What a great deal for serious film fans who also have a taste for the good old "popcorn" genres, too, as this DVD covers both areas. In the former category, the "It's Alive" films boast the final and still great work of famed film composer Bernard Herrmann. You can literally feel his moody, apocalyptic main "It's Alive" theme pull these films up from their B-movie origins into the realm of true quality fare.
And in the "popcorn" category, the quality isn't all that bad, either, even if you don't consider the great musical scores. Taken together, the three movies on this disc feel like one of those big Stephen King end-of-the-world epics he's so good at writing. Like King's work in this area, here you get the big mysterious disaster (in this case, weird mutant babies being born all over the place) and the well-organized government response to the disaster. And again, like all those 800-page King epics, it's all quite well developed here: after being caught initially unaware by the new "creepy babies" dilemma, the government soon conspires with the medical profession to identify "non-normal" pregancies, so that contigents of cops are there in the delivery room, guns drawn, waiting to "take out" the little sharp-toothed tykes when they, uh... burst forth. But then there's a rival group of doctors who think the babies have a right to be born and they try to get to the mothers first. It's all quite interesting, and not at all like the "dumb but fun" movies I was expecting.
Each movie runs about an hour and a half, feature some pretty good actors (Michael Moriarity and Karen Black among them), and the widescreen prints used here are bright and clear, with a minimum of imperfections. A commentary track by director Larry Cohen graces each movie, too.
So, hey, just to be clear, I'm not saying you're getting Shakespeare here, but for a low price you're getting three pretty good horror movies, each laced with a handful of scares, some genuine complexity (should we feel bad for these creatures or not?), and the great musical scores I mentioned. As I said at the outset, it's a great deal.
on December 10, 2012
If you're here, then it's pointless to cover well-treaded ground again...
A wonderful 3-DVD set that has more killer demonic babies than you could ever wish for. Larry Cohen is a talent, but he's had mishaps over the years (it was his fault for discovering Bruce Willis, as Cohen candidly admits in one of these wonderful audio commentary tracks), and I still can't believe "they" produced his nothing of a script entitled "Phone Booth." Be assured, the original "It's Alive" story is no treasure, but there's 70s nostalgia value for old movie buffs (like myself). Good for laughs if you need to eat up that bag of elderly popcorn. The picture and sound quality are great, and you can't beat it if you can get it for under $10.00.
on July 2, 2012
originaly released in 1973, that pioneered the "ceature POV shot" which Spielberg took to the next level in Jaws in 1975, was re-released in 1976, while my mother was pregnant with my sister, and I was 12 years old. You never see the baby beastie except in little flashes, which are just enough to freak you out. You can imagine how trepidated I was about my unborn sister coming into this world to eat me after I saw this film! Thankfully, she didn't come out with claws and fangs--she was a sweetie. (whew) Thanks, Larry Cohen, for many sleepless nights!
The sequels show progressively more of the beastie kiddies, and that is their downfall. When we see them for more than 12 frames, they look fake, mutated but not as scary.
Frank Davis is extremely excited about having his second child, but when his wife is giving birth, things take a tragic turn. The baby turns out to be a bloodthirsty monstrosity, and immediately after birth, it begins a killing spree. Almost instantly, word is out about the Davis baby, and the distraught parents are forced to deal with a myriad of emotions and issues as the police hunt down their murdering monster-baby.
Boy, do I remember this film from the late night TV airings as a kid. After the 10 o' clock news on Friday nights in my area, CBS would rotate airing films like "Cat People", "An American Werewolf In London", "Q - The Winged Serpent", "Alligator", that movie about KISS at the amusement park, and episodes of "Kolchak - the Night Stalker", among other stuff, including this movie, "It's Alive". What a treat to see it again (I'd like to refresh my memory on some of those other weird flicks too, ha). Of course, I was more easily freaked out as a kid, and these days I don't find much horror in such films, but I still find them highly entertaining. The "It's Alive" trilogy doesn't fail there, starting with the first and best. Boasting the talents of creature-man Rick Baker composer Bernard Hermann, and written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen, this 1980 creature feature stays interesting throughout with its bizarre and disturbing premise and great performances.
The sequel, "It Lives Again", is the weakest in the line-up for me. However, it's still pretty cool. I didn't love the annoyingly loud lead-character, the father of the second film's main monster-baby (of 3 that feature), but story-wise, it starts out very strong. The father from the first film visits an expecting couple to provide an ominous warning about how the baby they would soon give birth to would be a monster, and the government was on hand to destroy it right away. He manages to help them run away to a secret facility where two other mutated babies are being kept and studied, as more and more such births have been happening (the result of certain prescription drugs). Of course, the killer babies escape, and this is where it becomes less interesting for me, as they try to hunt down the babies who are going around killing people again. After the father from the first film is out of the picture, I really don't feel the other characters are likable enough to carry the film. It is still watchable though, and I love how the story is growing as an end of the human race sort of scenario as the films progress, similar to something like Romero's "Dead" series.
The third and final sequel, "Island of the Alive", brings us one of the best and most fun to watch performances of the saga from Michael Moriarty of Cohen's other classics, "Q" and "The Stuff". Moriarty brings yet another new take to the "disturbed father of a monster-baby" role represented in all three "It's Alive" films, this time with Karen Black playing the creature's mother. This whole film has a different feeling, however, and is just such an interesting entry. A plays more than ever on the ostracizing of the monster-baby's father by society, especially in the beginning, then has a Jurassic Park 2 feeling, as the babies are now kept on an island where they are allowed to roam free until a group is sent to "check things out" and possibly bring back a body for study. Moriarty's character takes part in the expedition to see what became of his own child. Unfortunately, the creature costumes are pretty silly here, in my opinion, but at times they do still appear dangerous and the action soon movies back to the States. The creatures set out in search of Karen Black, Moriarty tries to warn her, and the cops are all out to kill the beasts. It goes kinda into Escape from the Planet of the Apes territory at the end. The let down here is that the world has basically put a stop to the mutant baby problem before it ever got truly out of control by taking the drugs off the market that caused it all to begin with. This is less intriguing than the impending doom of the first two films and similar apocalyptic sagas. Still, it's a fun movie with a lot of great moments and performances, which can be said for the trilogy as a whole. I just wish they had gone all the way with taking this from a monster-baby film with a couple of sequels to a saga about the end of the world. It basically falls in between those two things. I also feel like more should have been done with the adult forms of the babies. They had telepathy and emotion, but were still more bloodthirsty monsters than anything. They should have grown up into a more advanced and intimidating form as adults. Think of something like the alien from the "To Serve Man" episode of The Twilight Zone.
Getting all three films together in this DVD set is fantastic, and though there aren't many special features, you can't complain when you get a David Cohen commentary for all three of the films, as well as the theatrical trailers. The trailers are really interesting and creepy, and the commentary is pretty interesting to listen to. Cohen pats himself on the back a lot, but manages to be very likable anyway, and certainly gives plenty of compliments to those he worked with. There are some fun things pointed out by him throughout as well, like scenes in which actors are carrying a dog rather than a baby or doll, and bits of its fur can be seen here and there when you are told where to look.
This is a great set of a pretty fascinating and fun horror trilogy. Yeah, they could have gone more epic with the way the premise played out by the end of it all, and it is sad that Cohen didn't go that route, but what it is is still worth owning and watching. Good stuff!