REVIEW: THE BABY (1973)
Severin Films have brought to dvd one of the strangest films that I have ever seen for quite some time. Bizarre does not even begin to explain the twisted subject matter contained within this Hollywood production. In fact, I can honestly say that never have I seen a film rated PG that has left such a disturbing and confused feeling within me.
The Baby, directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force, Hang Em High), is a psychological horror film starring Anjanette Comer as Ann Gentry, a social worker in L.A. County whom is assigned to investigate the case of the Wadsworth family and their son, known only as “Baby”. A social worker investigating a family is run-of-the-mill for families on financial support that receive a check every month except in the case of the Wadsworth family: Mrs. Wadsworth (former ’50s starlet Ruth Roman), Germaine (Marianna Hill), and Alba (Susanne Zenor). The Wadsworth daughters prance around the home, dressed in very sexy, skimpy outfits and are the kind of daughters that know they have attractive bodies and and killer racks to boot.
So far, this family just seemed quirky to me, that was until “Baby” was introduced. Baby is a grown man, probably in his mid-20’s, whom is dressed as if he was 2 or 3 years old and is in a giant wooden crib. The young man cannot talk, walk, or possesses any other high-functioning traits. The interesting thing about the plot to this film is the manner in which director Post and writer Abe Polsky (The Rebel Rousers) present the story and the facts at hand to the viewers. Baby and his quasi-twisted family are presented as just being a little bit off, and as more of the story unfolds subtle characteristics and personalities are slowly oozed out into the plot of the film. Viewers are not only learning more and more about the family and its dynamics, but also about all the characters in the film. Social worker Ann is, or was, also married. Ann seems reluctant to talk about her past and her private life. I was intrigued and curious to learn more about Ann and the rest of the Wadsworth family and the story feeds the viewers a little bit at a time, keeping one glued to the screen to find out what exactly will happen next. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so damn much!
From the synopsis of the film, I was hooked. As more facts about the characters are divulged, my interest in the story was piqued even more. Just as a little kid walking down the street is lured with candy into getting into the van with the “nice” stranger, I was lured into watching more of the movie and finding out its ending. Except, I was not going to meet an untimely demise by Chester the Molester in his big, black, dark van. I was, instead, going to be privy to one of the most interesting and creepy endings to a horror film that was not filled with a plethora of gore, blood, guts and nudity or violence. Instead, The Baby is a very intelligently crafted psychological thriller of the better variety and execution.
I said there was no nudity or gore/violence in the film, but there is definitely a great deal of sexuality. The two sisters definitely have an unhealthy desire and sex drive, especially considering one likes to go into Baby’s crib, undress, and sleep with him. Yeah, there is some possible incest going on as well. How fucked up is that? Viewers are led to believe she is screwing the fully-developed, mentally under-developed young man. If that is not enough, the baby is caught in another scene groping and sucking on his babysitter’s bare breast (which viewers are not shown) but the scene is carefully edited so no nipple is present. The film continues to plod along, crossing more and more boundaries that society has set for itself. Take into consideration that this film came out in 1973 from a major Hollywood studio with a solid cast and budget. I can see why Post was reluctant to direct this film’s unique story initially.
I should say that there is some blood in the film, near the end, and a small bit of violence throughout the film. Probably one of the more shocking films in the movie is a scene where Baby is being punished and is getting shocked with a cattle prod by one of his sisters for punishment. What is he being punished for, you ask? No, not crapping in his diaper but for attempting to walk, talk, and communicate. Yeah, the family does not want Baby to develop any normal child developmental skills.
Another outstanding component to the film was the soundtrack. Gerald Fried (The Killing, Paths of Glory) wrote the original music to the film. I loved it! It had a creepy yet epic film quality to it. The soundtrack just sounded big and extravagant at times, as though Bernard Hermann or John Williams had written it, but then always slides back down to a dark subtlety. It had that big-deal sound to it, as though the world had discovered a solution to A.I.D.S. or cancer, but always went back to a dark, submissive style and dark ending. The sound had a very edgy and dark quality to it, a tinge of terror thrown into each piece of music. The violins in the soundtrack worked to achieve a doom-like stir within the viewer.
Baby, played by David Mooney, really got into his role and really did an amazing job throughout the whole film. I had no trouble at all of being convinced to Baby’s authenticity as an infant trapped in a young man’s body. The story is creepy, well-written, and the acting within the film is top-notch. Mrs. Wadsworth reminded me of the performance Bette Davis gave as the evil Baby Jane Hudson who locked up her physically handicapped sister up in her house both night and day. In the end, this film seems like a tale of good vs. evil. Or is it?
Severin Films have fully restored the original film negative and presented this dvd in a widescreen format (1.66.1) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital mono. Special Features within the dvd include Tales from the Crib: An Audio Interview with Director Ted Post, as well as Baby Talk: an Audio Interview with the star David Mooney. I highly recommend pickup up the Severin release of The Baby, as it is a must-have in one’s collection.