White Elephant Blogathon 2014: 'The Baby'

By: Heather Seebach

I was asked to participate in this year's White Elephant Blogathon and I could not be more thrilled. Each year, bloggers across the web anonymously assign movies to each other (like the annoying-yet-popular Christmas game that shares the name), then we all write up our thoughts. Typically, assignments range from the atrocious to batshit fun. 

The general idea is to "gift" another blogger something they should watch - for better or worse. It's basically the best kind of homework there is. My assignment was 1973's The Baby which, as it turns out, is one of those beautifully bonkers thrillers as only the 70s could provide. I consider myself lucky to get this as my very first White Elephant!

In The Baby, Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is a social worker who is particularly fascinated with her latest clients, the Wadsworth family. The youngest child, simply known as "Baby," is actually a full-grown man in diapers. Ann believes Mrs. Wadsworth (screen legend Ruth Roman) and her daughters may be abusing the twenty-something man into believing he is just an infant for their own twisted gains. 

Here is the great thing about this movie - all the women in this movie are fucking crazy. Sure, the Wadsworth clan are kidnappin, murderin', incest-y folks, but Gentrys wide-eyed obsession with their man-child is pretty creepy in and of itself. In her free time, she sits in a dark room with her mother-in-law watching a slideshow of her late husband. Something about this lady is just off.

Those drawn-on eyebrows just scream crazy.

As Baby's new caretaker, Ann begins prying into the affairs of his family and encouraging Baby to stand, walk, communicate, etc. Needless to say, this does not please the Wadsworth matriarch. You cannot blame mom for being over-protective though, after three husbands walking out on her and finding the babysitter with her tit in Baby's mouth one night:

At least she didn't take "baby sitter" literally.

So when Ann gets Baby alone and tells him, "Let me be your playmate" it's hard not to sympathize with Mama Wadsworth. On the other hand, behind closed doors big sister Alba (Suzanne Zenor) abuses Baby with a cattle prod while other big sister Germaine (Marianna Hill) sneaks into his crib at night to do things that put the babysitter to shame. To re-iterate: every woman in this movie is insane. They seem to enjoy punishing Baby out of some sort of male-directed revenge.

Got room in that crib for one more?

What follows is a battle between Ann and the Wadsworth family for custody of Baby. By battle, I don't mean courtroom drama but a ridiculous sequence of events involving a swinging 70s party (for a toddler) and an attempted kidnapping/murder, followed by actual kidnapping and murder. Even Ann's elderly mother-in-law hops on the crazy train by the end. The climax of the film is its strongest and most memorable section. It goes from a John Waters Lifetime Original to full-blown slasher film in the final sequence. The conclusion is a bit predictable but nonetheless satisfying and twisted.

With all the man-child abuse, incest, rape, and titty-sucking, can you believe this movie got a PG rating? Disturbing though it may be, this is a fun, over-the-top piece of exploitation full of whacked-out performances. The best ones come from David Manzy/Mooney as Baby (who works, despite often being dubbed over by the sounds of an actual baby), Ruth Roman, and Marianna Hill, whose large mane of teased hair and creepy eyes sell every scene she is in:

Eat your heart out, Overly Attached Girlfriend.

Hill also deserves an award for best party hair:

So 80s. She was way ahead of her time.
Thanks to Philip Tatler IV for inviting me into the White Elephant fold this year. The Baby was a great jumping-off point and I look forward to reading the other entries (including my assignment for another lucky/unlucky blogger). To follow along with the Blogathon, go to Philip's blog, Diary of a Country Pickpocket.

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