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In a dilapidated rural mansion, the last generation of the degenerate, inbred Merrye family lives with the inherited curse of a disease that causes them to mentally regress from the age of 10 or so on as they physically develop. The family chauffeur looks out for them and covers up their indiscretions. Trouble comes when greedy distant relatives and their lawyer arrive to dispossess the family of its home...
For more about Spider Baby and the Spider Baby Blu-ray release, see Spider Baby Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Sid Haig, Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Mantan Moreland
Director: Jack Hill
» See full cast & crew
Spider Baby Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 23, 2013
Jack Hill's "Spider Baby" (1968) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; audio commentary with director Jack Hill and Actor Sid Haig; collection of production stills; extended scene; collection of interviews with director Joe Dante, director Jack Hill, director of photography Alfred Taylor, Chris D. from American Cinematheque, and actors Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Quinn Redeker, and Beverly Washburn; early short film directed by Jack Hill; and more. The release also arrives with a 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, as well as a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
If you like strange films don't miss Jack Hill's Spider Baby. Once also titled Cannibal Orgy, or the Maddest Story Ever Told, this truly is a film in a category of its own. It is a little bit of everything, done with surprisingly good sense of style.
While watching Spider Baby, I kept thinking of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's horror film Livid. In this recent French film, the overwhelming majority of the action takes place in a large house somewhere on the outskirts of a city. Inside the house, there is an old lady in a cerebral coma that is visited daily by an experienced caregiver who changes her diapers and makes sure that her oxygen bottle works properly. Early into the film, the caregiver is joined by a young girl who needs some practical training before she begins working alone. The girl is so impressed by the house and the caregiver's story about a treasure the old lady apparently hid somewhere in it years ago that she decides to return with a few of her best friends later that night. The friends enter the house hoping to discover the treasure, but instead find and unlock a door to Hell. The plot is fairly straightforward, but the visuals and especially the atmosphere are quite remarkable.
Spider Baby feels a lot like Livid. The majority of the film also takes place in a secluded house which is shared by a kooky old man, two girls and their brother. The old man, Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr., The Wolf Man, High Noon), is the former chauffeur of the Merrye family who has promised to take care of the kids after their father's death. This is all great, but the kids are actually not kids at all – they are grown-ups who act like kids because they suffer from a terrible disease that causes them to mentally regress. So the longer they live, the more primitive their behavior becomes.
Virginia (Jill Banner, The President's Analyst), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn, Pit Stop), and Ralphie (Sid Haig, Coffy, Foxy Brown) have not spent much time outside of the house and it definitely shows. Ralphie, in particular, seems convinced that he is a naughty dog and most of the time acts like one. The two sisters think that they are giant spiders. Virginia, the more aggressive one, often plays spider games and if a normal person happens to be around her while she does, bad things could happen – which is exactly what an elderly messenger (Mantan Moreland, The Shanghai Cobra) discovers when he approaches the house and the girl treats him like an annoying bug.
The real fun begins when distant relatives Peter Howe (Quinn Redeker, The Candidate) and Emily Howe (Carol Ohmart, House on Haunted Hill) arrive with their lawyer (Karl Schanzer) and his assistant (Mary Mitchel, Panic in Year Zero!) to discuss the Merrye family's riches. Sensing that there is a good chance that they could also request that the house is sold and the siblings relocated, Bruno makes a desperate move to ensure that things stay as they are. Meanwhile, the siblings begin playing games with their guests.
There are times when it shows that Spider Baby had a limited budget, but the atmosphere throughout the film is quite good. There are some truly creepy moments that are guaranteed to impress fans of trashy horror.
The strange thing about Spider Baby, however, is that it was apparently meant to be a comedy. This is arguably where its charm comes from because the balance between horror and comedy in it constantly evolves, forcing the viewer in a guessing mode. I like that.
The film is complimented by an unusually good score courtesy of Ronald Stein, who is well known for his numerous collaborations with Roger Corman (The Undead, The Terror, The Haunted Palace). Stein also composed the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's early film Dementia 13.
Spider Baby Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jack Hill's Spider Baby arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video.
The high-definition transfer used for this upcoming release of Jack Hill's Spider Baby is one of the best I've seen in Arrow Video's catalog. Excluding some minor specks that pop up a few times, the film looks as healthy and vibrant as one would expect it to look on Blu-ray. During indoor and outdoor shots image depth and fluidity are excellent. Close-ups with a decent amount of light, in particular, look quite beautiful (see screencapture #8). The darker and nighttime footage also boasts rather impressive clarity (see screencaptures #9 and 10). There are absolutely no traces of problematic degraining or sharpening corrections. There are no signs of color or contrast boosting either. Needless to say, the film has a wonderfully vibrant and very stable organic look. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, I am convinced that fans of Spider Baby will be utterly delighted with the film's quite impressive transition to Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Spider Baby Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Arrow Video have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Ronald Stein's atmospheric orchestral score gets a very serious boost from the lossless treatment. The strings, in particular, add quite a bit of flavor to the film. Overall dynamic intensity, however, is limited. In fact, there are some minor dynamic fluctuations during select sequences, but the lossless track should not be blamed for it. The dialog is stable, clean, and easy to follow. Also, there are no audio dropouts, pops, or distortions to report in this review.
Spider Baby Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Spider Baby Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jack Hill's Spider Baby truly is a film in a category of its own. If you enjoy different films, I strongly encourage you to consider adding this quite impressive Blu-ray release from British distributors Arrow Video to your library. The film looks lovely in high-definition and the supplemental features rival what one would expect to see on a Criterion release. RECOMMENDED.
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Spider Baby Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Jack Hill's Spider Baby Officially Announced - June 6, 2013
British distributors Arrow Video have officially announced their upcoming Blu-ray release of director Jack Hill's Spider Baby (1968), starring Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, and Quinn K. Redeker. The release will be available for purchase online and in shops across ...
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