Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spider Baby (1968, Jack Hill)

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"It's not nice to hate."

As I stated in my review of Swinging Cheerleaders, Jack Hill is a very unique and special director. With only a handful of films to his name, he managed to work in many different genres and brought his own unique touches to each one. Spider Baby was Hill's first solo film (though delayed for four years) and began his foray into horror, which was the genre most of his earliest films belonged in. After seeing Coffy, I had to find all of Jack Hill's films. This eventually led me to Spider Baby, which I watched several years ago and had been meaning to revisit. Arrow Film's new Blu Ray/DVD combo seemed like the perfect time to do just that.

Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told, is a strange tale about the Merrye family. After the wealthy Titus Merrye passed away, he left his servant Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) to care for his three children, Ralph (Sid Haig), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) and Virginia (Jill Banner). The children have a rare disease that causes them to regress, both mentally and physically, until they become cannibal savages. Ralph's transformation is mostly complete while the two girls still seem normal, but act like little girls...very deadly little girls. The family then receive a letter stating that a pair of distant cousins are the true heirs to the Merrye fortune and come to the Merrye house to claim their inheritance.

Spider Baby, as I'm sure you can tell by the plot, is a weird movie. It's also a very fun and twisted movie. Chaney does a great job as the protective Bruno and Sid Haig is extremely creepy as Ralph (despite having no lines). The rest of the cast all excel and the camera work (by cinematographer Alfred Taylor), though being in black and white, is the real element that makes the film so creepy. The thing that struck me the most about the film is how much Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses (also starring Sid Haig) borrowed from the film. I always thought Zombie was trying to make his own Texas Chainsaw Massacre but it's evident that story wise, it was definitley more influenced by this film (the fact White Zombie has a song called Spiderbaby should have tipped me off too!). Arrow's new release of Spider Baby is the best this film has ever been presented, both in quality and in bonus features. It's good to see attention spent on such classic, cult films and Spider Baby definitely deserved the attention it was given. The black and white print looks pristine and there are a wealth of goodies included too. This film deserves another watch for cult, horror and exploitation film fans. Here are the full list of bonus features:

-High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature,
-Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
-High Definition transfer of the feature supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
-English SDH subtitles for deaf and hearing impaired
-Audio commentary featuring Jack Hill and star Sid Haig
-Panel discussion from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences FILM-TO-FILM Festival, recorded September 2012, featuring Jack Hill and stars Quinn K. Redeker and Beverly Washburn
-The Hatching of Spider Baby - Interviews with Jack Hill, Sid Haig, star Mary Mitchel, fan Joe Dante and more on the making of the film
-Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein - The composer of ‘The Terror’ and ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ among others is remembered by Harlene Stein, Jack Hill, American Cinematheque’s Chris D. and others
-The Merrye House Revisited - Jack Hill revisits the original house that was used as the main location in the film
-Alternate opening title sequence
-Extended scene
-Original Trailer
-Gallery of behind-the-scenes images
-The Host (1960) – Jack Hill’s early short film featuring Sid Haig in his first starring role [30 mins]
-Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
-Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by artist and writer Stephen R. Bissette, and an extensive article re-printed from FilmFax: The Magazine of Unusual Film and Television featuring interviews with the cast and crew, illustrated with original stills and artwork

RATING:

FILM: 9/10
DVD/BLU RAY: 10/10

Buy Spider Baby directly from MVD HERE

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