A perverse horror movie focused on the battle between an abusive family "caring" for a forcefully infantilized 21-year-old man and a social worker whose intentions may not be entirely altruistic.
Curated by Cathleen Heard
Total Runtime: 0:02:45
This is an "only in the 70s" gem, a horror film so twisted that it could easily double as a fetish film. How The Baby came to be and why it hasn't built up more cult notoriety is a mystery. Director Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Magnum Force) and writer/producer Abe Polsky (not much in the way of credits before or since) crafted an occasionally plodding B-flick that ultimately succeeds on undeniable weirdness - weird premise, weird performances, a weird score, weird plot twists... just plain weird.
The Baby's perverse plot is centered on the custody battle between an abusive family of shrill, psychotic women "caring" for a forcefully infantilized 21-year-old man named only "Baby" and an obsessive, secretive social worker with not entirely altruistic intentions investigating Baby's environment.
The social worker, Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer, rocking a hugely distracting cold sore of varying sizes throughout the film that you can't unsee once you notice it), is coping with guilt over causing a car accident that left her husband severely disabled. We don't meet this husband and the details of the accident are kept private. In the evenings with her mother-in-law, Ann tortures herself revisiting slides from happier times in her marriage. During her work day she throws herself into a new case - checking up on eccentric welfare recipients, the Wadsworths, and their youngest charge, a mentally impaired young man (David Manzy) who can't talk, can't walk, wears diapers, sleeps in a crib, and is their public assistance meal ticket. Ann becomes fixated on working with Baby, who she is convinced with proper care could make strides towards functioning as a normal adult. Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman, a tough and wonderfully bitchy character actress best known for her ingenue role as Farley Granger's fiancée in Hitchcock's Strangers on the Train 20 years earlier) is fiercely protective of Baby and refuses to let any outsiders interfere as her two very different but equally nasty daughters abuse Baby. Older, quieter and generally creepier daughter Germaine (Marianna Hill) brings in a little cash as an actress/model (with her crazy eyes, batshit hair and loony vibe how could she not be cut out for Sears catalog work?). Germaine also strips down to nothing and climbs into Baby's crib at night. Sadistic, sassy, hot pants-clad younger daughter Alba (Suzanne Zenor, who was later cast and written out of the career-making role of Chrissy Snow in "Three's Company") teaches tennis and teaches Baby to behave using a cattle prod. Whether this was intended as a paranoid commentary on the rise of feminism or simply shock horror isn't clear. It is clear, however, that someone somewhere masturbated to Alba and that cattle prod or the scenes of Baby at bathtime.
Highlights/lowlights include a gratituous, cringe-inducing scene where Ann visits a classroom of actual retarded children, a twentysomething babysitter "breastfeeding" a very hungry Baby and his strong man hands (Baby's a total boob man), and an outrageous 70s house party where not one guest seems at all ill at ease at the sight of a grown man crawling around on all fours in a Little Lord Fauntleroy-esque suit. Scenery chewing actresses playing mind games, torturing and drugging each other to make Baby their own property is a campy delight, and this squabbling makes up the bulk of the film (rendering it, when combined with the extra pervy premise, a less than traditional horror film). Ruth Roman's ferocious performance anticipates the dementia of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. Hats off to David Manzy (who now goes by David Mooney, last role: a bit part in 1992's Chaplin). That man committed! Manzy gives it his all mimicking the mannerisms and behavior of infants. In case you're wondering, the baby sounds were originally Manzy's but were redubbed with stock baby sounds once the original audio track was lost. The dissonance that occurs when hearing real infant cries come out of a grown man in diapers' mouth gives this performance an additional squirm factor.
This is a completely unique cult movie experience that you will forced to share with astounded friends.