Coming June 9th to Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Video is Jack Hill’s directioral debut, ‘Spider Baby,’ starring Lon Chaney Jr, and Sid Haig, Jill Banner, and Beverly Washburn as the Merrye Children.
Lon Chaney Jr., in one of his final roles, plays Bruno, the chauffeur and guardian of the Merrye children, who at a certain age and as a result of inbreeding, start to regress in their mental faculties. The older they get, the younger and less stable their brains become. If old enough, they will regress past infancy to something that resembles an animal, as is the case with Sid Haig’s character, Ralph. One day, while Bruno is away, a Mailman (Mantan Moreland) delivers a message but is caught in Virginia’s spider web and is subsequently killed. Emily, all prim and proper, enters and catches her in the act saying, “They’re all going to hate you.” Bruno returns home and Elizabeth promptly squeals on Virginia, who sticks her tongue out at Elizabeth, like little girls do. After a brief talk with Bruno, Ralph brings over the letter the Mailman was carrying and it is revealed that a lawyer and 2 heirs are coming to the house that very day to become the legal guardians of the children. Bruno has them clean the place up while he disposes of the body down the dumbwaiter. They have to keep some secrets today, and it isn’t just the body of the Mailman.
A little while later, cousins Emily (Carol Ohmart) and Peter (Quinn K. Redeker), the last known heirs of the Merrye estate, show up at the front gates. Emily gets out of the car and has nothing but greed in her eyes. Peter, on the other had, appears to be a nice man. Meanwhile, Bruno is driving the lawyer, Mr. Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) and his assistant, Ann (Mary Mitchel), who discloses that they are basically there to take over the estate and care of the children. Bruno doesn’t like that at all.
Once back at the house, introductions are made, and the only ones with any sort of feelings towards Bruno, the children and their whole situation are Peter and Ann. Schlocker and Emily invite themselves to stay for dinner and the night. Bruno insists that isn’t a good idea and Emily states “I think there is some difference of opinion as to who is the guest and who is the host.” At the unconventional dinner consisting of rabbit (cat) thistles, mushrooms, and bugs, Emily is already acting like she has control of the estate when talking with Schlocker. After dinner, Peter takes Ann into town to get her a hotel room for the night, leaving Emily and Schlocker to snoop and check out Emily’s new home, only they both get more than they bargained for when they find the ghastly hidden secrets of Merrye house.
‘Spider Baby’ is another one of those classics that I’d only heard of and not yet seen. Arrow did a wonderful job with the hi-def transfer and presentation of special features, which includes the story of how ‘Spider Baby’ was almost lost to time. The film itself was very fun, and the acting was top-notch, especially from Lon Chaney Jr who plays a tired man, burdened by duty just trying to make good on a promise he made his deceased employer. Jill Banner and Beverly Washburn both put on the little girl act to a creepy degree. Sid Haig, whose character is already regressed past infancy, plays it perfectly.
Some call this a horror-comedy, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it is funny, but more odd. The full title of the film is ‘Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told,’ and that pretty much sums it all up. There are definitely funny elements, the funniest being at dinner when Peter and Ann start discussing their love of horror movies, especially the ‘Wolfman,’ to which Lon Chaney channels his inner Larry Talbot to announce a full moon tonight.
If you have waited to see ‘Spider Baby,’ then wait no more and pre-order this fine Arrow release today! (Please note: the link is for www.deepdiscount.com. Some may know this site, some may not, but if you want to save on shipping, then this is the route to go, as it may even be free standard shipping depending on the amount and location.)
- 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.