Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spider Baby

This is a great cult classic from the late 60's that has been on a steady rise to fame over the past few years, mostly due to a decently clear print of the original 16 mm transfer being released on DVD about four years ago. It's a great campy little flick that is pretty evenly split into half comedy and half horror. The legendary Lon Chaney Jr. plays chauffeur to a family of inbred weirdos called the Merrye Family. The movie begins with an introduction by a family member from the non-inbred half of this clan, telling us about a disease. A disease so rare that it only affects the members of one family, the Merrye Family. The story then jumps back a few years when an innocent postal delivery man gets hacked to pieces by a teenage looking girl that thinks she's a spider and that this here mailman is a nice juicy fly. None of this really bothers their caretaker, the families chauffeur Bruno (Chaney), he cleans the mess and carries on with his daily duties. It appears that there is just Bruno, Virginia (spidergirl), Elisabeth (a boring extra) and Ralph (a young and rather disturbing Sid Haig). All have a disease brought on by massive inbreeding that causes them to slowly degenerate into childlike and even cannibalistic behavior. There seem to be some missing relatives that aren't necessarily accounted for... yet. Anyway, a couple of greedy members of the non-inbred side of the family have come to run them out of the rather large house they live in and sell it for their own greedy gain. To make them even more irritating, they've brought their own lawyer with them. They barge in and start giving orders and demanding to stay in the house. Well, this doesn't sit well with the three retards that Bruno is caring for, so they start killing off their stuck-up family. Virginia (played by Jill Banner, an actually quite beautiful actress that was dating Marlon Brando when she was accidentally killed in a car crash a few years after this movie) is the scene stealer in this film. She not only acts like a spider, she also has pet spiders, eats spiders, and likes to throw nets on people, calling them beautiful bugs and then eating them. Which ironically leads to the original title of this film... "Cannibal Orgy". I wonder what Lon thought of that title. Soon we learn that the missing "Dad" (I must use quotes for this family because with inbreeding, you never really know who's who) is a corpse in one of the upstairs bedrooms and the rest of the fam are in the cellar (a creepy bunch of googly eyed, hairy faced nuts). More people are sure to come looking when they discover the others missing, so Bruno decides to end this chaos here and now. He lights up some dynamite and blows himself and the Merrye Family to bits. Jump forward again to the dork reading the book that apparently catalogues this incest disease that has plagued the "other" side of his family. In walks his "weird from the get go" daughter. She looks like one of the Children of the Corn, so immediately you know that something's up. She asks to go play outside and is instantly entranced by a tree spider. I guess the moral of the story is that if you are descended from a completely inbred family, you're gonna hit a few bumps down the road when having kids.


Jack said...

Correction: The new MPI Spider Baby DVD as well as its Image predecessor were not transferred from a 16mm print. Both were mastered from the original 35mm negative. The MPI version was mastered in HiDef as well.
==Jack Hill

Cultfiend said...

I've been corrected. Jack provides us with an amendment to the transfer process that lead to the DVD release of Spider Baby. Honestly, I'm just happy that we now have a good clear copy of this cult classic treasure. Thanks for the info Jack!