The Babyrecommended viewing

Leave your jaw on the floor
★★★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
1973
Director: 
Ted Post
Starring: 
Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman, Marianna Hill, Susanne Zenor, David Manzy
The Setup: 
Social worker takes an unhealthy interest in the case of a grown man kept in an infantile state by his mother and two sisters.
Discussion: 

A movie sure to have you staring at the screen in shock, The Baby is guaranteed to turn out to be one of the stranger things you will ever see. Here’s the deal: Ann is a social worker who stops by the house of a Mrs. Wadsworth, played by Ruth Roman [who was also in one of my favorite little movies, The Killing Kind, though I don’t remember who she was there]. Mrs. Wadsworth lives with her two daughters, Germaine and Alba, and her son, whom they all refer to as Baby. Baby is a 21-year-old man who has been in an infantile state apparently since birth. He can neither walk nor speak, or really concentrate on anything. His sisters are also, uh, quite something: Germaine, played with wonderful zest by Marianna Hill, is an extremely strange woman with this massive mane of hair, and tiny, evil eyes. If anyone ever had to cast a woman who is revealed to be a real, evil witch at the end, here’s your woman. I actually want to see a lot more of her. She was awesome, and she can preen and glare like nobody’s business. Which obviously wins her big points with me.

So Ann the social worker shows up for a case visit, and makes it clear that she is “quite intrigued” by the case. The mother and sisters don’t want to let her see Baby, but she insists, and we see him for the first time. He is a fairly cute 21-year-old [looked a little younger to me] guy. Ann the social worker continues to visit, and one is surprised how quickly she adjusts to the fact of this adult acting like a baby, and we start to feel a little freaky when she is almost immediately saying things like “That’s my baby! He’s a good baby!” It soon becomes apparent that Ann is a little more than just interested in this case, and is actually quite obsessed with Baby. This point is driven home by a scene with her supervisor asking her why she is spending so much time at the Wadsworth home and so little time with her other cases. There is a little discussion about some terrible accident that befell Ann’s husband, implying that she’s all lonely and sexually frustrated now, and one begins to wonder if her obsession with Baby had somewhat of a sexual edge to it. This is further reinforced when we see Germaine take off her clothes and climb in bed with her infantile brother!

The sexual thing gets a further boost from a scene in which one of the babysitters is having a bit of trouble with Baby, and soon enough he is sucking her breast! The movie continues to pile on some disturbing suggestions about female sexuality as the woman is clearly aroused by this and lets it go on—until the mother comes home and beats the living shit out of her! I tell you, this one’s a shock a minute!

One of the big strengths of this movie is that you REALLY don’t know direction it’s going to take. There is tension from every direction. On the one hand you know that this is a horror movie and bad things are going to happen. You have this domineering mother and her creepy and violent daughters—are they going to start killing everyone who threatens to come between them and Baby? And Baby himself is a grown man—is he going to get angry and really hurt someone? And that Ann, too, does not seem to have all her screws in place, and seem really, REALLY obsessed with Baby—is she going to try to kidnap him, or what? It keeps you guessing, and that successfully delivers a lot of tension throughout its running time. I truly did not know what was going to happen—and did not expect what DID happen. And how many movies can you say that for nowadays?

In the middle of the film, things progress without really going anywhere, and we have somewhat repetitive scenes in which Ann visits and is obviously not welcome, she plays with Baby in a creepy way, and Mrs. Wadsworth gets ever more bitchy. Still, it’s all so interesting that it never gets boring or feels like it’s wasting your time. There are quite a few good bitchy lines, like when Ann threatens to turn Mrs. Wadsworth in, and she says “You’re a damn bitch!” Also, consider this exchage between Ann and a guy who’s coming on to her: “Don’t tell me you’re a dermatologist?” “No, just a skin freak.” This takes place during an awesome 70s party, footage of which, as surely you know, is always welcome.

The other strength of this film is the complicated relationships of power and intricate series of compromises each character makes in order to stay close to baby or not get thrown in jail. Also, the score by Gerald Freed is, if not great, at least unusual. It contains a great deal of unusual instrumentation, including a lot of cello and acoustic guitar, and one long stalking scene seems to contain up to 10 minutes of pure music with no dialogue.

There’s no way I would even reveal part of the ending to you, but suffice to say that after the one hour mark there are twists and turns that will take you completely by surprise. As I said, it’s unusual just for what the story itself is, and it’s very unusual to really have no idea where the story is going to end up. If you like it weird, it's waiting right here for you.

Should you watch it: 

Unquestionably.