Suicide Girls? Hah! Middle-class art school dropouts who have never hacksawed to death an innocent postman in their tiny little lives. If you really want hot sexy killer gothic chicks, then you cannot afford to pass by "Spider Baby".
(1968. B&W. Script: Jack Hill. Direction: Jack Hill. Cinematography: Alfred Taylor. Score: Ronald Stein with Lon Chaney Jr singing the title song.)
T'was actually shot in 1964 by horror and exploitation schlockmeister Jack Hill ("The Big Doll House", "Foxy Brown" and "Coffy" are some of his more notable accomplishments) but not released until 1968 – mainly I suspect because no one knew how the fuck to market the thing. Alternative titles were "Attack of the Liver Eaters" (no livers are actually eaten) and "Cannibal Orgy - or the Maddest Story Ever Told" which is sorta half right.
The fixings for this feast are all tried and true. Weird genetically disordered family in gothic mansion, the loyal old family servant as surrogate wrinkled-browed father, distant grasping rellies who come to a sticky end, creaky cobwebbed corridors, moonlit forest strolls, disgusting dinners and something really foul lurking in the cellar. Beautifully filmed too. The best artfully artificial cinematic chiaroscuro since "Night Of The Hunter" – which also shares the same demented noir fairy tale approach.
But "Spider Baby" serves up the old ingredients with a flavour that's like nothing else you've tasted. It's really a very sweet 'n' sour movie. "Nothing is really bad" as the wrinkled retainer Lon Chaney Jr says at one point. It's not supposed to be a comedy but can't stop quietly cackling to itself be a real horror movie. Someone described it as "Luis Bunuel meets the Addams Family" but even that doesn't really capture the tone.
And the tone is set by some amazing acting. For starters it's Lon Chaney Jr's last role and he's never been better since. Carol Ohmart is wonderful as the gredy low-rent black widow-in-suspenders cousin, as are Quinn Redecker as her amiable and dopey husband and Karl Schanzer as their fussy pompous lawyer.
And in one way or another, they all meet their end at the cutting-edge hands of the gorgeous murderous Merrye sisters, Elizabeth (a blonde Beverly Washburn) and "Spider Baby" herself, Virginia (the brunette Jill Banner).
Beverly is great (I wouldn't kick her out of my deathbed) but it's really Jill Banner's film. She is fantastic as the title character, a sweet deadly gothic Lolita who can't tell the difference between affection, sex, procreation and death. For those of you down the back, let me repeat myself. JILL BANNER IS FANFUCKINGTASTIC AS "SPIDER BABY"! She can hatch my eggs anytime. Hundreds and hundreds of 'em.
OK, I've finished hyperventilating into a brown paper bag from Safeway. If you get a chance to see it, do so. (I meant the movie not the brown paper bag). You'll never look with true lust in your heart at another Suicide Girl again.
Oh yes, I'd also like to say Rock Hudson is excellent in this flick too. But honestly I can't. Mainly 'cos he's not in it. "Spider Baby" is gravid with sly early 60s Mad magazine put-ons like that. And the exteriors are dog-eared postcards of the then remote and dusty LA valleys that later spawned the likes of Charles Manson's homicidal harem.
GrogFlog's verdict: "Just because something isn't good doesn't mean it's bad." 6 out of 10 for the film. And 18 out of 10 for Jill Banner.
Coming soon: "Black leather, black leather, smash, smash, smash", "I'm the Jupiter of Thieves", "I guess it's just one of those ex-felon, pro-acid kind of non-smoking homes" and "You told me fairy tales... about the President getting shot... and your erect nipples."