01 September 2014

Spider Baby (1964)
84 min.
Directed by Jack Hill.
With Lon Chaney, Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn Redeker, Mary Mitchell, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig, Mantan Moreland.
A near perfect blend of gothic horror and black humor, Spider Baby is certainly one of the weirdest flicks to come out of the post-PSYCHO early '60s.

The Merrye family live in a dilapidated Victorian mansion, high up on a remote hill in California.

Gentle-hearted Bruno (Chaney) is the family chaffeur, and caretaker of the orphaned Merrye children.

First up on Bruno's list of wards is the paranoia-tinged Elizabeth (Washburn), a sweet young girl who seems obsessed with the theme of 'hate.'

Then there's her sister Virginia (Banner), who believes she's really a spider, and who loves to stalk her helpless prey as if they were bugs, 'stinging' them to death (via sharpened butcher knives which serve as her 'fangs').

Finally, there's drooling brother Ralph (Haig), an imposing mute who's mentally retarded, but supposedly harmless.

When distant relatives Ohmart and Redeker come to pay the Merryes a visit (really, to claim part of the family loot), it throws Bruno and his asocial brood into disarray.

Will the Merryes behave themselves? Or will they show their guests their true colors?

Absolutely offbeat, and completely unique, Spider Baby is a must see creation courtesy of writer/director Jack Hill (1973's blaxploitation classic Coffy, et al). The entire cast is delightful to watch, but Banner is the real standout here.

As the sultry & unpredictable Virginia, Banner injects Spider Baby with a kinetic quirkiness that defines the whole mood. Some workable touches of comedy prove effective, and thankfully never undermine the chills and thrills.

Aka either The Maddest Story Ever Told or The Liver Eaters.

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