Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


IT'S ALIVE (1974). Writer/producer/director: Larry Cohen.

Frank (John Ryan) and Lenore (Sharon Farrell) Davis have a young son, Chris (Daniel Holzman), and are expecting their second child. But when this new child, also a boy, is born, it emerges from its mother's womb with claws, fangs and a very bad attitude. After killing everyone in the operating theater but his mother, he runs off into the night. Frank rejects the child completely -- "it is no relation to us" he tells Chris -- while Lenore sinks into depression and borderline hysteria. There are more murders, and then the mutant infant decides to come home ... It's Alive certainly has an interesting premise but it's nearly undone by some schlocky, almost campy handling at times, as well as a few scenes that don't make sense [such as Chris warming up to his brother even though he's never been told about him, and after the infant slaughters his cat!]. A major problem is that the film simply omits the sequence when Frank is told what happened in the operating room, making his acceptance of the crazy story -- his baby murdered everyone -- implausible; surely he would have doubted what the medical staff was telling him and attributed the deaths to an adult maniac. [His wife did not actually see the baby so it's a question if she saw it killing anyone.] That being said, It's Alive, despite its somewhat cheapjack nature, is strangely compelling, largely due to the performances of Farrell [The Spy with My Face] and especially Ryan, who make the parents' horrible dilemma and emotional torment come alive, As the infant is decked out with horrible features, big teeth and the rest, it makes a more "convincing" killer than the baby in The Devil Within Her, which was released the following year. Like that film It's Alive inevitably taps into the fears of expectant parents when it comes to birth defects and added responsibilities, although its main purpose is to scare, which it very occasionally succeeds at. Bernard Herrmann's score is certainly one of his lesser efforts, but it helps, and the ending seems to make use of those same giant storm drains that figured in the climax of Them. One has to wonder: what about all the wrongful death suits the families of the baby's victims might file against the parents? Andrew Duggan, Michael Ansara, and William Wellman Jr. are also in the cast.

Verdict: Weird and uneven but watchable -- for some -- due to the leads' acting and bizarre premise. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Have not thought of this one in scared me to death as an 8-year-old kid. (My dad used to take me to R-rated horror films,like this and The Omen. I always had to sleep with a night light but loved the bonding time with my father!) Good shock value, as you note. Must give It's Alive a look these 40 years later!

William said...

Ha, my father dropped me off for "The Birds" and picked me up later 00 he just wasn't into horror films. But he did take me to "Jason and the Argonauts" and "Ghidrah, the three-headed Monster," for which he may never have forgive me. [It played with an Elvis Presley picture as well, so you can imagine Dad was not thrilled.]

Will be posting in future weeks about the "It's Alive" sequels and 2008 remake.

Happy New Year!