Spider Baby (aka Cannibal Orgy or the Maddest Story Ever Told) is a classic of black-comedy cinema! Writer/Director Jack Hill's 1963 low-budget film is something of an "Addams Family"/Psycho/Rocky Horror with a touch of Lovecraft. But before we dig in to Spider Baby, first a synopsis.
Pity the poor Merrye Clan. Due to a degenerative brain disease brought on by inbreeding, the unfortunate members of the family gradually regress down the evolutionary ladder during puberty. Eventually, the disease causes the afflicted to become raving cannibals.The trio of remaining siblings dwell in the ancient homestead, lovingly cared for by Bruno (LON CHANEY freakin' JR!) the family chaffeur. The eldest of the trio is Ralph, mute and borderline functional as played by none other than SID freakin' HAIG! Younger sister Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) relishes her role as the domineering sibling. And lastly we have Virginia (Jill Banner), the "spider baby" of the title. Seductive, curious, homicidal and quite mad, she adores arachnids though this doesn't stop her from occasionally eating one.
Into the Merrye's parlour come creeping two distant relatives, "Uncle" Peter (Quinn Redeker) and "Aunt" Emily (Carol Ohmart), eager to banish poor Bruno and claim the ancestral manse (and attendant wealth) "for the good of the children". Also in tow are Emily's lawyer, the boorish Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) and secretary Ann (Mary Mitchel). Although repulsed by the children and the state of the mansion, Emily and Schlocker quickly impose on Bruno and the children and invite themselves to dinner. And what a dinner it is!
To go any further would be to give too much away. You'll simply have to see this film for yourselves. Horror film fiends will not be disappointed.
Made for about $65000 and shot over a week, Spider Baby is still wonderfully rewarding. There are simply too many good points to list with this film. Even the opening credits have a lovely wicked theme sung by Mr. Chaney! All of the actors seem to have had huge fun performing and it shows. But Miss Banner will simply blow you away with her performance.
Jack Hill is one of Roger Corman's many protoges and went on to direct several classic explotation films of the 1970's inclucing Coffy, Foxy Brown and Switchblade Sisters. Apparently, legal troubles prevented him from releasing Spider Baby for five years after filming and poor marketing kept in from becoming more recognized than it has been.
Obviously, Spider Baby has given me a warm fuzzy and I'm very glad I found this film on Netflix instant viewing. Trust me, I'll be checking Amazon or E-Bay for a copy.
Toolshed verdict? It's a TEN baby! Ten wrapped up bugs in a wonderfully creepy web!