The first movie I intended to write about for this edition of “Weird Boners” was A Dirty Shame. I’ve been wanting to revisit John Waters’ films, and Tracey Ullman stuck a bottle of water up her cooter in that one. I didn’t because I couldn’t imagine watching something made in the 21st century, something shot in color. I then looked around on TCM to see if they had something perverse like George Macready’s phallic cane in Gilda. Instead I landed on Baby Doll, a film that paired with Anne Baxter’s see-through attire in The Ten Commandments, made 1956 an ideal year for people masturbating in theaters.
Going back to John Waters, I first heard about Baby Doll through my John Waters fandom that didn’t let up for a few years. Among many things that guy does, one of them is ensuring nobody forgets the lesser known Tennessee Williams adaptations. Along with Baby Doll, Boom! is another one he champions. It’s safe to say that without John Waters, nobody after 1968 would’ve watched Boom! Elizabeth Taylor would’ve preferred it that way. Apparently John Waters came up to her at a party to tell her how much he loves Boom! and she said “that was a terrible movie!”
I might go so far as to say Baby Doll is the closest a classic Hollywood film gets to leaving you feeling as greasy and remorseful as whatever black market internet erotica soured your soul. One of the first things you see is Carroll Baker sleeping in a crib while sucking her thumb. The camera lurks on her through the perspective of a peephole Karl Malden carved into his deteriorating residence that looks like it was last used as a Confederate safe house. Why is he so distant from his barely legal bride? Because the two of them have an agreement that they won’t consummate their marriage until Baby Doll’s 20th birthday. I know what you’re thinking and I agree, I also don’t understand Baby Doll’s hesitance. Who doesn’t wanna be under Karl Malden as sweat drips off that bulbous nose?
If I remember my John Waters mythos correctly, this film appeared on his radar from the Catholic Legion of Decency advising all good Catholics to not see it. How insane is that? The group who probably advised Pier Paolo Pasolini on his adaptation of Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom aired grievances about someone else’s perversion.
Along with Karl Malden and Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach is in Baby Doll. Eli Wallach was in The Magnificent Seven and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…but we’d all agree his most notable role was being one of three actors who held the honor of playing Mr. Freeze on the 1960s Batman series. Truly the best use of Batman. I heard Zack Snyder recently used the character in some 4-hour snoozefest. Give me a call when the Justice League has the balls to face King Tut, Egghead, Lord Marmaduke Ffogg, and Lady Penelope Peasoup.
If you need a healthy blend of Southern Gothic and sexual deviancy, check out Baby Doll. When George Macready or Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon aren’t on TCM displaying the quintessential phallic cane trope, hopefully Ben Mankiewicz puts this on for stimulation. Another selling point is this being a formative film for John Waters. Without Baby Doll who knows, perhaps we wouldn’t have iconic moments like the one in Desperate Living where Susan Lowe gets a sex change operation and soon cuts off that addition when Liz Renay doesn’t respond enthusiastically to an erect surprise. Thank god for Baby Doll. ★
Eager for more Weird Boners? Check out this look at the world’s foremost sexy/scary mermaid movie, The Lure!