|Rating: Really liked it
Director: Ted Post
Release Year: 1973
Starring: David Mooney, Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman
Alba: Baby was born backwards. He's been that way all his life... and that's all there is to it.
The Baby is a perfect example of the twisted stuff that exploitation filmmakers used to put out the 70's that we just can't find any more. As the opening credits roll, we see a lady sitting in a dark room - maybe an attic - going through a stack of b&w pictures of a baby boy. The pictures look innocent enough, but something about the music and the creepy look on the lady's face as she grins at the pictures just doesn't seem right (and, given the movie's title, you're sure something baby-related is on its way). As the lady continues to flip through b&w pictures, the 'baby' is seen to be getting gradually older. No longer an infant, the boy continues to sit in high-chairs and wear diapers. The woman smiles affectionately as the camera zooms in on the final picture - a 30-something man sitting in a crib, wearing a bib, sucking on his thumb.
As the film proper opens, we find out that the lady from the credit sequence, Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer), is a social worker who has recently been assigned to check on the the family who raises Baby - a 30 year old man perpetually stuck in childhood. He's been raised since birth by a domineering mother, Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman, Strangers on a Train), and two nutjob sisters. Gentry knows in advance of the unusual condition of her new client, and she admits to being excited at meeting the family. When she asks Mrs. Wadsworth the obvious question, "I notice that you just called him Baby... and the case history doesn't show any other name... what's his actual name?", Wadsworth answers simply "Just Baby."
When we finally meet Baby (David Mooney), it's the creepiest damn thing you've ever seen. Mooney has a handful of credits on IMDB, but this was his only 'starring' role. I don't know if he's a good actor or not - I'm guessing not - but he is dead-on with his portrayal of a manchild. Whether it's having his sister spoonfeeding him pudding that dribbles down his chin, or sucking on a bottle while grinning and cooing like an idiot... you know, you can keep your Hostels and your Miikes... for my money there's nothing more twisted than watching an adult man in diapers get lotion rubbed on his pasty thighs by Ruth Roman. I'd be surprised if Roman didn't have nightmares over that scene in her later years.
The reason I love this movie so much is that it hits every possible sleazoid scene you can think of, and some you can't. Breastfeeding from the teenage babysitter? Check. (Mrs. Wadsworth: "Nothing happened? Your damn tit was in his mouth and you say nothing happened?"). Baby getting poked with a cattle prod while his younger sister maniacly yells "Baby doesn't STAND!..." - SHOCK - "and Baby doesn't WALK!..." - SHOCK - "and Baby doesn't TALK!" - SHOCK - over and over again? Check. Older sister letting herself into the baby's room while he's sleeping, stepping out of her nightgown, and climbing into his crib? You'd better damn well believe it.
I would absolutely add the Wadsworth family to the pantheon of great disfunctional movie familes alongside the likes of Leatherface & co in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the neighbors in The Burbs. But as the movie goes on, you start to realize Gentry may be just as twisted as the Wadsworths. She spends the first half of the movie trying to convince her superiors that there's something wrong with an adult who can't walk, talk, or feed himself. Incredibly, no one sees anything wrong with any of those things. There's a brief mention of retardation, but most people chalk up Baby's condition to being 'just one of those things.' Ah, the 70's. When Gentry finds that she can't get anyone to buy into her theory that the Wadsworths have been engaging in systematic punishment to discourage Baby from developing, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
I wouldn't dare spoil the genius that is this film's final reel. Needless to say, it satifies on every level. This is one of those exploitation films that absolutely gets everything right: twisted premise, delivery of scenes you'd never think anyone would have the balls to film, and a final delivery that beats any expectations you had. The damnedest thing about this movie may be the fact that it somehow got a PG rating... you'd never see this kind of movie get made today (outside of a Todd Solondz film), but if you did, it'd be a hard R for sure, despite having no real nudity and very little on-screen violence.
The other amazing thing is that the director, Ted Post, was a legit B-level Hollywood director with titles like Beneath the Planet of the Apes on his resume. And get this, The Baby was released the same year as Post's better known movie Magnum Force! A Dirty Harry movie and a adult-babysploitation in one year? Now that's diversity. The Baby is an absolute must-see for genre fans. Track it down at all costs... it's one of the all-time greats.