Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Arrow Video: SPIDER BABY Blu-ray and THE VINEYARD on DVD ""

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Arrow Video: SPIDER BABY Blu-ray and THE VINEYARD on DVD

SPIDER BABY(1968; Jack Hill)
I'm not really a huge fan of the "crazy family" or "house full o' crazies" genre. The TEXAS CHAINSAW films and their knockoffs are not exactly my bag. I appreciate them(esp the 1st two CHAINSAW films), but I don't love them and return to them all that much. I feel like we as viewers are supposed to find some charm in these psychopathic familial relations amidst our disgust, but I can never get past the disgust part. Disgust and annoyance are my typical response to these nutty families. Mostly annoyance.
The Merrye family in SPIDER BABY is quite a loony clan for sure and not without their own vexing nature. However, I find them more tolerable than most such groups partially because they are basically children in adult bodies. Inbred, demented and murderous children, but children nonetheless. When the film begins, we find the two Merrye girls and one Merrye boy are being looked after by their longtime caretaker(played by the wonderful Lon Chaney Jr.) in their dilapidated rural mansion. On this particular day, they are visited by a couple distant relatives and their legal council to evaluate and claim the property as their own. Things do not go well.
This was Jack Hill's debut feature and it's quite memorably weird to say the least. It's not hard to see why this would have developed a decent-sized cult following over the years. One can see the beginnings of Hill's relationship with the great Sid Haig in this movie and he's pretty great in it. Haig would work with Hill in most of the rest of the films he made and was the anchor of his stock company. I know Rob Zombie is a fan of SPIDER BABY(and probably Hill in general) as he cast Sid Haig in a several of his movies and even wrote a song called "Spider Baby". Quentin Tarantino dubbed Jack Hill “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”, which is an interesting moniker for sure. Not sure I agree, however I do see what QT is probably trying to say. Hawks made films in all kinds of genre's and did them all pretty well. I do like Hill's work a good deal and recommend that any uninitiated viewer dig into his filmography and enjoy.

Special Features included:
-Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
-High Definition transfer of the feature supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
-English SDH subtitles for deaf and hearing impaired
-Audio commentary featuring Jack Hill and star Sid Haig
-Panel discussion from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences FILM-TO-FILM Festival, recorded September 2012, featuring Jack Hill and stars Quinn K. Redeker and Beverly Washburn
-The Hatching of Spider Baby - Interviews with Jack Hill, Sid Haig, star Mary Mitchel, fan Joe Dante and more on the making of the film
-Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein - The composer of ‘The Terror’ and ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ among others is remembered by Harlene Stein, Jack Hill, American Cinematheque’s Chris D. and others
-The Merrye House Revisited - Jack Hill revisits the original house that was used as the main location in the film
-Alternate opening title sequence
-Extended scene
-Original Trailer
-Gallery of behind-the-scenes images
-The Host (1960) – Jack Hill’s early short film featuring Sid Haig in his first starring role [30 mins]
-Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
-Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by artist and writer Stephen R. Bissette, and an extensive article re-printed from FilmFax: The Magazine of Unusual Film and Television featuring interviews with the cast and crew, illustrated with original stills and artwork

THE VINEYARD(1989; James Hong)
Until somewhat recently, I only knew James Hong as an actor. He's made literally hundreds of films(IMDB list 380 acting credits!), but he will always be Lo-Pan from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA for me. I saw BIG TROUBLE at just the right age in the summer of 1986 that it made a tremendous impression on me. It's still one of my favorite movies to this very day. And Lo-Pan is one of my favorite villains in cinema because of it. Hong is one of the greatest "that guy" actors of all-time. If an Asian character was needed for almost any film in the 80s and 90s, he was inevitably chosen. For good reason, he is awesome. I've only recently come to discover that Hong was also a director in his own right and made some interesting films. I saw his film TEEN LUST, a  freelwheelin' sex comedy from 1979, for the first time last year. He had directed one other film before that called HOT CONNECTIONS in 1973. From what I can gather, HOT CONNECTIONS was a straight-up adult film which was rated X. It appears that after THE VINEYARD, he only helmed one more feature(a Shannon Tweed vehicle called SINGAPORE SLING). So he clearly worked mainly in the sex cinema world for the most part which is interesting I suppose. Especially for an character actor that has made so many big budget Hollywood films(he's still active today and has a part in the upcoming film R.I.P.D.).
So as this was clearly a bit of a departure from TEEN LUST, I was unsure what to expect. The movie does feature Hong himself groping a woman only minutes in, so I guess he's just all about the sex in his movies. It's definitely a low-budget film sold in part on sexual content and gore.
Hong plays a sort of a mad scientist type dude, complete with bubbling chemistry sets in his lab. He is on a quest for immortality, much like Lo-Pan so it was hard for me not to draw comparisons. The film overall is a mix of elements: Horror, sex and some martial arts. Making blood into wine. And odd and interesting melange.  

Both films can be purchased via Arrow's website here:

1 comment:

Kev D. said...

The fact that he essentially directed PORN before this explains some of the awkward weird "Lo-Pan feels up a young girl" scenes.

Awesome review for an awesome (?) movie...