If you’ve seen the incredible Walter Hill movie ‘Spider Baby’ (1964) you will surely recall Jill Banner as the twisted title character, Virginia Merrye. 17-year-old Banner had never acted before when she was cast in the part.  She’s unforgettable with her huge eyes and creepy childhood innocence mixed with a gleeful manner of slaughtering. Virginia loves “playing spider” which means catching people in traps and killing them, usually by “stinging” them with her carving knives. She and her siblings – Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) and Ralph (Sid Haig) suffer from a rare disorder ‘Merrye Syndrome’ in which the brain erodes and the sufferer reverts to a cannibalistic state. They live alone in a creepy old house and are cared for by Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his finest film roles). This movie is so twisted and delicious. It reminded me somewhat of ‘House of 1000 Corpses’. It has that feel. Also in this “you need to see it to believe it” movie are Carol Ohmart (Vincent Price’s wife in ‘The House on Haunted Hill’), Mantan Moreland (from all those Charlie Chan flicks of the 40s), and Quinn Reddecker. ‘Spider Baby’ is also known by several other titles such as ‘Cannibal Orgy’, ‘The Liver Eaters’, and ‘The Maddest Story Ever Told’.

The film was shuffled about and basically lost in distribution hell only to be discovered a number of years later and given the credit and attention it was due. The movie wasn’t the huge career boost it should have been for Jill. Regardless, she managed to land other parts in movies like ‘C’mon Let’s Live a Little’ (1967) with Bobby Vee, Jackie DeShannon, Patsy Kelly, and Ken “Eddie Haskell” Osmond. She also had a nice role as Snow White in the James Coburn flick ‘The President’s Analyst’.  On TV she appeared on ‘Dragnet’ several times. In her showiest part on the series (as Camille Gearhardt) her character is so nasty she causes Joe Friday to quip, “I bet your mother had a loud bark!” In 1972 she guest-starred on ‘Adam 12’ and ‘The Bold Ones’.

Shortly thereafter Jill left Hollywood and wound up selling real estate in New Mexico for several years. At the start of the 1980s she returned in LA to make a new go of things. She was helping Marlon Brando develop scripts when she died in an automobile accident in Malibu on August 7th 1982. She was just 35 years old.