Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) lives in a run-down, industrial city in a small apartment. He has strange dreams about the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near) and the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk). He is informed by the Beautiful Girl From Across the Hall (Judith Anna Roberts) that his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), has invited him for dinner with her family. He goes to her strange little home and meets her strange parents; her overly familiar mother (Jeanne Bates) and talkative father (Allen Joseph). They don't get to eat any dinner because when they try to carve the 'bird', it begins to twitch and bleed. Mary's mother informs Henry that Mary has had a child and that it is his.
Soon, Henry and Mary are in his little apartment caring for their child; a swaddled, crying creature with an inhuman appearance. When the child won't quieten down, Mary goes back to her parents' leaving Henry alone.
After further strange dreams, Henry cuts open the child's swaddling to reveal its true form.
A strange film, it manages to be both grotesque and beautiful. The dreamlike quality of the styling and the black and white colouring create a strange and surreal dreamscape in which the film is set. Everything is slightly unfamiliar and odd. It's a real study in human strangeness and in the urban decay in which many of us surround ourselves. A strange, uncomfortable film, it is a classic within its own right and spawned much of the outlandish scenes present in films since.
[image: American Film Institute]