The Baby

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1973

Quintet Productions

Directed by Ted Post

Produced by Abe Polsky, Milton Polsky and Elliott Feinman

Written by Abe Polsky

I am so thankful and grateful that I live in a world where movies like THE BABY were once made. There is absolutely no way on God’s green Earth that THE BABY could have been made today. It’s a movie that is so totally and absolutely batshit insane that even while you’re watching it you honestly can’t believe what you’re watching. And I do not exaggerate, trust me. Just when you think THE BABY can’t get any crazier it ups the ante and gets crazier. And the last fifteen minutes of the movie finishes up the job of blowing what few fuses are left intact in your brain.

Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is an earnest, well-meaning social worker who is assigned a new case involving the Wadsworth family. There’s Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) and her two daughters: Germaine (Mariana Hill) and Alba (Suzanne Zenor). And then there’s the youngest and strangest member of the Wadsworth family. Baby (David Manzy) is a mentally impaired man in his early twenties who mind is still that of an infant and so he acts as such. The behavior is strongly reinforced by his mother and sisters who treat him as such. His mother never even bothered giving him a proper name and so everybody calls him “Baby.” He sleeps in an oversized crib and crawls around on hands and knees just like….well, just like a baby. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t seem very creepy or horrific. You just go ahead and watch the movie and then try and tell me that, cousin. David Manzy is a guy who throws himself into his role so well you may end up like me, wondering exactly what he did to prepare for the role.

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Ann takes a special interest in the case, thinking that if Baby has proper training and treatment in the proper facility he can start acting older and more appropriate for his age. No, he’ll never be a “Jeopardy” contestant but at least he won’t be wearing a diaper. Seeing as how she and her daughters are getting a nice chunk of change from the state for Baby’s welfare, Mrs. Wadsworth has a solid reason for keeping Baby exactly the way he is. In addition, Alba gets her kicks from torturing her little brother with a cattle prod while Germaine likes to sneak into Baby’s giant sized crib at night to play Doctor.

But Ann is determined to get Baby the help he needs and gradually it dawns on us that Ann is just a little too determined. It doesn’t take Mrs. Wadsworth long to pick up on the fact that Ann has her own agenda for Baby. One that doesn’t include the Wadsworths.

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In a very weird ass way, THE BABY is a woman’s picture. A cracked woman’s picture, I grant you. Compared to the chicks in this movie, Joan Crawford and Betty Davis in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” come off as being almost downright reasonable in their behavior. The few men in this movie are totally ineffectual and useless. I’m sure those of you with a more cerebral intellect than Your Humble Servant could make something out of the fact that the movie comes down to a bunch of women fighting for control of a man who is an infant and can’t take care of himself. Me, I take it as a superior psychological thriller with some surprisingly good performances.

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The production values are also better than you would expect from a movie of such sleaze and exploitation but that’s part of the reason why I love THE BABY so much. It looks much better than it had to and the actors treat the material with a respect and seriousness I didn’t expect. They’re committed to the story, no matter how WTF it is and it shows and that gives the truly surprising conclusion an added wallop to the gut.

So should you see THE BABY? Without a doubt. This is definitely one of those movies that goes on the You Have To See It To Believe It list. It would make an excellent Saturday night double feature with that king of WTF movies; “The Apple.” Enjoy.

PG

84 minutes

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5 thoughts on “The Baby

  1. Fun review to read, and I agree it’s a stellar example of “so bad it’s good” movies. My only disagreement with you is thinking it couldn’t be made now. It wouldn’t have the same hippie panache, but really anything goes these days. Shannen Doherty or Elizabeth Ashley could do the Ruth Roman part. With Dustin Diamond or Paul Reubens as the baby.

    There are always has-been actors willing to perform in crap for a paycheck.

    1. And see, without that “hippie panache” there wouldn’t be much point in making it. The 1970’s and 1980’s was a special time in American moviemaking that we’ll never see again. Where writers, actors, directors, etc just simply didn’t give a shit about offending anyone and made the movies they wanted to do.

      And you put Shannen Doherty, Dustin Diamond or Paul Reubens in a remake and automatically it becomes a comedy and nobody would take it seriously. And part of what makes THE BABY so memorable is that the cast plays it absolutely straight.

  2. I’m actually quite glad that “The Baby” couldn’t be re-made today. The only way a producer could get it greenlit in today’s climate is if someone suggested, “Hey, let’s do the re-make as a dark *comedy*!” Such a take on it would totally lose the point of the film. What made it so quirky and unique for its time is the very fact that it was played totally straight, with no real comical elements at all. If anyone tried to re-make it today, it would offend so many “social justice warriors” that the re-make would end up relegated to a few small independent theaters for a release, followed by a quiet release to DVD and Blu-ray. Either that, or you would end up seeing it on Netflix or Hulu for the first time.

    I first saw this crazy film at the quasi-tender age of 11 or 12 when it was shown on Chiller Theater one Saturday night. Of course, I probably saw the edited version, but since it was on so late at night, enough was left in to let me know how awesomely and unbelievably hard core bizarre that movie was. The sight of a grown man crawling and crying while wearing a diaper really does have to be seen to believe. I also thought it interesting how in those last totally insane 15 minutes you described, the movie sort of morphed from a strange but deep psychological thriller to an intense action movie with some well choreographed fight scenes between individuals who apparently never had any formal combat training, but proved very good at it anyway.

    1. I agree: there’s no way that THE BABY could be made today and I don’t want to see it remade. Everybody should have the experience of seeing the original for themselves if for no other reason than one can say; “You think they make crazy movies now? HAH! That’s nothing compared to the movies they made during the 1950s/60s/70s”

      And that’s why I love THE BABY so much. As I said in my review, just when you think the movie can’t get any crazier, it does. And that surprise ending actually IS a surprise ending.

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