|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
Spider Baby aka Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told [Blu-ray]
(Jack Hill, 1968)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: American General Pictures
Video: Arrow Film UK and Arrow US
Region: 'B'US Release is region 'A + 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Unless noted in red - everything else is the same as the UK edition!
Disc Size: 41,897,052,690 bytes /41,876,468,448 bytes
Feature Size: 20,240,625,216 bytes /20,244,379,200 bytes
Video Bitrate: 27.94 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: June 17th, 2013 /US Release is coming out June 9th, 2015
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48
kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
Audio commentary featuring
Jack Hill and star Sid Haig
DVD of the Feature (PAL for UK and NTSC for US)
Description: This was the first solo feature by Jack Hill (Coffy,
Foxy Brown), whom Quentin Tarantino dubbed the
Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking, and it remains one
of his wildest and weirdest.
Exploitation titan Jack Hill, who went on to make such cult favorites as Switchblade Sisters, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and Foxy Brown, made his solo directorial debut with this fascinating, offbeat shocker. The three surviving children of Titus W. Merrye, who represent the end of his family's line, live in a dilapidated mansion where patient servant Bruno (Lon Chaney, Jr.) watches over the increasingly eccentric Virginia (Jill Banner), Ralph (Sid Haig), and Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn). All three Merrye siblings suffer from the same rare disease that felled their father and the other members of his family -- "Merrye Syndrome," a neurological ailment that begins to manifest itself at the age of ten, causing the brain to slowly decay and sending its victims into an alternately violent and infantile state. Bald, inarticulate Ralph is supposed to be a vegetarian, but "can eat anything he can catch," while Virginia, who seems to be in a perpetual dream state, imagines herself as a human spider and catches people in her "web" (a large net) and then kills them. While it might seem best to let nature to take its course and allow the family's sad legacy to die out, the Merrye siblings have two distant cousins, Emily Howe (Carol Ohmart) and Peter Howe (Quinn K. Redeker), who are interested in laying claim to the family mansion and any money remaining in the Merrye Estate. But not long after they pay a visit to Bruno, they start to have serious regrets about their decision to see the family. Shot in 1964, Spider Baby sat on the shelf until 1968, when it was briefly released as the second half of a horror double-bill on the drive-in circuit. But after it appeared on home video in the early '80s and was the subject of an enthusiastic essay in the book RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films, the film began to develop a potent cult following and is now regarded as a minor classic of '60s horror. The film has also appeared under the misleading titles Cannibal Orgy and The Liver Eaters, as well as Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
A caretaker devotes himself to three demented adults after their father's death. When a telegram announces the arrival of heirs, the guardian suspects that his wards are to be confined in an asylum and detonates the paternal estate, destroying himself and his charges.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Spider Baby gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow Films in the UK. The 1080P rendering has a supportive bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. The black and white visuals showcase rich contrast and textured grain. It looks very film-like with some minor depth in the, original, 1.66:1 frame. It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail and there are really no flaws (noise, inconsistencies) with the rendering. This Blu-ray probably looks like a solid representation of the theatrical version of the film and it supplies a rewarding presentation.
NOTE: The major (and only) differences I can determine are the US release now has a 1.0 channel mono linear PCM track at 1152 kbps adhering more to the original - flatter, less robust but consistent and clean. And of course the US release is region 'A' + 'B' coded playable, pretty much, worldwide and has different menus (see below).
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The audio comes in the form of a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps. It seems to support the film authentically but is relatively unremarkable. There are some, oddly catchy songs, and the composer, Ronald Stein has done more than his share of exploitive 'B', Drive-In flics (She Creature, It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, Dementai 13 etc.). There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
NOTE: The major (and only) differences I can determine are the US release now has a 1.0 channel mono linear PCM track at 1152 kbps adhering more to the original - flatter, less robust but still consistent and clean. And of course the US Blu-ray release is region 'A' + 'B' coded playable, pretty much, worldwide and has different menus (see below).
Blu-ray and the DVD feature all of the
extras with the exception of the isolated music track which is only on
the Blu-ray. Although director Jack Hill
recorded a commentary for the 1999 Image Entertainment DVD release, he
and actor Sid Haig recorded a brand new track for the 2007 Dark Sky
anamorphic upgrade. That track has been carried over to Arrow’s combo
edition, and it is a worthy listen. Hill and Haig affectionately recall
working with Lon Chaney, Mantan Moreland, Carol Ohmart, and Jill Banner
(who was killed in a highway accident in 1982). They point out small
comic touches that might have gone unnoticed by first-time viewers, and
offer a fresh assessment of the finer points of actor Quinn Redeker’s
“straight man” performance, as well as the large contribution of
production manager Bart Patton (who also did the casting). Besides
offering anecdotes about his performance and interaction with the other
actors, Haig also describes some of the artistry of cinematographer Al
Taylor (including his use of reflectors, filters, and his impressive
Arrow's UK Release Menus
Arrow's US Release Menus
Same extra on both
June 13th, 2013
June 2nd, 2015
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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