(Thank you, NoMoreHeroes!)
As far as commercial horror flicks of the 1970’s go they don’t get more disturbing than The Baby, a completely bizarre 1973 gem you have to see to believe. And even after you’ve seen it, you’ll probably want to watch it again just to make sure you weren’t having a really wild nightmare. Granted, the film has a few major flaws, some of which come from the writing and pacing. But chances are you’ll be so thrown off by some of the surreal acting and completely insane scenes that you’ll forgive this one for its faults.
It’ll definitely stick in your head for a while afterward, especially if you don’t see the surprise ending winding up to knock you right off the couch. Anajette Comer plays Ann, a social worker who is given the case of Baby, a 21-year old man kept in diapers and an oversize crib by his overbearing mother played by the gorgeous Ruth Roman (channeling Joan Crawford, Joan Collins and Liz Taylor) and two very pretty, very sexy yet verrrrrry peculiar sisters (Marianna Hill and Susanne Zenor). For sheer squirm in your seat value, the film scores big by tossing assorted mental and physical abuses into your lap and letting you figure out where the hell it’s going before taking a big U-turn into WTF territory…
After initially meeting with Baby and his family, Ann pretty much turns into the worst social worker ever by not doing much in the way of reporting her findings to the appropriate authorities. Sure, she makes an effort at it early on and a few times you think the film will go in a certain direction. However, between her stupid boss and her own quirky antics (she seems a wee bit too preoccupied with Baby), it’s hard to find Ann a completely sympathetic character. That said, I’m betting it’s exactly what writer Abe Polsky and director Ted Post were aiming for.
The film does suffer from the “men writing women” syndrome in that the ladies in Baby’s family are crazy as cray-cray gets (plus tax) and every other woman you see on screen with a speaking part has her own issues that make for an intriguing viewing experience. If the babysitter sequence doesn’t have your eyeballs jumping in your popcorn to hide (or cleanse themselves in salt and “butter”), it’ll be the shocking (and thankfully brief) tiptoe into incest the film takes. Or perhaps it’ll be the truly baffling birthday party that features some awfully lousy pre-disco music sucking the life from your eardrums where your brain loses its mind.
The actual “horror” here comes from the psychological curves all over the place and yep, that last 20 minutes of the film. Still, there are other horrors lurking about in the dialog and performances. Hang onto your cushions for dear life, as for some reason, you end up in an actual school for special needs kids (who Comer calls “retards” earlier in the film – remember, folks… this is 1973 we’re talking about) and that birthday party goes off the deep end with a horny party guest who gets in a few funny lines but ends up leaving unfulfilled.
As far as violence goes, it’s mild and mostly off-screen (there are network shows far bloodier), but the bulk of it comes during that climax which may or may not make you laugh or cringe even more that you were earlier. If you want to watch this, send the kids (if you have them) off to grandma’s or something, don’t take any controlled substances (trust me, the film will be all you need) and be prepared to have your mind b-l-o-w-n big time.