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A cult gem almost lost to time and carelessness, “Spider Baby” was luckily revived and restored for our viewing pleasure.

Spider Baby

Three genetically diseased heirs and their caretaker violently resist meddling from outside interests in their property and wealth. Let’s dig into 1967’s SPIDER BABY, directed by Jack Hill!

As I See It

Long before Sid Haig became a household horror name, he starred in this cult hit that was nearly lost to time. This was Haig’s first horror film (filmed in 1964 but not released until 1967 because of legal issues), though Blood Bath was released first.

Haig’s performance is impossible to ignore. Per the plot, he’s forced to act like an obstreperous child. I can’t help but see some of his acting rhyme through many of the seventies and eighties genre films. American Gothic comes to mind — even the Hitchhiker in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Stricken with a disease that makes them regress as they age, the three Merrye children (Sid Haig, Jill Banner, and Beverly Washburn) are looked after by Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.).

There is just about everything in this film, from creature comforts with the tarantulas to morbid children’s games. There is even some cheeky dialogue about Chaney’s legacy as the Wolfman.

Jack Hill swung for the fences with his directorial debut. Hill would go on to direct a bunch of low-budget horror and exploitation films, including the legendary Pam Grier film Foxy Brown.

We can be thankful for those who see value in keeping nearly lost films like this alive.

Famous Faces

Lon Chaney Jr. (Bruno), an icon in his own right, is also the son of horror royalty. His father played the original ghoul in The Phantom of the Opera, and he carried that torch, which continued to shine bright through many iconic roles, including the titular character in The Wolf Man, the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Mummy in The Mummy’s Tomb and The Mummy’s Curse, and Count Dracula in Son of Dracula. A pillar of Universal Horror‘s impressive output, The Wolf Man was, of course, his most famous role.

Sid Haig (Ralph) kept to the fringes of notoriety throughout most of his career. Only cinephiles like Tarantino were knocking on his door holding autograph books. That is until Rob Zombie, another well-known cinephile, cast him as Captain Spaulding in his directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses. From there, horror fans were treated to the brilliance and charm that a small concentration of genre and exploitation hounds already knew all about.

Of Gratuitous Nature

A different time, a different standard of speech hegemony. Find offense in what you will, but they approach the content (incest, mental and genetic disorders) as softly as the era allowed.

Heartthrob

There is a chemistry between Lon Chaney Jr. and Sid Haig that gives me an indirect sense of pride, especially during the dinner scene. One of the ultimate monsters seemed to recognize in Sid a commonality.

Haig’s exaggerated performance could easily have caught the ire of a “serious” actor, but Chaney accepted him as a peer, in a reported story of Haig beckoning Chaney to the set on proper terms and Chaney forcefully leveling them to a first-name basis.

Ripe for a Remake

There was a rumored remake in the early 2000s that never came to fruition. As of 2023, independent filmmaker Dustin Ferguson has acquired the rights and plans on remaking the film, which he did! It stars Beverly Washburn (Elizabeth in the original), Robert Mukes (Rufus from House of 1000 Corpses), and Scream Queen Brinke Stevens. It also features some rad cover art from the retro art master himself, Marc Schoenbach of Sadist Art Designs.

Spawns

There isn’t much info I can find on the remake besides its screening in Los Angeles back in October and having a reported Blu-ray release on January 1st, 2024. I don’t see it available anywhere for purchase, but maybe your internet sleuthing skills are better than mine.

Where to Watch

Arrow Films released a Blu-ray of Spider Baby with scant extras, but it exists! You can stream it on Amazon Prime, AMC +, Roku, and Vudu.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5


THE DAILY DIG
The Daily Dig brings you hidden genre gems from the 1960s-00s you may have not yet discovered. You’ll get a brief rundown of everything you need to know, including where to watch each title for yourself. Come back each day, Mon-Fri, for new featured titles. CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF DAILY DIG COVERAGE.

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