For some unknown and perhaps mystical reason there was a large number of bizarre and confrontational films released into the world in 1973. The Holy Mountain, I Spit On Your Grave, Psychomania, The Wicker Man, and other landmark films in the cult canon were in circulation and leaving scars on audiences everywhere they played. Less well known, but equally mind-melting, is director Ted Post’s The Baby.
The plot of The Baby deals with a social worker (Anjanette Comer) who takes on the assignment of dealing with the deeply unhinged Wadsworth family. The head of the clan is the domineering Mrs.Wadsworth, who along with her two daughters, keep watch over Baby, an adult aged man who lives and behaves like an infant due to years of punishment and negative reinforcement. The central conflict of the movie involves a battle for Baby’s well-being between Comer’s social worker character and the Wadsworth ladies but the joy of the movie isn’t found in it’s drama so much in the way it occasionally drifts away from the main story into moments of sleazy excess.
Take for example the following sequence involving a babysitter. We are introduced to the babysitter in a previous scene where she is having an awkward phone conversation with her boyfriend which includes the line, “What do you mean am I wearing panties? Aren’t I always?” She hangs up when Baby starts crying and proceeds to change his diaper. A newly fresh Baby wants to get out of his crib and play which leads to a strange encounter that raises a variety of uncomfortable questions regarding the internal sexual struggles of both parties. This behaviour is not met with acceptance when the women of the house return home and violence erupts like a volcano of disgust. This scene perfectly illustrates why The Baby is so entertaining. It takes an already disturbing scenario, escalates it into an even more unsettling situation, then shatters the discomfort with ugliness and brutality.
There is plenty more excitement contained within it’s running time, such as a housebound blade fight and a lengthy psychedelic birthday party. The Baby stands alone as a unique entry into the realm of transgressive cinema. It’s occasionally offensive and often disturbing, but always transfixing and totally committed to a singular vision.
Josh Johnson is an Austin, TX based filmmaker currently working on a documentary about the life affirming power of the VHS tape called Rewind This.