Joan Collins in labor.
Donald Pleasence as the world’s most ominous OBGYN.
Eileen Atkins in olive-toned makeup as an Italian nun.
Caroline Munro as a cockney stripper. Okay, that one I could buy…
And – lest we forget – a killer baby with the strength of a dozen men possessed by the wrath of a lecherous, spurned dwarf performance artist.
Joan Collins is not cut out for motherhood.
These are the ingredients of Sharon’s Baby (aka The Devil Within Her, aka It Lives Within Her, aka I Don’t Want to Be Born, aka The Monster), a laugh-a-minute 1975 Rosemary’s Baby knockoff starring Dynasty‘s biggest, baddest bitch as a stripper who marries well but is unable to escape the curse of her low-rent burlesque past after she gives birth to evil incarnate.
Everything about The Devil Within Her is wrong. From the casting of pastypants Hammer regular Ralph Bates as an Italian (?!) to the utter absence of any sense of temporal continuity (time passes either in fits or not at all) to the fact that it has about seven different titles, the movie is itself, oddly enough, a miscarriage of cinematic execution. Careening wildly between high camp (the outfits! the day-drinking! the burlesque!) and jaw-droppingly bizarre scenes of chaos and murder, the film is never boring and frequently brilliantly entertaining.
Atta girl! (Putting the “Tom” in “Joan Collins”)
Example: In the opening scene, Collins is shown via a series of very porny close-ups having what appears to be a very unpleasant birth. Either that or she’s having the best orgasm of her life under the supervision of a skilled medical staff. I’m not exactly learned in such matters.
Turns out it’s the former – the birth is so unpleasant, in fact, that the doctor (aforementioned Mr. Pleasence) remarks, “This baby doesn’t want to be born.” Which, aside from “OMIGOD IT LOOKS JUST LIKE A GIANT BUG!” is probably the best way to put an anxious woman in labor at ease, I’ll agree.
Days (a day?) later, we see Sharon (Collins) and her dutiful hubby Gino Carlesi (Bates. Naturally!) arrive home with their little bundle of didn’t-want-to-be-born-anyway. Moments after Sharon dumps the little muffin in his crib, she dives for the wet-bar and starts complaining about how stressful it is to be a parent. Oh my – the warranty on this motherhood expired a bit faster than expected, no? And the baby hasn’t even started killing people yet!
A cry and a crash later, Sharon and Senior Carlesi are back upstairs in what is now the baby’s trashed bedroom. So wait, we’re to believe that this little maggot – who doesn’t even have the neck-strength to hold up its own head or the awareness that it has feet – knocked over bookshelves and pulled down curtain rods without mashing in his soft spot? HOT.
Thanks to a harmless scratch to the face and the fact that her newborn is more adept at trashing hotel rooms than Led Zeppelin, Collins is back on the bottle and complaining that she “can’t take it anymore!” And seriously, she’s had a baby for about 3 minutes. Luckily, Gino’s sister – an Italian nun named Sister Albana (Atkins) – is in town to do nunny things to lab rats at the local convent (seriously), so she provides some distraction from the horrible realities of motherhood, as does Sharon’s best friend, a rather awesome stripper named Mandy (Maniac‘s Munro).
It eventually becomes clear that the fact that her breastmilk is 80 proof is the least of Sharon’s worries. There’s also the little problem of the fact that whenever Sharon looks at her baby square in the face, she sees what is clearly a fully-grown little person (complete with the hint of 5-o’clock shadow) stuffed into a onesie. It turns out that this is not simply bad stunt casting – the origins of Sharon’s babydrama are actually her former co-star at the strip club, a little person named Hercules (George Claydon).
Apparently after their last show together (she was off to bigger and better things involving Italians), Hercules made a pass at Sharon, which she rebuked. The drunken little guy cursed her to give birth to a monster baby, and apparently he knew friends in high places, because that’s exactly what happened.
But before anyone can resolve any of this, the bouncing baby badass proceeds to kill pretty much anyone who comes near it. Whether it’s by shoving a nanny into a river, beheading a suspicious doctor with a shovel, strangling, or stabbing, the little tot dispatches virtually the entire cast before all-knowing Sister Albana swoops in to exorcise the demon.
Along the way there are scenes of amazing stripping, lots of really bad fake Italian accents, and plenty more drinking and complaining from an otherwise rapturous Collins. How they expected to elicit sympathy for a character so utterly unlikeable and painfully annoying was beyond me … then she threw on a turban and I wanted to have her baby.
In short, this is a timestamped camp classic par excellence. Be sure to have your bar stocked and your IUD in place before cuing this one up on Netflix Streaming, because it wants to knock you down and get you pregnant with its idiotic brilliance.
RATING (OUT OF 5):
The Devil Within Her aka The Monster aka I Don’t Want to Be Born aka Sharon’s Baby is Rated R for having far too many fucking titles. Also: Gratuitous turbans, gratuitous Italian accents, gratuitous day-drinking, and gratuitous Joan Collins.