Warning: I absolutely always include spoilers, so now’s the time to turn back if you must.
Is The Baby the weirdest movie you will ever see? Let’s just say it’s likely to be “up there”.
I had never even heard of it until I saw that it was playing on TCM the other day at the latest possible hour. It’s a late-entry (1973) “psycho-biddy” movie, starring Ruth Roman (Strangers on a Train, Always Leave Them Laughing) as a “very special” mom. Mama and her two daughters, a pair of disturbingly sexy (in this context) hench-babes, spend all of their time looking after “Baby”, a 21 year old grown infant, whom we assume has some sort of a mental problem. To confuse matters, however, he doesn’t act like a retarded adult. He is TREATED as an infant by the three women: dressed like one, kept in a giant crib and an over-sized playpen, fed with a spoon and a bottle. But later, it seems like one of the sisters is CONDITIONING him to be stunted, shocking him with a cattle prod, commanding “Baby doesn’t talk! Baby doesn’t walk!”
One of the more disturbing features is that Baby (David Mooney) coos and cries with an actual baby’s high pitched voice, not that of a retarded man with a full-sized voice box.
Mama and her girls like Baby just fine the way he is. That’s why they get a little bent out of shape when a social worker (Anjanette Comer) comes nosin’ around and starts spending TOO much time on this one particular case.
We spend most of the movie concerned for this social worker’s well being, culminating when Baby’s family bonk her on the head and tie her up in the basement and put a gag in her mouth.
But then she escapes. With Baby. And what happens to the three crazy ladies when they catch up with the fancy social worker woman…well, let’s just say it’s not pretty. But I will tell you it involves a variety of sharp objects. (“Social Worker mustn’t play with sharp objects!”)
And the piece de resistance…well I just have to share it with you, otherwise you won’t believe me when I tell you it’s the goddamnest thing you’ve ever seen in a movie. For it appears that all along the social worker has had DESIGNS on Baby. You see, she already has had her OWN baby-man at home, her husband, who had sustained brain damage as the result of an accident. Now he has a play mate! The movie ends with the two men lovingly playing with toys together as their new mama and grandmother look on.
At any rate, it’s not the most GRAPHIC movie, in the world…but I did find myself audibly saying “Oh my God!” at least once every five minutes at some new moment of weirdness.
Here’s the trailer:
For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc