Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Baby

So I got around to watching The Baby off my DVR, having recorded it back in October. It's available from the TCM Shop, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length review on it. Unfortunately, the review is probably not going to one of my best, simply because the movie is so bizarre that it's tough to go into detail on. This especially if you don't want to give away any of the plot twists in the final third of the movie.

Anjanette Comer plays Ann Gentry, a social worker in what looks like the suburbs of Los Angeles. As the film opens, she comes up to a house asking if it's the Wadsworth residence. Young Alba Wadsworth (Suzanne Zenor) informs her that yes, it is, so Ann and us get to meet the rest of the Wadsworths. Alba has an older sister Germaine (Marianna Hill) and mother (Ruth Roman). But they're not so much why Ann is her. She wants to meet the youngest child, a son who only has the name Baby. Apparently Baby (David Manzy) suffers from some form of retardation that has left him unable to walk or talk, and leaves him in diapers and short pants for most of the movie. Now, in the real world you'd think that the authorities would have found some sort of facility to put Baby in, but then we wouldn't have a movie, so the Wadsworths have only been getting visits from social workers twice a year.

Ann intends to change that. She takes an interest in Baby's case. In fact, her interest seems more than appropriate, as if she feels some sort of affection for Baby. She approaches the head of a school for children with developmental problems, which makes sense, but her involvement is much more personal. That having been said, she does seem to be the one person who realizes that perhaps Baby isn't so much retarded as he was made that way. Indeed, we get some rather violent scenes of the Wadsworths disciplining Baby for getting too uppity, and each other for their handling of Baby.

Eventually, Mrs. Wadsworth does come to the conclusion that Ann poses a danger to her, and at first cuts off contact with her, but then plans to do something rather more sinister. But Ann has other plans, and she's pretty resourceful....

The Baby is a bizarre movie. After all, just the basic idea of a grown man who not only has the developmental capacity of an infant, but was in fact created that way, is bizarre. And then the movie has all those twists and turns. I was getting ready to pan the movie for some of the characters' motivations, but after it was all over, everything fit -- unfortunately, I can't really say more without giving away key plot points.

The movie is not without flaws. I mentioned the fact that the social workers would never have let the Wadsworths take care of Baby in this way and that he would have been in some sort of facility long ago. And of course there are times when the twists and turns seem too twisty and turny. But ultimealy, the film works precisely because it is so bizarre.

It's also very much a product of the 1970s (the movie was released in early 1973). There is some interesting design (I immediately noticed that eye-shaped alarm clock) and fashion. Oh, and the ghastly 1970s hairstyles. But that all adds to the fun of this bizarre film.

The Baby is one that would be nice to see in a box set with some other 1970s horror movie, although various movies having differing rights holders probably would prevent that. It's well worth a watch, though. Just prepared to be affected by the bizarreness.

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