The Baby (1974)
WRITER: Abe Polsku
DIRECTOR: Ted Post
STARRING: Anjanette Comer as Ann Gentry
Ruth Roman as Mrs. Wadsworth
Marianna Hill as Germaine Wadsworth
Suzanne Zenor as Alba Wadsworth
Beatrice Manley Blau as Judith
David Manzy as Baby
QUICK CUT: A social worker investigates a family and comes to care for their youngest child, known only as Baby.
Ann - The social worker investigating the Wadsworths. She's a kind, caring woman with a lot of love to give, and only looks out for the best interests of the children she's helping.
Mrs. Wadsworth - A seemingly kind woman, but even then she doesn't seem gentle. She's domineering, but loves her family in her way.
Alba - Mrs. Wadsworth's youngest daughter, and she's a bit of a spitfire. She's obedient but has a darkness to her, and will fight back at anyone who gets in her or the family's way.
Germaine - The other daughter, the eldest of the family, and she's a big flirt. She's a model, and probably the gentlest of the family. She seems to be going along with things just because its her family, and has very little real malice in her.
Baby - The youngest, the baby of the family, and a young man in a very odd position that his family is taking advantage of.
THE GUTS: Happy pre-Valentines Day, Triskelions! As is the tradition here at Trisk, it's time for a little bit of a wrong kind of love story, with the 1970s flick, The Baby. It's a story of familial love, gone horribly wrong, and what happens when love becomes abuse. The cover of the DVD hails this as, "Truly one of the most bizarre films to come out of Hollywood in the 1970s." Let's see how well that holds up...
We start out with social worker Ann going through the file for a "Baby Wadsworth". It appears from the photographs that he has truly arrested development, and while he has aged into his 20s or late teens or thereabouts, his mind has not progressed past that of a two year old.
So Ann pays a visit to the Wadsworth family, who see her as nothing more than another in a long series of social workers who have come by and will disappear from their lives, making grand claims to help the baby...child...man...person.
Ann quickly meets Momma, and her daughters, Alba and Germaine. They all seem nice and welcoming enough. But most families do at first glance, don't they? Give it time, and the darkness will become apparent.
Oh, and the son's name is just Baby. Gotta drive home that infantilization, huh? They don't seem too terribly keen on letting Ann in to see Baby, trying to say he's taking a nap. You can tell there is clearly an underlying wrongness about all of this, and Ann senses it too. They don't want anyone to get near Baby.
But they also sense something about Ann, since she comes by a lot, and most of the workers just drop off the face of the planet for another six months. Ann's come by three times in one week.
Ann gets confronted by her boss over that, since she's neglecting other cases, and she expresses her concerns to him, about how there's negligence and more going on than the Wadsworths are revealing.
Later, Ann plays with Baby, trying to nudge him a bit to open up, do more, develop. It's clear he's smarter than they've been saying, and he has potential. Although Alba comes along and says he can't do much more than play simple games.
We also learn about Ann's husband, who was an architect, but had a bit of an accident, so is in some mysterious state where Ann is looking after and caring for him. She has such a big heart.
Sometime later, Baby is being watched over by a sitter, and I'm surprised they would let Baby out of their sight. However, I guess everyone has to get some free time and a night out.
But as babies do, he's busy crying and fussing, so the sitter goes to check on him. She goes up stairs, changes him, and he gets even fussier and wants to get out of the crib. He immediately crawls for the door, and y'know, that should be a red flag right there.
The babysitter stops him though, and they play for a bit, until he cracks his head on the wall. She comforts him, and things get weird, as the grown man starts to grope the girl. He could be hungry, he could be someone feeling urges he has no understanding of, it could be both.
Which is of course the perfect time for the family to come home and be horrified by what the babysitter is making Baby do. The mother flies into a range and beats the holy hell out of the sitter. With Baby watching the abuse, they decide to call it off, and send the girl on her way, with threats of pressing charges if she says anything.
Another day comes, and Ann shows up to check on Baby while Momma's off playing bridge. She tries to get some alone time with Baby, but Alba is insistent he's not to be left alone. A fortuitous phone call comes though, and Ann uses the chance to try and encourage the kid to come out of his shell, show some sign that he's more than just a mentally stunted man.
Which is of course the perfect time for Momma to come home, as Baby is trying to stand. She's angry, but fortunately not as angry as finding the sitter with her son. Ann almost convinces her to let Baby get checked out, and maybe even a school, if he shows potential, but she finds excuses to not give in.
She leaves it open ended for now, after Ann tries to show her how much Baby has progressed, but he sees Momma glaring at him, and does nothing. Momma remains reluctant as she keeps her son pushed down.
Once Ann has left, Baby gets sent inside, and we see why he's really not developing; the family punishes him to make sure he stays a baby. We get to watch a tortuous scene of Alba zapping him with a prod, shouting that Baby doesn't walk, Baby doesn't talk! This sort of correction is above and beyond what Momma normally allows, but it's clear the abuse and belittlement and negative reinforcement is why he is the way he is.
This...this is kinda where I start to check out. I was not expecting anything quite so abusive and in your face as this scene. Largely because it's so in your face and unexpected, is why it hit me so hard. Now that I've seen the movie a few times, it has less of an effect, but that first time left me needing a moment to catch my breath. Truly one of the most bizarre films indeed. Well played, movie.
Later, Ann is waiting at the Xavier School for Exceptional Children or whatever, but the family never shows. When she calls to find what's up, she gets told they're not coming, and to call her supervisor. Apparently they made claims of her being bad to Baby and got her off the case.
Ann confronts the family, and threatens to send in people to investigate and see what's really going on with Baby. The plot spins around for a bit, until Momma decides to play nice and cooperate and invites Anne to Baby's birthday party.
The party is way more of a swingers get together, of random weird people trying to hook up, than a real party for Baby's birthday. I guess that says more about the family's friends.
Ann is trying to stay sober during the night, to have a proper talk with Momma. However, Germaine spikes her drink while she's distracted playing darts with Alba.
Once she's been drugged enough and starts to pass out, the family drags her down to the basement to take care of her once all the guests leave. And it takes awhile for Alba to get rid of Skeeve Pataki.
While the party winds down, Baby sneaks off unseen, and crawls down into the basement where he finds his friend. Now, you would think the sensible thing for the plot to do here is to have baby save Ann somehow, but um...he really doesn't do a single damned thing.
He pulls out her gag, but the party is too loud for her to call for help, and she'd probably just get Momma's Family. She really does all the work on getting over to a saw and using it to cut her ropes. The only good thing about Baby being there is it makes it easy to grab him and escape into the night.
The family naturally doesn't take the kidnapping well, and Momma goes into a bit of a depression. Ann seems to have a plan, and you would think it would be to help Baby, but instead she sends photographs of Baby standing, starting to progress, and threatens the family that soon his progression will be irreversible.
Because let's just toss gasoline on the fire, why don't we? But we gotta get the final act rolling. And boy, does it get trippy.
In response to the threatening letters, the Wadsworths track down Ann, and sneak into her house late at night to recover their family member.
Germaine sneaks around the house with Alba, following the cries of Baby, and eventually Momma gets tired of waiting for her kids, and goes in herself. She finds Germaine with her throat slashed, and Alba stumbles out shortly afterwards with a knife in the back.
Ann shows up with a hatchet, and the two women fight, but oh wait! Ann is not alone! Her friend who she's had a few scenes with is also in on the murder party!
I literally have no idea who to even root for at this point. I mean, the Wadsworths are horrible, evil monsters. That's clear. Ann SEEMS nice on the surface, but here she is kidnapping a person, and luring his family into her home for the express purpose of killing them and hiding the corpses. So it's hard to root for her too, even if she seems to be trying to help Baby.
But anyways, Ann and Judith take the bodies and toss them in a hole in the backyard where she has some plumbers doing some work during the week. She starts dumping dirt in and burying Momma alive with her girls.
I don't know why she bothered to hide the bodies, I mean, they broke into her home, she was just fighting back and killed them in self defense, clearly!
You would think that was it, she has Baby now, the family is gone, Ann can have a happy ending and Baby can become Teenager...but oh no, there is one final twist my friends, as Ann takes Baby in to meet her husband George...who's injury gave him brain damage and is pretty much in the same infantile state as Baby.
So...um...she dug around hoping to find a manchild, plotted this out to kidnap Baby and kill his family, all so her husband could have a playmate?! That is messed up. I do not know what to make of this.
And it all ends on a classic 80s sitcom style smiley freeze frame of the happy family like this is some sort of happy ending. I don't even get credits to process what I just watched.
Video: Pretty decent, if a little washed out, although that's more for the time period and age of the piece. Still, it feels like there's room for improvement to get away from being very grey.
Audio: Solid enough.
Sound Bite: "I'll do any thing to get to paradise...but does it have to be in an ambulance?" says Skeevy Pataki Dennis.
Body Count: Short, sweet, and all in the final minutes.
1 - Germaine is found dead after being killed off screen, after an hour and 18 minutes.
2 - Alba gets marked in the back with a knife.
3 - Momma falls from the balcony and then gets buried alive.
Best Corpse: Alba gets the nod today, for stumbling very well.
Blood Type - F+: For the slight touch of blood when the girls get killed.
Sex Appeal: Nothing to see here.
Drink Up! Every time Judith shows up.
Movie Review: Well, like I said, this one is rough. There's also not much too it. But, I rather like it. It's pretty ballsy content to put in a movie in the early 70s, and with an almost completely female cast to boot. It's well made, the story is told well, although a lot of logic kinda crumbles by the end. The big twist seems really obvious on repeat viewings. The acting is okay, but not great, save for Baby. David Manzy is flat out amazing in the roll. His cries are all dubbed, as far as I can tell, but his physicality is just spot on. He really does embody and act like a toddler. His performance is almost worth the price of admission. But that abuse is definitely rough to sit through. For being pretty unique, and daring for the time, three out of five cribs.
Entertainment Value: Most of the entertainment comes from watching Baby. There's rougher movies out there, but there is very little to laugh at or shake your head over. It doesn't make this a bad movie, but yeah, it's an experience. Two out of five stuffed bears.
And that doesn't sound like it, but again, I liked this. But it is definitely not for everyone, or recommended to many.