Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 20th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1967
Director: Jack Hill
Writer: Jack Hill
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer, Mantan Moreland, Carolyn Cooper, Joan Keller Stern
BluRay released: June 9th, 2015
Approximate running times: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95
Synopsis: A inbreed family living in a dilapidated mansion has their lives turned upside down. When greedy relatives show up wanting to take them away from the only place that they have ever called home.
Spider Baby was written and directed by Jack Hill whose other notable films include, Mondo Keyhole, Pit Stop, The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Coffy, Foxy Brown and Switchblade Sisters. Key collaborators on Spider Baby include cinematographer Alfred Taylor (The Teacher, Killer Klowns from Outer Space) and composer Ronald Stein (The Little Shop of Horrors, The Haunted Palace). Other titles Spider Baby is also known under include, Cannibal Orgy and Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told.
Just based on subject matter and how said subject matter is presented it is safe to say that this film is truly a one of kind cinema experience. And though this film takes on taboo subject matter like inbreeding and cannibalism. This film does not go the usual route so many other similar themed films have gone. Instead trying to shock audiences due with its provocative subject matter. This film takes a slight turn and for the better, as it finds that perfect balance better horror and humor.
For and foremost, the reason why this film delivers and then some are its well defined characters. Which are all brought to life with enthusiastic performance from the cast who are all utterly convincing in their respective roles. With that being said, there are two performances that stand taller than the rest and they are Jill Banner in the role of Virginia Merrye. Her character like to pretend that she is a spider. She traps characters in the film with a rope web and then proceeds to stab them with her two knives acting as stingers. The other standout performance comes from Sid Haig (Pit Stop) in the role of Ralph Merrye. His character is the mute older brother that grunts instead of speaking.
From a production stand point there is not an area that is lacking. The film takes full advantage of its primary location a dilapidated mansion. Pacing is never an issue as things move quickly from one moment to the next. And the film’s rock solid visuals do an excellent job reinforce what is unfolding onscreen. Also for a film with many standout moments that linger on long after the film has ended. There is one scene that sums up this film in a nutshell. It is the scene where The Merrye’s and their guests have all gathered for a most unusual dinners to ever grace the silver screen. Ultimately when it comes to creating something remarkable with minimal resources, at the head of that list would be Jack Hill and with Spider Baby he delivers what is arguably his finest hour as filmmaker.
Spider Baby comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer used for this release was supervised by supervised and approved by director Jack Hill. Also when compared to the transfer that Arrow Video used for the UK release for this film, this transfer is looks to be the same source. Details look crisp, contrast and black levels are consistently strong, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English. There are no issues with hiss or background noise, dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Range wise this audio mix does a very good job with more ambient aspects of the soundtrack and when it comes to this film’s score its sounds appropriately robust. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, an image gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 3 seconds), an extended scene (4 minutes 4 seconds), alternate opening title sequence (1 minute 50 seconds), a Q & A panel discussion with director Jack Hill and actors Quinn K. Redeker and Beverly Washburn (33 minutes 8 seconds), a short film also directed by Jack Hill titled ‘The Host’ (29 minutes 49 seconds), three featurettes – the first featurette titled ‘The Hatching of Spider Baby’ (31 minutes 43 seconds), the second featurette titled ‘Spider Stravinsky’ (10 minutes 58 seconds) and the third featurette titled ‘The Merrye House Revisited’ (7 minutes 38 seconds) and an audio commentary with Jack Hill and actor Sid Haig.
Topics discussed in the Q & A include, how Spider Baby was shot in twelve days, they reminisce about casts members who are not at this Q&A, how editing resulted in this film’s nonlinear structure, their thoughts on the film and how it affected their careers.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘The Hatching of Spider Baby’ include, how well the film balances horror with comedy, each participant discusses how they got into filmmaking / acting, the cast and their performances, the look of the film and working with Jack Hill.
The extra titled ‘Spider Stravinsky’ is essentially a career overview of composer Ronald Stein.
The extra titled ‘The Merrye House Revisited’ is essentially Jack Hill revisiting Spider Baby’s main location and reminiscing about the film.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, The origins of the film, the main location / house featured in the film, the look of the film and how they achieved it on a limited budget, casting and reminisce with onset stories about the cast, this film’s use of humor and it’s in joke’s about Universal Horror films and there was a screenplay written for a yet un-filmed sequel.
Reportedly this short film may have inspired the last act of Apocalypse Now!
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a forty page page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film titled ‘Just Because Something Isn’t Good Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad; Or, Loving the Maddest Story Ever Told’ written by Stephen R. Bissette, an interview with director & cast and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Spider Baby gets a solid release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.