crib while Alba is a cruel blonde vixen who enjoys punishing Baby with an electric cattle prod while screaming "Baby doesn't talk! Baby doesn't walk!". The film is offbeat from the get-go but only gets weirder as it goes along including a psychedelic birthday party for baby right up to a bizarre crescendo that defies expectations with a series of unexpected axe murders that had me muttering what-the-fuck.

DVD: Severin have restored from the film from original negative elements and present The Baby in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio. A criticism of the transfer would be that the black levels are quite weak and appear more grey than black throughout. The colors also seem desaturated and muted, it's a very dull presentation in my opinion. The Dolby Digital Mono audio sounds fine and both the dialogue and the Gerald Fried (Paths of Glory) score sound quite good if not overly dynamic. There are no subtitle options.

Special features include two audio interviews performed over the telephone by the sound of it. Both interviews are intercut with footage from the film. Tales from the Crib: Audio interview with Director Ted Post is an interview with the now 93 year old director Ted Post who's still lucid and speaks about the development of the film, the actors and the odd nature of the subject matter. Baby Talk: Audio Interview with star David Mooney is with the man who played "Baby" and is now an high school teacher in San Antonio, Texas whom fondly recalls his audition experience and working with the women on the film including some possible hostlity between Anjanette Comer and Ruth Rothman. The third and final feature is the original theatrical trailer.

Special Features:
- Tales from the Crib: Audio interview with Director Ted Post (20:00)
- Baby Talk: Audio Interview with star David Mooney (11:47)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:46) 16x9
- Severin Trailers: Psychomania (2:51), In The Folds of the Flesh (3:21), Horror Express (2:54) 16x9

Verdict: This is a bizarre slice of oddball 70's exploitation cinema that will leave you in that most wonderful of states, dubfounded, while you wonder to yourself how the Hell did this twisted film get a PG rating? You may think you seen it all, been there and done that, but you haven't seen it ALL unless you've seen The Baby. 3.5 outta 5