Directed by Twilight Zone veteran Ted Post and written by schlock scribe Abe Polsky, The Baby is a standout of ’70s unhinged depravity. I saw it for the first time last year through Cinemageddon, an obscure movie lover’s wet dream website. Last week, schlock film distributors extraordinaires Severin Films announced that they will be rereleasing The Baby. It was originally released on DVD in 2005. I’m not sure of the quality of that one, but judging from Severin’s treatment of Psychomania and Hardware, The Baby is going to get the primo-fucking release it deserves. Trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything like it.
It’s not gory or sexually explicit. It didn’t push the limits of the film censors. And, surprisingly, it’s not the film’s premise that shocks. The sight of a 30-year-old man dressed and acting like a baby seems to shock very little people – even in the film. For me, it’s the twist at the end that left me open-mouthed as well as the well-executed ingredients sprinkled over this exploitation romp.
Dig: Social worker Anjanette (Ann Gentry) is sent to check out the Wadsworth family. They’re known for being an eccentric clan, made up of Mother, her two daughters Germaine and Alba, and Baby. Baby, that’s his only name, is in fact not a baby at all. He’s a 30-year-old man who sleeps in an oversized crib and wears adult diapers. Baby has the mental capacity of, yeah, a baby. Anjanette quickly becomes obsessed with Baby and attempts to spark his development from man-baby to baby. But Mother Wadsworth and her kin aren’t too keen on the idea of Baby “growing up.”
The Mother, played by Ruth Roman – 20 years after her lead in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train – is the beast matriarch from hell. She wants nothing to do with social services other than the check they send her. Her two daughters complete the suburban trinity of evil that will resort to violence and murder to protect Baby. The only loose end here is why they want to protect Baby and impede his development. Maybe it’s just collecting the check from social services, but that seems like a pretty weak reason.
The only – seriously the ONLY – beef I have with this film is that the birthday party scene at the end of the second act goes on for way too long. It’s filled with lengthy, extraneous shots of psychedelic lighting, annoying organ jazz, and uncomfortable, repetitive dancing. It’s a pretty pivotal scene, but the irrevelant dancing is dumb and some cutting could have benefited the entire movie. Other than that small problem the film is paced really tight with equal parts suspense and silly shock mixed throughout.
The final 10 minutes are a chaotic trip into motherly hell that connects all the dots that have been stacked up over the first 80 minutes – like rabbit punches to the face. I like that. I like when reveals are delivered in rapid succession and barely give you time to catch your breath. The climax of The Baby delivers that kind of relentless, ballsiness that may not make sense, but is undeniably entertaining.