This highly influential cult classic from writer-director Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters, Foxy Brown) tells the demented and darkly comic tale of the Merrye children -- Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner) ... more »and Ralph (Sid Haig)-- all of whom suffer from a rare genetic malady that causes its victims to mentally regress to a condition of "pre-human savagery and cannibalism." The children live in the old family mansion, and though under the cautious guardianship of chauffeur Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.), they manage to terrorize anyone or anything which passes through the gates. So when the family is visited by a pair of distant relatives and their greedy lawyer, a wild night of murderous thrills ensues. Dark Sky Films proudly presents the Director's Cut of Spider Baby, transferred and restored in High Definition from the original 35mm negative under the personal supervision of Jack Hill and featuring previously lost footage, rounded out with never-before-seen featurettes created. Bonus Features Include:
Feature length-commentary with writer-director Jack Hill and actor Sid Haig
"The Hatching of Spider Baby" (32 min featurette)
"Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein" (11 min featurette)
"The Merrye House Revisited" (8 min featurette)
Alternate Opening Title Sequence ("Cannibal Orgy")
"What to write about THIS one? I have to be honest, this is a tough call to make, because I just haven't seen anything quite like this before, and maybe that's enough of a recommendation in itself. Some reviewers have likened it to "The Addams Family", but I'd say "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is another candidate for comparison. The Merrye family suffers from a degenerative disease ("rots the brain" - that's what my dad used to say about comic books!) which causes them to regress to, eventually, homicidal, psychopathic cannibals. There's no denying that Lon Chaney does a superior job as the family chauffeur and as the sole voice of reason in the madhouse. Carol Ohmart, as a relative visiting to reclaim the estate, reprises her sexy ice-queen role from "House on Haunted Hill", this time stripping down to the black lace (in one of the more gratuitous moments in a gratuitous movie!) There's no gore, at least nothing like what you commonly see in today's poor excuses for "horror movies". In fact, the "rat scene" from "Hideous Sun Demon" is probably more of a pure gross-out than anything on camera in this movie. But the *implied* violence is there, in spades. And folks, it's weird. Do NOT expect to sit there and yawn. It may have been done on a low budget, but all that means is that today's directors are wasting money. "Spider Baby"'s director, Jack Hill, did some work with Roger Corman before knocking this one off in a mere 12 days of shooting. The movie was lost in legal limbo for years, and that lack of exposure at a time when it could never have made it to television probably ensured it's future as a true "cult" film. The print is excellent - no complaints at all. The missing 8 minutes isn't the usual well-deserved cut, either: in this case, they lopped off important background information. (I wish that they had restored it into the film instead of having it as an "extra", but hey! We're lucky to get ANYthing here!)Bottom line: you can't call yourself a "cult movie fan" if you haven't seen this one. It is in no way similar in plot to "Carnival of Souls", but I'd have to say that it ranks right up there with that classic for pure strangeness."
Yeah Baby, Yeah!
E. Parsons | 08/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I discovered this DVD a few weeks ago whilst browsing Amazon. I had'nt seen or heard of it before and simply bought it on a whim. It now ranks as one of the most enjoyable movies in my collection. 'Spider Baby' is in a different league to most other B-movies. The production is lifted by excellent direction from Jack Hill and by a very capable and likable cast. The real surprise for me was Lon Chaney's performance as the family chauffeur. I'd half expected to see a washed up old horror star sadly trying to emulate his past glories (a la Bela Lugosi in 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'). Instead, Lon Chaney treats us to one of the best performances of his career (honestly!) and shows what a great professional he was. The movie benefits from a marvellous musical score, including the opening theme which is sung by Mr Chaney himself. It really does have to be heard to be believed. The storyline is surprisingly slow paced and there is little on-screen gore or violence. Most of the horror occurs off camera and the film relies on the weird characters and strange goings on to keep viewers capitivated...and it succeeds brilliantly!On the technical side, picture quality is fantastic - exceptionally clean and sharp with very little sign of wear and tear. The sound is single channel mono and is also very good. The film is presented in its original widescreen 1.66:1 ratio. This is a good size even if you don't own a widescreen set - the movie looked great on my standard size 1.33:1 TV. The DVD also features an interesting commentary by the film's writer and director Jack Hill. Jack has a very easy going style and gives lots of behind the scenes info on the movie, cast and crew. Spider verdict : a thoroughly enjoyable tongue-in-cheek horror that comes highly recommended."
"Ralph's allowed to eat anything that he catches"...
BD Ashley | Otago, New Zealand | 06/14/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Also known as THE LIVER EATERS, and subtitled THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD (a variation on the DeMille movie); this 30th Anniversary DVD of Jack (FOXY BROWN) Hill's horror classic SPIDER BABY is a real treat. For a movie addict like myself, discovering this is like having Xmas come early.
Hill's script deals with an imaginary medical condition known as "Merrye's Syndrome", a "rotting of the brain" a disease so awful many authorities are in denial of its existance. The result of inbreeding, the sufferer experiences age regression, which is to say as the body grows, the mind gets younger. SPIDER BABY tells the story of "that fateful day ten years ago" that Merrye's Syndrome was wiped out forever.
Despite their name, the Merrye family are anything but and make the Addams family look like the Cleavers by comparison.
Horror legend Lon Chaney Jr has one of his best roles as Bruno Schlocker, the Merrye family's new chauffeur- though unknown to him the previous driver was "webbed" by Virginia Merrye (Jill Banner), one of their cute but deranged daughters. As if that wasn't enough the poor chap also had his ears hacked off with a pair of carving knives. What a lovely young lady. The other psychotic daughter is Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) also cute, but suffering from radical brain rot. And last but not least is Ralph (Sid Haig) an unfortunate fellow who stalks and kills domestic cats, which the Merryes then roast and serve to their guests; who are told they're eating rabbit. Ironically, the Merrye family are all vegans because.... nope. No spoilers.
During dinner one of the guests asks Bruno: "Isn't Ralph a vegetarian too?" to which Bruno replies: "Yes, but Ralph's allowed to eat anything that he catches".
DVD extras include Commentary by Jack Hill: which is actually worth listening to (Unlike some bloated commentaries by Hollywood egoists and talentless film makers); filmographies for Hill and Lon Chaney Jr; plus footage of the 30th Anniversary reunion presented by archivist Johnny Legend as well as an additional 8 minutes of previously unseen footage.
A must have for cult movie buffs; SPIDER BABY is a true original and four decades on it retains its creepy fascination. Buy it and let the SPIDER BABY weave its macabre web on you!!"
Wonderful lost cult film finally gets its due
Surfink | Racine, WI | 10/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had read about this film for years and never really bothered to track down a copy. I hate to say it now, but based on some of Jack Hill's other work (e.g. Blood Bath) I was expecting something more along the lines of, say, House of the Black Death, or an Al Adamson movie. Nothing could be further from the truth; all the praise heaped on it below is totally accurate. The story/screenplay is fresh, funny, and completely bizarre, evoking earlier AND later movies/TV shows like Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Addams Family, but really very unlike any of them. The cast is uniformly terrific (unlike most low-budget schlock of this era); it's actually hard to single out anyone, although Lon Chaney, icy/hot Carol Ohmart, Quinn Redeker, and Jill Banner (in her first acting role) are especially impressive. And if you (like myself) have reservations about most "horror comedies," relax: this isn't the broad, dated, farcical humor of, for example, roughly contemporary Roger Corman flicks; Spider Baby is played straight, with the humor (and the horror) allowed to arise from the situation, as in all the best comedy. You don't want to know any plot details, just buy this movie; having finally seen Spider Baby, it's leaped instantly into my top ten must-see list. This is one "cult classic" that really deserves its reputation.
The Image DVD does this film a long-delayed justice. The quality of the source print is fantastic, crisp and detailed, with very good contrast and tonal scale, and only the slightest traces of wear (some very minor speckling and a few blemished frames here and there). I agree with another reviewer that the rediscovered "lost" footage IS vital to the movie and should be reincorporated into any future reissue. The audio commentary by Jack Hill, while a little more laid back than, say, Tom Weaver on the Universal discs, is quite interesting and informative. I'm amused that he and several of the principals involved can't seem to understand why their film has such a fervent cult. And after hearing all the comments from Hill and the actors (in footage from the cast and crew reunion) about how much they all believed in the movie, it's heartbreaking to know that it immediately got sucked into litigation and sat essentially unreleased and "lost" for so many years. I could go on and on, but all you need to know is: if you're any kind of cult, horror, exploitation movie freak, see Spider Baby! And remember, it's not nice to hate."
Spider Baby never looked so good!
mark czuba | city of chamopions | 11/24/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love re-releases, no better way to re-release this little gem than on DVD. the QUALITY OF THE TRANSFER IS MAGNIFICANT! Spider Baby goes down as one of the all-time great cult classic films. Jack Hill's best right next to Switchblade Sisters. This DVD includes 8 minites of long lost footage, that was recently found when they where looking for a good print to use in the transfer. Dvd includes a great little Documentery on the theatrical re-release, with the aging cast remeniscing about to good ol' days, and Jack hill answering a few questions for his cult following. Highly reccomended, check it out if you are into weird movies with simple plots."