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
This entry was posted on June 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm and is filed under horror, movies, USA with tags beverly washburn, carol ohmart, jill banner, karl schanzer, lon chaney jr., maddest story ever told, mantan moreland, mary mitchel, quinn k redeker, sid haig, spider baby, spiders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.