Color, 1972, 84m.
Directed by Ted Post
Starring Ruth Roman, Anjanette Comer, Marianna Hill, Suzanne Zenor, David Manzy, Michael Pataki, Tod Andrews
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Image, Geneon (US R1 NTSC)

One The Babyof the sickest movies ever The Babyblessed with a PG rating, The Baby offers more insanity per minute than anything you'd ever see at a multiplex today. Boosted by a surprisingly good performance by Ruth Roman (best known as the leading lady of such films as Strangers on a Train), this twisted little gem may have limited appeal but certainly delivers the goods for those in the right frame of mind.

Kindly social worker Ann Gentry (The Loved One's Comer) becomes intrigued by the case of Baby (Manzy), a full grown young man whose suffocating mother (Roman) and sisters Germaine and Alba (Medium Cool's Hill and Catch-22's Zenor) have kept him in a state of mental infancy, even forbidding him from learning to walk. Ann devotes most of her time to Baby, much to the consternation of her boss -- who points out that the last social worker to take on Baby disappeared without a trace. Still grieving from her husband's debilitation in a car accident, Ann finds herself growing more attached to Baby and concerned for his welfare, while Roman and company sink deeper into insanity and ignite a violent showdown.

Despite the film's obvious low budget (Baby's crying is dubbed unconvincingly with The Babythe sound of a real infant) and frequent lapses in taste (Ann's visit to a class for the mentally handicapped), The Baby remains compelling viewing and has aged quite well. Stanley Kubrick's first composer, Gerald Fried (who also scored several horror classics including I Bury the Living), The Babycontributes a poignant and haunting score, while Comer makes a reasonably sympathetic central character... though her pronunciation of the word "cost" is unintentionally hilarious. Best of all, the unexpected twist ending is unforgettable and absolutely depraved.

The Baby was an early title on VHS sporting one of the creepiest oversized clamshell boxes in the format's history, with "Uncensored Version!" emblazoned across the front. Actually the film was never cut theatrically, so all video versions have been the same despite confusion from the press materials originally stating a running time of 102 minutes. A surprisingly decent DVD release was released in 2000 by Image Entertainment, featuring an open matte presentation that exposed loads of excessive headroom and gave it the feeling of a '70s made-for-TV movie gone very, very wrong. Apart from some very damaged opening credits and two iffy reels, it was a good shot for its time with good color saturation and two notable bonus The Babyfeatures never replicated anywhere else: the wildly melodramatic Spanish dub track and an isolated music and effects track, the only way Fried's score has ever been made available without dialogue. After that license lapsed, the film (along with some other titles from TV Matters like The House of Seven Corpses) was reissued as a bare bones, bargain basement title from Pioneer's Geneon line, but that also went out of circulation after a couple of years.

Surprisingly, The Baby changed course on its downward spiral in video history thanks to Severin, who brought it back to DVD in 2011 with The Babyan even more robust Blu-ray in 2014. Transferred from the original negative, this anamorphic transfer is practically spotless and features much more detail than before. Colors are a bit more naturalistic than the loud palette of the Image version, and the restoration of the theatrical framing gives the film a more intense, off-kilter atmosphere than the TV-style framing of prior discs. As with their release of Bloody Birthday, it's also brighter than before so if you want that full gloomy '70s ambiance, you want to adjust your TV a little. There's only one video extra, but it's a killer: the wild original theatrical trailer, uncovered and presented on video for the first time. This nutty piece of promotion is The Babyalmost worth the sticker price by itself. You also get an audio phone interview with director Ted Post (20m), a TV and movie vet from titles like Magnum Force, The Harrad Experiment, and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, who talks about being pursued by the screenwriter to do the film, his reluctance over the negative aura of the original story, and his approach to the characters. Actor David Mooney (credited as "David Manzy" on the film), who plays Baby, also has a phone interview (14m41s); now a high school teacher (whose students have uncovered his thespian past), he has good memories of working on the film and, most interestingly, discusses the possibly intentional animosity on the set between Roman and Comer that contributed to their on-screen tension. The DVD is rounded out with bonus trailers for titles like In the Folds of the Flesh, Psychomania, and Horror Express, but their absence on the Blu-ray isn't anything significant.

In 2018, the film wound up in the bouncing lap of Arrow Video who treated it to a new Blu-ray edition in both the U.S. and the U.K. In a nice touch, it's presented here in both the theatrical matted aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and an open matte 1.37:1 option, which should bring back warm fuzzy memories for anyone who encountered it The Babyvia VHS, The BabyTV, or the Image disc. It's definitely a different viewing experience depending on which one you choose, so try 'em both. Image quality is darker and richer than the Severin, with the same framing on the 1.78:1 option and a more generous compression job bringing out more natural film grain compared to what was already a pretty good presentation. The LPCM English mono track is also in good condition, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. Both the Post and Mooney interviews are ported over here (as "Tales from the Crib" and "Baby Talk" respectively) along with the trailer, but you get some nice new toys to play with, too. Estimable film writer Travis Crawford tackles the film and its peculiar place in '70s sick cinema in a new audio commentary, complete with trivia about all the major actors, extensive thoughts on Post's career, a thorough rundown about that wildly inappropriate MPAA rating and other comparable titles, and connections to such films as The Beguiled. In "A Family Affair" (5m43s), Hill appears for a new interview fondly recalling working with Post, finding an angle to playing her implied lesbian moments, and feeling protective towards Comer. "Nursery Crimes" (6m27s) features nursery painting creator Stanley Dyrector explaining how he made that movie "freakin' real" and brought out his hippie tendencies when he conjured up the pictures seen on the walls, with other digressions including the perceived tension between Roman and Comer on the set. And yes, he shows off some of the surviving paintings in his possession, too. Also included is "Down Will Come Baby" (12m1s), a video appraisal of the film by film professor Rebekah McKendry who covers some highlights of the story, notes the minimal presence of adult men on screen, and shares her enthusiasm for both the film and its effective marketing. The packaging features reversible sleeve options including a new design by The Twins of Evil and, in the first pressing only, an insert booklet featuring new liner notes by Kat Ellinger.

Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (1.78:1)

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Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (1.33:1)

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Severin Films (Blu-ray)

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Updated review on September 12, 2018.