Thursday, 22 January 2015

Baby Love (1968)

"Pete Walker meets Vladimir Nabokov - but who wins?"

Michael Klinger, who with Tony Tenser produced such movies as THE BLACK TORMENT (1964) and Roman Polanski’s REPULSION (1965) split from his colleague, citing the desire to make more respectable product as the reason. While Tenser went on to produce such classics as WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1967) and BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1970), Klinger eventually found the respectability he desired with movies like GET CARTER (1971). Before that classic, however, he produced BABY LOVE, which is something quite different.

Fifteen year old Luci (Linda Hayden) is orphaned when single mum Diana Dors slashes her wrists in the bathroom of their squalid terraced house Up North. Because Dors used to ‘know’ rich respectable doctor Keith Barron, Luci ends up moving to London and into Barron’s fashionable townhouse, where she proceeds to destroy his family from within, seducing his wife (Ann Lynn) and killing his son (Derek Lamden).

It’s impossible to imagine a movie like BABY LOVE getting made today, and if it was it certainly wouldn’t be given the  exploitation treatment it gets here. Director Alastair Reid (ARTEMIS 81 and others) is too good a director to make BABY LOVE an unpleasant viewing experience. In fact he’s skilled enough to make this grim and lurid tale of an underage nymphet embracing her seductive powers at every given opportunity almost respectable. Almost, but not quite. In fact the best way to describe BABY LOVE is if Pete Walker tried to film Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and almost completely missed the point, but made sure there was plenty of emphasis on class differences and a fair bit of nudity as well. Comedian Dick Emery even pops up at points as a kind of Clare Quilty character, mirroring Barron’s own suppressed desires for the teenager who may or may not actually be his own illegitimate daughter. In fact the film this most reminded me of was Pete Walker’s SCHIZO, where Lynne Frederick’s working class past comes back to haunt her. Here it’s Barron’s past that comes back, but in the form of an attractive underage girl who seems hell bent on destroying the new life he’s made for himself.

Despite (or perhaps because) of what I’ve said, BABY LOVE is curiously watchable. It’s certainly of its time and it’s never boring. What lets it down is the ending, which is almost of the ‘we’ve run out of money - stop filming’ variety. And who knows? Klinger tore pages of script from both REPULSION and CUL-DE-SAC when they went over schedule so maybe the same thing happened here. The acting is fine with Barron, a familiar face in situation comedies for decades, managing well as the doctor with a past who never cracks a smile. But the film belongs to Linda Hayden in the pivotal role as Luci. It’s a remarkably self-assured performance, and it’s not surprising she went straight on to work for Hammer, Tigon and Amicus. 
       Network’s DVD is the first time BABY LOVE has been released on the format. There’s a still and poster gallery but no other extras. It’s a lurid film, and not entirely successful by any means, but any student of 1960s British cinema, and any fan of Pete Walker-style BritHorror will definitely want to give it a watch. 

Network are releasing Alasteir Reid's BABY LOVE on Region 2 DVD on 26th January 2015

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