'Spider Baby' [Blu ray]
(Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Sid Haig, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2015 / MVD)
Overview: 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.
Blu ray Verdict: For my money, 'Spider Baby' is a wonderfully inventive and original b-grade movie full of mad fun. Writer/director Jack Hill began as a Roger Corman protege, co-writing 'The Terror' and also working on Coppola's underrated 'Dementia 13', before striking out on his own with 'Spider Baby', a movie which became embroiled in a legal dispute and took four years to get released.
Hill actually went on to direct Pam Grier movies and the trash classic 'Switchblade Sisters' in the Seventies, but it's arguable whether he ever surpassed this cult favorite.
Anyway, in 'Spider Baby' horror legend Lon Chaney, Jr stars and has 'Dementia 13's Mary Mitchel and Karl Schanzer, and 'The House On Haunted Hill's Carol Ohmart along for the joyous ride as supporting cast. But the real stars are newcomers Jill Banner as the bewitching Virginia, and the remarkable Sid Haig as the unforgettable Ralph. Banner went on to appear in the dazzling 'The President's Analyst' before her untimely death, while Haig's ongoing career included several movies with Jack Hill, including blaxsploitation classic 'Coffy', and Lucas' 'THX 1138'.
The acting is a pleasant surprise, in truth. The entire cast does a convincing job of bringing these oddball characters to life. There are a few missteps here and there: a couple of moments, for instance, when Redeker addresses the audience directly, and it's hard to know if the humor is intentional or not. Overall, however, the quality of each performance is pretty high. Ergo, 'Spider Baby' is a brilliant example of what can be achieved on a small budget with some originality and willingness to take risks.
FYI: During the climax as he's struggling with Mary Mitchel, Sid Haig had the flu and a temperature of 103°. The producers employed a doctor to standby on the set to give Haig an injection every few hours so he could continue to work! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature, available in the UK for the first time
* Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* High Definition transfer of the feature supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
* English SDH subtitles for deaf and hearing impaired
* Audio commentary featuring Jack Hill and star Sid Haig
* Panel discussion from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences FILM-TO-FILM Festival, recorded September 2012, featuring Jack Hill and stars Quinn K. Redeker and Beverly Washburn
* The Hatching of Spider Baby - Interviews with Jack Hill, Sid Haig, star Mary Mitchel, fan Joe Dante and more on the making of the film
* Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein - The composer of 'The Terror' and 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman' among others is remembered by Harlene Stein, Jack Hill, American Cinematheque's Chris D. and others
* The Merrye House Revisited - Jack Hill revisits the original house that was used as the main location in the film
* Alternate opening title sequence
* Extended scene
* Original Trailer
* Gallery of behind-the-scenes images
* The Host (1960) - Jack Hill's early short film featuring Sid Haig in his first starring role [30 mins]
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
* 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
MVD Entertainment Group have announced the distribution of Arrow Video (UK) in North America with a host of cult titles receiving deluxe treatment in video, audio, supplements and artwork. The original launch titles were: 'Day of Anger,' 'Blind Woman's Curse,' and 'Mark of the Devil.'