Having recently seen this 1973 trash gem for the first time in decades, I had almost forgotten what a hoot it was. I used to see it frequently; during my college years; from the mid to late Seventies, on into the early Eighties, Channel 9 would broadcast this film periodically. I think I watched the first time out of curiosity. I was so knocked out by it, I was hooked.
So much has been said about "The Baby." And none of it is wrong.
It is a masterpiece.
It is a piece of crap.
Feminists masturbate to it.
It is a study of how today's Millennials have been raised. (This last is my favorite, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!).
I have to wonder. Were the writer Abe Polsky and the director, Dick Post, one and the same? Let's dispense immediately with the reality aspect for this post--this film had an actual basis--a recent case, back then, in California, where parents were trying to milk the Welfare system by keeping their 13-year-old daughter Genie, as an infant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Which is pretty much the situation in the movie, which I see as a sort of feminist "King Lear." Ruth Roman, looking really butched up, resembling almost a a cross between Tyne Daly and Nathan Lane, is Queen Lear; ie, Ann Wadsworth, who has two daughters, Germaine (Marianne Hill) , the Goneril of the piece, and her sister, Alba (Suzanne Zenor), this version's Regan, and my favorite of the the girls. Though you can't top the line Ruth speaks midway through the film, when she and daughters come home and find Baby and the babysitter in his bedroom. You have not heard anything till you have heard Ruth bellow--"Nothing happened? Your goddamned tit is in his mouth, and you tell me nothing happened?"
I mean, where is Alexander Wolcott???????? They just don't write them like this anymore.
Aside from the family dynamics, (Ann Wadsworth's children are each by a different father, and the Baby's father walked out on her, hence she hates all men, and so keeps Baby what he is.) the hair and acting styles are the most interesting aspects of the film. Each is going for something else, nothing blends together, and yet it all seems to work. Butch as Ruth may look, with that wig, and those tits, she is definitely going for an Adrienne Barbeau look. Hey, Adrienne herself, NOW, would be terrific for a remake. If only Rue McClanhahan were still alive!!!!!!!! Oh, boy!!!!!!!!!
Meanwhile, Marianne Hill, as Germaine, resembles a young Ann Wedgeworth, and with that hair, seems to be, at first, going, and foreshadowing Ronnee Blakley's look in "Nashville," but by the party scene has sort of morphed into Bernadette Peters on speed.
And the party scene is something else! With Baby crawling around, Ruth doing the Frug, or whatever, and that creep trying to get at Alba, anyone just tuning in on this point would think they were watching a documentary about the Manson cult.
My favorite, by far, is Suzanne Zenor, as Alba. She is foreshadowing the look Pamela Blair created for Valerie Clark, whom she played in the Original Cast of "A Chorus Line." No one in this household seems to work. Germaine claims to do "commercials...sometimes," but would even an on-the-skids agent hire her, with that changing hair? She might make a good stock Rapunzel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I much prefer Alba. She is slutty, dangerous, like Regan, and gives tennis lessons...but only in the afternoon. The scene where sadomasochistically tasers Baby is rather squeamish inducing, but this is why I love Alba. Did you know Suzanne Zenor was originally cast as Chrissy on "Three's Comapny?" She had the world on a string--for a moment--but it was taken from her. Someone on the production staff must have suddenly seen this film.
As for Anjanette Comer, a dead ringer for Susan Strasberg, she goes about her role so seriously, you would think she was doing classical drama. Or at least Susan's role in "The Diary Of Anne Frank." I have to give the film this--none of its performers phone in their performances. They give it their all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And that includes David Manzy, as Baby! Today, he is in his seventies, and teaching Media Studies somewhere in the Midwest. High school. He goes at his role like Patty Duke, going for the Oscar gold in "The Miracle Worker," except this script is no match for William Gibson's great play!
You have GOT to see "The Baby," darlings! There never has, nor ever will again, be anything like it!
What were the Messrs. Polsky and Post thinking???????????
You know the expression, "You can't make this shit up?' Well, here, darlings, it all is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!