Sunday, June 8, 2014

THE BABY (1973)

THE BABY  (1973)
Label: Severin Films
Release Date: July 8th 2014
Region: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 84 Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: English LPCM Mono 2.0
Director: Ted Post
Cast: Anjanette Comer, Ruth Rothman, Marianne Hill, Suzanne Zenor, Rod Andrews, Michael Pataki, Beatrice Blau, David Manzy

The 1970's unleashed very some strange cinema and THE BABY (1973) is definitely one of the WEIRDEST -  it's one of those strange brews you won't soon forget. Coming to us from Ted Post, the director of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) and MAGNUM FORCE (1973). The plot concerns a social worker named Ann (Anjanette Comer) who's been assigned to the  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 (Marianna Hill, MESSIAH OF EVIL) and Alba (Susanne Zenor), care for a strange child named only Baby. 

No ordinary infant 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.

Not surprisingly there are indeed some odd things happening 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! Quite a sexually confusing scenario, that babysitter is 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, 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 blond 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 ax murders that had me screaming what-the-fuck with demented glee.

Blu-ray: Severin give THE BABY a decent 1080p upgrade with improved clarity and some very minor depth with a pleasing layer of fine film grain and along with it a bit of digital noise. The same critique of the previous standard-def presentation apply with black levels that appear more grey than deep black and the colors that seem a bit muted and soft. The English language LPCM Mono audio sounds fine with both the dialogue and the Gerald Fried (PATHS OF GLORY) score coming through with clarity if not a lot of dynamic power.

Extras carried over from the DVD include two audio interviews director Ted Post and star David Mooney performed over the telephone by the sound of it. Ted Post was 93 years old at the time of the interview and was still quite lucid in respect to the development of and the odd nature of the subject matter. 

Star David Mooney who portrayed the titular character is currently a high school teacher in San Antonio, Texas and fondly recalls his audition experience and working with the women on the film. Lastly we get the original theatrical trailer for this odd little film. 

Not the most spectacular Blu-ray upgrade I've seen but I do love the movie quite a bit and if you don't already own the DVD from Severin this is an easy recommend, the upgrade is a bit harder to justify.

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)

Verdict: This is one  strange slice of 70's exploitation that will leave you dumbfounded as you wonder just how the Hell did this demented film get a PG rating with all that twisted sexual tension and odd predatory tendencies?  You may think you seen it all but you haven't seen it ALL unless you've seen THE BABY. 3.5 outta 5