This 1973 American film is weird, disturbing and tasteless. It’s also brilliantly written and acted, but I think I’ve already sold it to you with the first sentence.
A kindly social worker, heartbroken after a catastrophic accident to her husband, arrives at the home of her latest case — a gruff single mother and her two grown daughters who are looking after a baby. What follows is, in one sense, a pulpy tug-of-love between both women. In truth, it’s the pretext for a mind-bendingly eccentric suburban horror-thriller.
I can’t possibly describe any more of the plot without giving away the many twists and thrills of this excellent cult film. None of the actors are well known, but the clash between the two leads (Ruth Roman, who was the female lead in Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train and other less familiar ’50s Hollywood flicks, as the mother; Anjanette Comer, who pops up in episodes of Columbo and other ’70s US shows, as the social worker) is worthy of Bette Davis v. Joan Crawford in ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ for scenery-scorching electricity. These female characters are complex, credible and strongly independent. Right to the end you never know which way their struggle will pan out.
The dialogue is snappy and sassy. Director Ted Post, whose only other notable film was the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force, has cut away every superfluous ounce of fat, leaving a taut, pacy thriller of only 85 minutes that still manages to ratchet up the tension in the final reel.
Then, just when you think this film has nowhere else left to go, Post hits you with one of the most incredible reveal finales you’ll ever see. It’s equal parts sick and ingenious. I didn’t know whether to shout “JESUS CHRIST!” or “BRAVO!” Forget the contrived revelation of The Usual Suspects — The Baby is right up there with Don’t Look Now and Les Diaboliques for fantastically shocking endings.
As I write, the whole film is posted on YouTube (below), so watch it while you can. Enjoy!