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Spider Baby (Director's cut)

4.4 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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(Sep 25, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This highly influential cult classic from writer-director Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters, Foxy Brown) tells the demented and darkly comic tale of the Merrye children -- Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner) and Ralph (Sid Haig)-- all of whom suffer from a rare genetic malady that causes its victims to mentally regress to a condition of "pre-human savagery and cannibalism."

The children live in the old family mansion, and though under the cautious guardianship of chauffeur Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.), they manage to terrorize anyone or anything which passes through the gates. So when the family is visited by a pair of distant relatives and their greedy lawyer, a wild night of murderous thrills ensues.

Dark Sky Films proudly presents the Director's Cut of Spider Baby, transferred and restored in High Definition from the original 35mm negative under the personal supervision of Jack Hill and featuring previously lost footage, rounded out with never-before-seen featurettes created.

Bonus Features Include:
Feature length-commentary with writer-director Jack Hill and actor Sid Haig
"The Hatching of Spider Baby" (32 min featurette)
"Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein" (11 min featurette)
"The Merrye House Revisited" (8 min featurette)
Still Gallery
Alternate Opening Title Sequence ("Cannibal Orgy")
Extended Scene

Re-titled Spider Baby in 1968 after the original title Cannibal Orgy, Jack Hill's black and white proto horror-comedy influenced numerous films, especially those featuring boxed or bagged body parts, like Phantasm's yellow-bleeding finger and Blue Velvet's ear found in the meadow. Spider Baby is about an inbred family cursed with Merrye's Disease, which transforms even sweet children, Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner), and Ralph (Sid Haig) into murderous cannibals. Virginia steals the opening scene, during which she plays "spider," cutting the ear off a messenger who is sent to their decrepit Victorian mansion to deliver news of the house's confiscation. Caretaker Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) futilely chides Virginia in preparation for a visit from their oblivious, snooty cousin, Emily Howe (Carol Ohmart) and her husband, Peter Howe (Quinn Redeker), who plan to take the home. As more people pile into the house for a meeting, including lawyer Schlocker (Karl Schnazer) and his innocent assistant, Ann (Mary Mitchell), the kids cut loose, hacking everyone up and feeding them to their uncles locked in the basement. Jack Hill, whose films range from horror (Switchblade Sisters) to Blaxploitation (Coffy, Foxy Brown), made sure in Spider Baby to balance comedy with spook so its cannibalistic themes scare but don't absolutely disgust. A brilliant dinner party scene, in which the Merryes serve roasted cat and garden bugs, passing on the meat because they "don't eat dead things," is one of the tensest and funniest cannibal film scenes ever made, up there with Fuad Ramses' Egyptian feast in Roger Corman's Blood Feast. This special edition DVD includes interesting featurettes that detail the making of the movie and the whereabouts of the real mansion, though the best part of Spider Baby is pondering how bizarre this film must have seemed to the 1960s youth. —Trinie Dalton

Special Features

  • The hatching of Spider Baby
  • Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein
  • The Merrye House revisited
  • Still gallery
  • Alternate opening title sequence
  • Extended scene

Product Details

  • Actors: Jill Banner, Lon Chaney Jr., Sid Haig, Joan Keller, Mary Mitchell
  • Directors: Jack Hill
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000RPCJ9I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,850 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Spider Baby (Director's cut)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Shanks VINE VOICE on April 23, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What to write about THIS one? I have to be honest, this is a tough call to make, because I just haven't seen anything quite like this before, and maybe that's enough of a recommendation in itself. Some reviewers have likened it to "The Addams Family", but I'd say "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is another candidate for comparison. The Merrye family suffers from a degenerative disease ("rots the brain" - that's what my dad used to say about comic books!) which causes them to regress to, eventually, homicidal, psychopathic cannibals. There's no denying that Lon Chaney does a superior job as the family chauffeur and as the sole voice of reason in the madhouse. Carol Ohmart, as a relative visiting to reclaim the estate, reprises her sexy ice-queen role from "House on Haunted Hill", this time stripping down to the black lace (in one of the more gratuitous moments in a gratuitous movie!)
There's no gore, at least nothing like what you commonly see in today's poor excuses for "horror movies". In fact, the "rat scene" from "Hideous Sun Demon" is probably more of a pure gross-out than anything on camera in this movie. But the *implied* violence is there, in spades. And folks, it's weird. Do NOT expect to sit there and yawn. It may have been done on a low budget, but all that means is that today's directors are wasting money. "Spider Baby"'s director, Jack Hill, did some work with Roger Corman before knocking this one off in a mere 12 days of shooting. The movie was lost in legal limbo for years, and that lack of exposure at a time when it could never have made it to television probably ensured it's future as a true "cult" film.
The print is excellent - no complaints at all.
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Format: DVD
I discovered this DVD a few weeks ago whilst browsing Amazon. I had'nt seen or heard of it before and simply bought it on a whim. It now ranks as one of the most enjoyable movies in my collection. 'Spider Baby' is in a different league to most other B-movies. The production is lifted by excellent direction from Jack Hill and by a very capable and likable cast. The real surprise for me was Lon Chaney's performance as the family chauffeur. I'd half expected to see a washed up old horror star sadly trying to emulate his past glories (a la Bela Lugosi in 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'). Instead, Lon Chaney treats us to one of the best performances of his career (honestly!) and shows what a great professional he was. The movie benefits from a marvellous musical score, including the opening theme which is sung by Mr Chaney himself. It really does have to be heard to be believed. The storyline is surprisingly slow paced and there is little on-screen gore or violence. Most of the horror occurs off camera and the film relies on the weird characters and strange goings on to keep viewers capitivated...and it succeeds brilliantly!
On the technical side, picture quality is fantastic - exceptionally clean and sharp with very little sign of wear and tear. The sound is single channel mono and is also very good. The film is presented in its original widescreen 1.66:1 ratio. This is a good size even if you don't own a widescreen set - the movie looked great on my standard size 1.33:1 TV. The DVD also features an interesting commentary by the film's writer and director Jack Hill. Jack has a very easy going style and gives lots of behind the scenes info on the movie, cast and crew. Spider verdict : a thoroughly enjoyable tongue-in-cheek horror that comes highly recommended.
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Format: DVD
Also known as THE LIVER EATERS, and subtitled THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD (a variation on the DeMille movie); this 30th Anniversary DVD of Jack (FOXY BROWN) Hill's horror classic SPIDER BABY is a real treat. For a movie addict like myself, discovering this is like having Xmas come early.
Hill's script deals with an imaginary medical condition known as "Merrye's Syndrome", a "rotting of the brain" a disease so awful many authorities are in denial of its existance. The result of inbreeding, the sufferer experiences age regression, which is to say as the body grows, the mind gets younger. SPIDER BABY tells the story of "that fateful day ten years ago" that Merrye's Syndrome was wiped out forever.
Despite their name, the Merrye family are anything but and make the Addams family look like the Cleavers by comparison.
Horror legend Lon Chaney Jr has one of his best roles as Bruno Schlocker, the Merrye family's new chauffeur- though unknown to him the previous driver was "webbed" by Virginia Merrye (Jill Banner), one of their cute but deranged daughters. As if that wasn't enough the poor chap also had his ears hacked off with a pair of carving knives. What a lovely young lady. The other psychotic daughter is Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) also cute, but suffering from radical brain rot. And last but not least is Ralph (Sid Haig) an unfortunate fellow who stalks and kills domestic cats, which the Merryes then roast and serve to their guests; who are told they're eating rabbit. Ironically, the Merrye family are all vegans because.... nope. No spoilers.
During dinner one of the guests asks Bruno: "Isn't Ralph a vegetarian too?" to which Bruno replies: "Yes, but Ralph's allowed to eat anything that he catches".
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