Directed by Jack Hill
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Ah, yes! The maddest story ever told! That’s been the subtitle for this long lost, yet recently rediscovered gem, and for its time way back in the Sixties with a budget of just around sixty thousand dollars, it more than lived up to it. Having been one of the lucky few who tracked this flick down on a horrid bootleg VHS, I’ve been waiting for a definitive DVD release for what seems like forever. Dark Sky Films has heard the cries of fans the world over, and now they have given us a gift! Spider Baby a.k.a. Cannibal Orgy is finally here. Remastered, restored, and for the first time ever, complete! Can you hear the angels singing? I know I can!
Meet what’s left of the Merrye family — Elizabeth (Washburn), Virginia (Banner), and Ralphie (Haig). They were just your average everyday kids until they started suffering the effects of a rare genetic disease that causes its victims to regress into savage cannibals (and you thought your family was fucked). Good thing they have the family chauffeur Bruno (Chaney) looking out for them. Bruno helps to keep the murder and mayhem to an absolute minimum for as long as he can, but then some distant relatives and their lawyer show up with greed on their minds. Little did they realize that their minds would end up decomposing rapidly in the stomachs of the Merrye kids! All manner of insanity ensues, and we get to see every frame in absolute clarity thanks to the painstaking restoration and remastering effort put in by Dark Sky Films under the watchful eye of director Jack Hill!
The print of the film itself isn’t the only thing worthy of praise as this DVD is absolutely dripping with extras. Things kick off with probably one of the best commentary tracks of the year courtesy of Jack and star Sid Haig. These guys not only have history but a deep respect and love for one another (also check out our interview with Jack and Sid here). The things they have done and seen in this industry are the stuff of legend. This was one conversation I did not want to end, but alas, there are even more goodies in store …
First up is a thirty-minute featurette called The Hatching of Spider Baby in which the cast, crew, and even master of horror Joe Dante discuss their love for this project and its humble beginnings while sharing on-set stories and exchanging anecdotes. A good chunk of the run time of this featurette is dedicated to speaking about genre legend Lon Chaney, Jr., and rightfully so. There’s not much out there that details the life of Chaney, but this extra delightfully gives us a look about not only the actor but the man himself. Really good stuff. Next up is The Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein. A veteran of the Roger Corman films of this era, Stein brought a unique sound to Spider Baby. This eleven-minute featurette takes a look back at him and the weekend he spent in Mexico composing the flick’s score.
From there we have an eight-minute featurette that revisits the house used in the movie called The Merrye House Revisited. Here Jack Hill and bonus material producer Elijah Drenner walk us around and through the digs while discussing shot setups, etc. It’s always cool to get a then and now perspective on things, and since the house was very much a character in the film in and of itself, this inclusion perfectly fits the bill. Finally we get an extended scene that gives us more Chaney (never a bad thing) that runs about four minutes, an alternate opening credits sequence, and a still gallery. There’s no doubt that for a single-disc release this fucker is packing the goods.
Spider Baby has gone on to reach mega-cult status among fans. One look at the film and it’s easy to see why. Every performer gives it his or her all, but as expected, it’s Chaney who steals the show with one scene in particular that is probably the actor’s best performance ever. If you’ve never seen this classic, then the time is perfect to jump in head first and enjoy the ride. Click that link below and got your copy like yesterday!
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
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