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Welcome to one of the main features of 'Castle Dracula,' the movie reviews section.
The reviews placed here are from all around the world, from the USA to the UK Japan
and everything inbetween. The formats reviewed are video and DVD. I have included the
origin of the film reviewed so you can check your player for compatibility. You may
also notice that there are some DVD-R reviews. These are not 'bootlegs' or 'copies'
but official screeners that I have been sent containing an as yet unreleased film to 
review. All the reviews here have been reviewed either by myself or my current movie 
reviewers. If you're an avid watcher of horror movies then why not join 'Castle Dracula'
as an official 'staff member' reviewing them. To do so, just click on the 'Join My Staff'
link in the menu to the left for details of this and other vacancies.
New reviews are normally placed here once a week, check my front page for under 'Castle
Dracula Updates' to see what latest movie reviews have been placed.


- Spider Baby - US DVD -  


Once in a while I run into a movie that I have not previously heard about. After watching 
it, I wondered why I had not heard more about it or even seen it. This movie falls into 
that category.  
"Spider Baby" (subtitled: "The Maddest Story Ever Told") starts out with a boisterous 
laugh and outlandish poem read by longtime horror actor Lon Chaney Jr. Right off the bat 
it was quite evident that I was in for something just a little bit different. But, isn't 
that what all of us horror fans really want?  
The story is about an unfortunate few that suffer from "Merrye's Syndrome." Only members
of the 'Merrye' family are tormented with this strange disorder. The 'Merrye's' are doomed 
to suffer from age regression. This disease begins its affliction at about the 'Merrye's' 
tenth birthday. Though their bodies still develop normally, their minds begin to regress. 
They actually revert to a point where they are intellectually in a pre-womb state. In 
other words, they can turn into savages.
'Bruno' (Lon Chaney, Jr.), is the family's chaffier. He made a promise to the deceased 
'Titus Merrye.' Bruno swore that he would look after 'Titus's three surviving children, 
'Ralph,' 'Elizabeth,' and 'Virginia.' 'Bruno' seems to have done everything possible to
take care of the children. All that 'Bruno' and the children want to do is to live their 
lives in peace.
Of course, life could never be that easy. The children and 'Bruno' are challenged when 
two distant relatives show up one day. The children's aunt and uncle have brought along 
a lawyer. They plan on claiming their portion of the "Merrye inheritance." Even worse, 
they intend to place the children into some kind of appropriate care.
The story takes place mainly in the unkept and isolated 'Merrye mansion.' Hidden passages, 
dark secrets, and cobwebs adorn the house. The 'Merrye' household is fairly creepy and 
not a place where most people would want to spend the night. So of course, the visitors 
end up staying the night. It is a night that will probably bring about a few gruesome 
surprises and possibly a few deaths. 
This film can be very engrossing. Writer/director Jack Hill shows that he has quite an 
imagination and makes full use of it. The movie is a blend of suspense, chills, thrills 
and black humor. Most of the shock value of the film has been lost in the forty years 
since it release. Still, Hill effectively manages to touch on such disturbing subjects 
as cannibalism, cold-blooded murder, dismemberment and even incest without pushing the 
audience too far.  
Hill creates several memorable scenes that all true horror fans will enjoy. "Spider Baby" 
is a possible prototype and forerunner of a variety of horror classics. I could easily 
see the basis for the offbeat American television series "The Adams Family" in this film. 
I also wondered how much of the groundwork for films such as "Texas Chainsaw" and Rob 
Zombie's "House of a Thousand Corpses" was formed by "Spider Baby".
Jack Hill developed some pretty interesting characters for this film. The superb acting 
brings out all the best, which is often the worse, for each of them. 'Elizabeth' and
'Virginia' are the two teenage girls. They are cute, seductive, alluring, charming and 
also down right spooky. They treat murder as if it is a game. 'Virginia' likes to play 
"spider." She uses a home made web and kitchen knives to fulfill her morbid desires. 
Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner play their roles to the hilt. 
Sid Haig is cast as their brother. 'Ralph' is a big odd kid who is really beginning to 
feel the effects of his family's curse. At times he is almost animal-like. Fans of Sid 
Haig have to see him in this role.
Lon Chaney, Jr. is the key to this movie's success. I have never been a big fan of Lon, 
Jr. It is nothing against him personally. I just never thought that he ever came close 
to filling his father's shoes as an actor. This might be the younger Chaney's best 
performance. He was not as stiff and brooding as I seem to remember him. Chaney Jr. 
gave 'Bruno' all the precise passions and emotions of a man in a difficult position. 
It showed me that Lon Jr. did have the qualities to be a fine actor.
The best way to get the most out of watching "Spider Baby" is to remember what this 
movie really is. This is a low-budget black and white film made in the early 1960s. Its
limited commercial success was found at drive-ins, not at the theaters. If you put this
movie in that perspective, this is a fun movie to watch. I consider this to be a cult 
classic. As low budget black and white films go, this is one of the best.
A few Special Features are included. Filmographies of Jack Hill and Lon Chaney are 
available. There is an 8 minute segment of restored lost footage. It is nothing special.
Two other features are worth the effort. Cult film historian Johnny Legend hosts a 30th 
anniversary of the film. This was a midnight premier of the film. It took place in 1994 
at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles. Several members of the cast and crew are on hand 
for the screening. They give some interesting comments on the making of the film and 
how they feel about it. The big plus in this package is Jack Hill's commentary. He just 
comes across as a genuine good guy. I had the feeling that he really enjoyed what he did.  
Even more importantly, he just seemed like a regular guy who wanted to bring something 
a little bit different to the horror industry. I wish more movie makers would feel that 
way.


Reviewed By Scal Williams.


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