Saturday, June 13, 2009
baby oh baby...
So, I found a job, sort of. Anyway, I'm temping for the next couple of months, working the graveyard shift at a place where they have me basically watching movie trailers and clips. It's not a bad gig, and I'm encountering a pretty eclectic variety of stuff, including plenty that's rare and Negative Pleasure friendly. Unfortunately I don't get to watch any complete films, but I'm getting a taste of things, some that I've never heard of, some that I've always been curious about, and may be inspired to try and track some of it down. Anyway, it feels good to be getting out of the house and making a little dough, even if the 6pm-2am hours I work are a little too encouraging towards my nocturnal tendencies.
Meanwhile, my movie rut rages on, sort of. I guess it comes and it goes. What could be prompting this bout of cinematic ennui? Some may blame the quality of the films I've been watching (admittedly questionable at times), I tend to blame myself. But really, I blame myself for everything, so what else is new? Anyway, there have been a few bright spots on the otherwise interminably bleak celluloid landscape. One film that got me smiling was THE BABY (1973), a pleasingly perverse horror-comedy sort of thing from director Ted Post. Post is primarily known for his prolific TV work (Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Combat, Twilight Zone) but occasionally found the time to inflict the world with a weird one such as this.
THE BABY comes from the same plateau of 1970s tongue in cheek sex and death weirdness as Jacques Lacerte's LOVE ME DEADLY. Though Post's film is considerably tamer, it still manages to plumb the depths of human dementia quite effectively. In a nutshell, the film follows an earnest, caring family services worker (Anjanette Comer of THE LOVED ONE) who encounters a strange family consisting of the one-step shy of SUNSET BOULEVARD ex-starlet mother (bonna fide ex-starlet Ruth Roman), two slightly out-of-it, somewhat sexed up daughters, and Baby, a full grown son who seems to possess the intelligence of an infant, sleeps in a crib, wears diapers, can't talk, walk, the whole deal.
Initially Baby's condition seems to be caused by mental retardation, but gradually in becomes apparent, in true 70s sicko cinema fashion, that Baby's mother has encouraged and inspired Baby's regressive state via abuse. Perhaps what's most interesting about the film, though, is that none of the outsiders who encounter Baby are put off by him. In fact, most of the women in the film seem to find him kind of irresistible, even sexually attractive. One of his sisters even comes onto him. When the social worker begins to show interest in rescuing Baby from his family situation, it seems that an attraction to the manchild may be behind it, although we learn in time that she has far stranger motivations (this one time I won't ruin the end for you, since it's pretty unpredictable, weird and funny).
THE BABY, like many similar weirdo classics of the era, benefits from a grimy gutter veneer. A party that occurs in the Baby household is sleazily spectacular. It's also a pretty self-aware film- I would even say kid of smart- in that, at the very least, it recognizes the absurdity of its own concept and plays on that for both laughs and discomfort. Anyway, dig this one, it's a gas.