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Saturday, October 14, 2006


Directed by Jack Hill

Filmed in 1964 but not officially released until 1968, "Spider Baby" suffered many indignations on it's way to reaching it's well deserved cult status, including inappropriate new titles such as "The Liver Eaters" and "Cannibal Orgy". For awhile it was thought lost but it has survived and is a morbid little treat from beginning to end. Speaking of beginnings, Lon Chaney Jr. warbles the opening theme song which is a lyrical hodgepodge of the horrific with fine rhymes like "Cannibal spiders creep and crawl, and boys and ghouls are having a ball, Frankenstein, Dracula and even the Mummy, are sure to wind up in somebody's tummy". Fucking poetry! Chaney also stars in the movie, caught on celluloid in the twilight of his life, ravaged by alcoholism but still able to manage what may be his best performance ever as the chauffer left in charge of the ailing members of the cursed Merrye family. There are five members of the family left for him to look after in their ancestral old dark house: the largely unseen Uncle Ned and Aunt Martha who reside in the basement and three charmingly demented children- siblings Virginia, Elizabeth and Ralph. Virginia (played by 17 year old Jill Banner) is the character the film is named after who imagines herself to be a spider, eating bugs and "stinging" her human prey with kitchen knives. Hers is one of my favorite horror performances ever and it's hard for me to pay attention to any of the other actors when she is onscreen. Compelling would be the word. Sid Haig, who plays her brother Ralph, also delivers the goods as the murderous drooling man child. When distant relatives come to stake their claim on the Merrye family fortune bad things happen to people who deserve it and those are just the kind of thrills I dig the most.


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