Posted September 19, 2018 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

The Baby (1973) Blu-ray Review

The Baby (1973) is one of the oddest of films. Last year the British slasher comedy Adult Babies was released about a house full of… well, adult babies. This film, however, has the audacity to mostly take itself seriously. Made in the 1970s, in an age where it would seem there was a lot more freedom in making films like this. It came right at the tail end of 10 years of what have disparagingly called Hagspoitation films (I hate that term, or an even worse the pejorative, psycho-biddy films) that began with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1963) and continued with Hush, …Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) (again starring Bette Davis, this time with Olivia de Havilland and Agnes Moorehead), continuing with other similar titles as Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969) (Ruth Gordon), Who Slew Auntie Roo? (Shelley Winters) and Whats the Matter with Helen?¬†(both 1971) (with Winters again and Debbie Reynolds). Ruth Roman who had starred as Farley Granger’s fiancee in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) is the raspy voiced matriarch in The Baby, in one of the last of these type of films.

The film opens with a social worker, Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) taking on a new case of looking after a 21-year-old man who is mentally ill and as a result treated as a baby and behaves like a baby. Ann has asked to take on this case and grows close to the man, simply known to the family as Baby (David Mooney). Baby lives with his domineering single mother (Roman) and two sisters, Germaine (Marianna Hill) and Alba (Susanne Zenor). They are both wary and show their disdain for Ann, while the mother is sneering and dismissive. Their protectiveness of Baby extends to when they walk in on the babysitter actually breast feeding Baby (in one of the films more sexualised and frankly hilarious moments) and beat her.

Ann fights to have the child removed from their custody when she realises that Baby is being treated cruelly by both the mother and the odd and equally disturbed sisters. It transpires that the mother had been abandoned by the men in her life and seems to be taking out her revenge on the only man in her life and infantilises him. This leads to the films bloody conclusion. Childhood psychology is at the heart of this film, as it is with all the above mentioned, but doesn’t become a horror film until its bloody conclusion. Surprisingly it was directed by Ted Post who had helmed¬†Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and made the hit Dirty Harry sequel, Magnum Force (1973) starring Clint Eastwood just after this film. It was based off a story and script by Abe Polsky (who also produced for Scotia International), but has done little else. On the extras on this Arrow Video release, there is an audio only interview with Post who seems to show a certain amount of pride at making this film and although doesn’t exactly take it seriously, it does demonstrate that Post is not embarrassed by it. Elsewhere on the disc, on another extra, Marianna Hill (who also starred with Eastwood in High Plains Drifter, also in 1973) describes how much fun was had on the set.

The key performance of course is Mooney as Baby who makes all the goo-goo-gaga noises and studied movements of a baby (as well as an apparently dubbed baby cry) that is both fascinating to watch and absurd and funny in equal measure. With Roman’s grand guignol performance, including the bloody conclusion, this is a funny and one of the oddest films you’re ever likely to see. As this is a pretty crappy film, it probably needs its nappy changing.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick