SPIDER BABY, OR THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD (1968) – The Dungeon Review!

Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told has long been a favourite and is way past due to get the review treatment! Even the credits are utterly fantastic! Check out this awesome animated credit sequence with music courtesy of the great Lon Chaney Jr. Beware! There’s a full moon tonight!!

Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told may not be the maddest story ever told, but it is certainly wonderfully warped! The Merrye family, due to decades of inbreeding share a peculiar malady that rots the brain and causes them to regress to some not quite explained pre-human existence. Bruno the family chauffeur has been left with the care of the three children; Elizabeth, Virginia and Ralph. The film opens with a messenger arriving at the Merrye home to deliver a letter. Unfortunately he meets Virginia who wants to play a game of “spider” (more on the spider game later). This does not end well for our messenger. The letter announces the impending arrival of some greedy relatives who aim to get their mitts on the Merrye estate. Worst still, they are arriving that very day!

Bruno has a talk with the girls about killing visitors and reminds them that it is not nice to hate. They are to be on their best behavior for the arrival of their guests.

Brother and sister Emily and Peter Howe, lawyer Mr. Schlocker and his secretary Ann Morris arrive. They are introduced to Elizabeth and Virginia, but where is Ralph? Ralph loves hiding.

Uncle Peter is okay but that Aunt Emily it one haughty uptight bitch! Aunt Emily insists on staying for dinner and being put up for the night much to Bruno’s chagrin. Dinner is quite the ordeal! The Merrye children are vegetarians (well sort of) but in honor of their guests, Ralph has caught a rabbit for dinner. Mushrooms and grass from the backyard is also served.

I like you Uncle Peter. Will you play spider with me?

Bruno has an epiphany!

Jack Hill’s tale of the eccentric Merrye family manages to be quirky, eerie, disturbing, amusing and even a bit touching. Although the violence is not graphic it is not ineffective. All of the characters are wonderfully over the top. Virginia (Jill Banner) loves spiders. She likes to play a game where she throws a web over your head and than stings you with two large kitchen knives! She is a wild flower who keeps spiders as pets, and occasionally eats one. Poor Ralph (Sig Haig) is the most brain rotted of the children and it won’t be long before he must join his relatives in the basement. I won’t tell you anymore about the relatives in the basement; I’ll leave that for you to discover. Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) is the youngest of the trio and is often left in charge of Virginia whom she has no control over whatsoever. Elizabeth loves to hate, even though she is not supposed to. Elizabeth scorns Virginia for her naughtiness, but secretly enjoys it. And than we have Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr). Poor Bruno! He made a promise to the children’s father that he would always look after them. He has been a loyal guardian and loves the children dearly. All four actors play their characters brilliantly! Particularly Chaney, who is absolutely charming and unforgettable as Bruno; one of his best roles since the 40s! I should not leave out Carol Ohmart who plays the bitchy Emily Howe. Emily has a rigid exterior, but in the privacy of her bedroom dawns lingerie and dances in front of a mirror! The friendly and overly accommodating Peter Howe played by Quinn Redeker is also some fun and I loved how they included a conversation between him and his love interest Ann Morris (Mary Mitchel) about classic horror films (including The Wolf Man of course!). And I can’t forget the great cameo from Mantan Moreland as the messenger!

Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told is wacky, weird, wonderful, nutty, nasty, spooky fun! Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Jack Hill

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer, Mantan Moreland

14 Responses to “SPIDER BABY, OR THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD (1968) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. I’ve always wanted to see this film!!!!

  2. This movie is a total blast. Everything about it- young Sid Haig, the “spider” thing, Lon Chaney Jr… It felt like a demented version of The Munsters.

    • goregirl Says:

      I had read a review at some point that said it was like The Adamms Family on crack. My next big project will be my top 10 for every year of the 60s. I have just started compiling; guaranteed Spider Baby will be making the 1968 list!

  3. A wonderful movie! I will look forward to your top ten list for each year of the 1960’s Goregirl! The 1960’s and 70’s are my two favorite decades for horror films. Love the 1980’s,too. I was a monster kid during the 1960’s and loved every second of it. Going to see new movies at theaters or drive-ins near me and watching old movies on TV(monster movies were all over TV in those days)was fun times.

    • goregirl Says:

      I’ve given the 70s and 80s this treatment and it is high time I covered the 60s. The toughest part is narrowing the lists down to just 10!

  4. Damn, look at Sid Haig.

    And I’m pretty sure I could get out of that spider game, but I guess I’ll have to watch the movie to be sure.

    • goregirl Says:

      Ha! I was surprised when I looked up Haig and found out he was 73 years old…he was 29 when he made this!

      Sure, in real life you could, but if you lived in horror movie world you’d be doomed!

  5. Movies about a family of creepy, mental killers aren’t usually high on my list but for some reason I’ve loved Spider Baby since I first saw it. I think it’s because of Lon Chaney’s performance.

    • goregirl Says:

      This one is pretty special and Chaney is a delight (I think I’m generally pretty fond of creepy, crazy families though, at least those of the pre-90s variety).

  6. […] Jack Hill’s 1968 film Spider Baby is one of my favourite films of all time! I’ve been dying to make a GIF set for this film. I made a huge step forward in my GIF making this weekend and finally figured out how to convert JPEGs/PNGs to GIFs more cleanly! This is just part one for this GIF set which focuses on the ladies of Spider Baby; Elizabeth and Virginia Merrye and Emily Howe. Elizabeth and Virginia have a million priceless moments; every single second they are on the screen is a priceless moment. It was tough choosing just a handful. Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner are perfect beyond perfection as Elizabeth and Virginia! And what can I say about lovely Carol Ohmart who plays the bitchy Emily Howe? First, I could say I wished I had been able to collect more usable images to make a gif that was befitting her awesomeness. Alas, only two were usable and they really don’t do justice to her brilliance. Watch for part 2 next week. To read my review of Spider Baby; or the Maddest Story Ever Told click here. […]

  7. […] added coverage, see GoreGirls’s review as well as her two pages of GIFs (here and here) from the movie. For even more detail on the […]

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