Director: Ted Post
Screenplay: Abe Polsky
Starring: Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman, Marianna Hill, David Mooney
Duration: 85 min
BBFC Certification: 15
British TV comedy Little Britain was a huge hit in the early 2000s, with fans loving its irreverent and politically incorrect humour. Whilst watching Ted Post’s The Baby, I couldn’t help but think of a particular sketch from the TV show – a sketch where a middle-aged man, when hungry, asks his mother for “bitty”, which leads to her then breastfeeding said man. All in all, a bizarre but funny sketch. The Baby, whilst not a comedy, has an equally bizarre setup.
Social worker Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is assigned the case of the Wadsworth family and in particular “Baby” (David Mooney), a man in his 20s who has never developed beyond the infant stage. Cared for by his mother and two sisters, he still wears nappies, sleeps in a cot and cannot communicate beyond coos and cries. Ann takes a special interest in the case and inserts herself into the daily life of the Wadsworths, so she can spend as much time as possible with Baby.
Mama Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) doesn’t take too kindly to this, as all she wants is for Ann to sign off their case, so she can continue to receive her welfare cheque. When Ann comes to her with ideas about how to improve Baby’s condition, Mrs. Wadsworth lets her know she will not suffer her interfering in her family’s affairs. “Maybe you think too much,” she tells her. “When it comes to Baby, I do all the thinking.”
Youngest daughter Alba (Susanne Zenor) is a pigtailed blonde who gives tennis lessons for pocket money and hates Ann almost as much as Mama. She’s angry and out-of-control, taking delight in torturing Baby with a cattle prod. Eldest daughter Germaine (Marianna Hill) is the quiet, creepy sister, whose motivations for her kindness to both Baby and Ann prove to be somewhat less than altruistic.
While all the actors and actresses turn in fine performances, David Mooney steals the film. His performance as Baby is very believable and very disturbing. The sounds and expressions he makes, to his movements are absolutely spot on. When originally released, Mooney provided the cries and squeals of Baby. However, in this remastered version the screams and cries have been dubbed over by an actual baby – helping to make his performance more unsettling.
Reviewing The Baby, is not easy. At its heart is a surreally over the top grindhouse film, but the excellent acting from the cast and exceptional directing from Ted Post (Magnum Force, Beneath the Planet of The Apes) prevent it from being the bad B movie that the premise belongs to. Yes, some of the character’s motivations are a bit out there and there are some scenes that are rather uncomfortable to watch (especially the scene where the babysitter gives in to Baby’s need to breastfeed), but the film still shines. The finale is suitably tense leading to a twist, which although I guessed, is genuinely shocking.
As is always the case with these Arrow Video releases, we are treated to a plethora of extras. First up is a new audio commentary from film journalist Travis Crawford who gives a nicely detailed and thorough commentary on the film. Down Will Come Baby is a fun retrospective from film professor Rebekah McKendry remembering how she first discovered the film and ruminating on the pure bizarreness of it.
There are a number of new interviews included – one with Marianna Hill who took the role on the advice of her friend Clint Eastwood. She also talks fondly of director Ted Post and co-stars Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman and especially David Mooney. Another new interview with set designer Stanley Dyrector details the onset tension between Roman and Comer which is apparent in the final film.
Rounding off the extras are archival interviews with Ted Post and David Mooney and the obligatory trailer.
The Baby is an excellent example of 70s horror cinema and is a must watch for anyone looking for something a little different. A warning though, it’s not the most comfortable watch and you will feel like taking a shower afterwards.
The Baby is released by Arrow Video and includes as special features:
• Family Affair – An interview with actor Marianna Hill, Filmed July 2018 (6 Min)
• Nursery Crimes – An interview with nursery painting creator Stanley Dyrector, filmed in July 2018 (6 min)
• Down Will Come Baby – a new retrospective with film professor Rebekah McKendry (12 min)
• Tales from the Crib – archival audio Interview with director Ted Post
• Baby Talk – Archival audio Interview with Star David Mooney from January 2011 (15 min)
• Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
• Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by The Twins of Evil
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger