Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spider Baby Yeah Yeah

As I type this its Sunday night, I have a headache, a cold, work tomorrow at 7 am and a girlfriend in South Carolina for the week (gr-igh). Sitting here with my head spinning out into fevered delirium I thought "Its time to start a blog". I know everyone jumped on this bandwagon years ago, but my band is still a demo on Cassette filed neatly between Def lep and Dokken. Looking for a place to start me off I glanced at Finalgirls blog (I have been a frequent visitor for a while and you should be too), and what do mine eyes see? A Ye Olde Filme Club challenge featuring "Spider baby" the 1968 Jack Hill classic. How fortuitous, since I not only needed a first blog topic but also another movie to lay around and watch.

I became aware of this movie many years ago when one of my earliest issues of Fangoria did a piece on it, and of course the old White Zombie song.

"This Cannibal Orgy is strange to behold, in the maddest story ever told"


Written/Directed by Jack Hill and originally titled "Cannibal Orgy or the Maddest Story Ever Told", "Spider baby" is a black comedy about the Merrye family. A family, who through many years of inbreeding have been inheriting a unique condition that only exists is their blood line. After the age of ten they begin to regress mentally to a primal cannibalistic state. Our story concerns Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr), the family chauffeur who has been looking after the son Ralph (Sid Haig) and the two daughters Elizabeth (Berverly Washburn) and Virginia (Jill Banner), the later being our beloved spider baby.
When a poor (juicy) mailman delivers news that the family's far removed Aunt and Uncle are arriving to deal with matters of the family money it threatens to expose the bizarre practices of the family. Bruno, trying to keep his family together, attempts to get them to play nice with the relatives, their attorney and his assistant, but it soon becomes clear that everything is falling apart. Things must be dealt with!
I hadn't watched this movie in some time and had forgotten how entertaining it is, it balances great horror atmosphere with just enough laughs to not get bogged down in its own madness.
The Casting is amazing, a young Sid Haig giving us the inbred weirdo bit he has now known for. Of course the legendary Lon Chaney Jr who's "Wolfman" is even referenced. Carol Ohmart of "House on Haunted Hill" fame, gives us the cold (at least till Ralph warms her up) money hungry Aunt.
However the real story among the cast is Jill Banner who plays Virgina with a wide eyed innocence that hides the murderous spider obsessed girl within.
I cannot express how great she is in this film (her debut no less). She went on to mostly non horror roles and later had a relationship with Marlon Brando, whom she had been developing scripts with. However in 1982 she was killed in a car accident, Brando had said that she was the only woman he ever really loved.
I really do recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, and if you can't trust a sick strangers first time rantings, who can you trust?


  1. Agreed about Jill Banner -- she's absolutely amazing. I had never seen this movie and loved it. Welcome to blogging, btw!

  2. Jill Banner was certainly brilliant and the primary element of the film I remembered after first seeing it. But after multiple viewings I've realized that the entire cast is absolutely perfect--quirky without being fake, memorable without competing for the scene. That Jack Hill could get such great performances in less than two weeks on such a low budget as a first time director is simply astounding.

  3. Great review, and welcome to blogging! It looks like you're off to a great start. It's really a shame that Washburn and Banner never had horror careers outside of this. They're about as unique (and frightening) as actresses as I've seen in a low-budget movie like this.