22/02/2009

IT'S ALIVE (1974)

Day #5

Lately I've been falling into the most morbid of stupors. Unwilling to rise in the morning. Appetite gone. The black dog of depression growling softly somewhere in the back of my mind...

My mood is not lightened when I take a medicinal brandy and discover too late it was the bottle of urine I'd been saving for a rainy day. This unfortunate incident has made me resolve to do 2 important things in future:

a) Stop saving my urine in brandy bottles.

and

b) Stop saving my urine for a rainy day.

Anyway, enough talk of urine. Perhaps a film will lighten my mood. A jaunty musical perhaps? Or even a rom-com I daresay? Aha! Here comes one now:


IT'S ALIVE (1974)



This film genuinely surprised me. The ending in particular hit me with a sucker-punch to the gut. But let's rewind to the start...

I was ready to laugh heartily all the way through It's Alive's outrageous and frankly ridiculous premise (killer mutant new-born baby makes a run for it and terrorises the city), and when the poor Carnation milkman meets his end in one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a long-time, I was even more convinced that I was going to get a camp so-bad-its-good gorefest...

But I didn't. Instead, It's Alive stays rather low-key. Certainly as low-key as you can expect from a film about a killer mutant new-born baby. So, rather than scenes of a nappy-clap monstrosity terrorising neighbourhoods, we get a fairly realistic portrayal of a family that has had their world torn apart. Their 'monsters' are so-called nurses with hidden tape-recorders and representatives from drug companies with shady ulterior motives.

Of course, their other monster is a killer mutant new-born baby on the loose. And a fine looking little fella he is - one of legendary monster-maker Rick Baker's earliest works. The scary little oddball (I mean the baby, not Rick Baker) is kept in the shadows and we only get fleeting glimpses of him now and then. A nice touch.

The finale when the father confronts his wounded offspring is genuinely moving and I don't mind admitting I had a lump in my throat. It was rather beautifully acted by the late John P. Ryan, although through most of the film I had difficulty picking up what he was saying. It sounds to my untrained Scottish ears like he had a fairly thick Noo Yoik accent - and kinda mumbled as well. Towards the film I suddenly realised who his voice reminded me off - Oddball from Kelly's Heroes!

Watch it for yourself and tell me it ain't so.

So all in all, another triumph for Larry Cohen. He certainly knows how to pack some thought-provoking issues into his films. In this instance, it's 'what the hell kind of drugs are we being fed by the major co-orporations'? And this is way back in 1974 remember, so pretty prescient stuff.

The final pay-off of It's Alive sets up a sequel beautifully. And I wouldn't be surprised if whoever is controlling the Igloo's TV reception sends me one to review very shortly. Call it a hunch.

In the meantime. Here's the trailer:

6 comments:

  1. I stopped reading your review half-way through, because I have never seen IT'S ALIVE and didn't want it spoiled for me. I will try and get my talons on it and then (if I remember) come back and finish reading and comment, as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember the sequel to be just as great.
    The third part is what brings The Camp in incredibly big wallops (of doom).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great Review for a Classic flick IK!
    I will be looking forward to your thoughts on the sequels :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have never seen this one, but it is one of my "closet of childhood fears" entries. When I was four or five we went to see a Benji movie in the afternoon. This being the early '70s, they didn't care what was in the trailers. So I got to sit through the slowly turning bassinet and creepy voice-over, just to see the hideous claw hanging out the other side.

    I don't think I enjoyed Benji much.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is one of those movies that, while good, didn't have a chance to living up to its ad campaign.

    Like Darius Whiteplume, I am also familiar with the advertisement with the slowly turning baby bassinet and the narrator talking about the baby, the claw coming into view just as he intones, "...IT'S ALIVE", and a hideous scream coming out of the baby bed as the narrator warns us, "Don't see this movie alone. Please."

    Well, as long as he says please....

    I was a child at the time this one came out and the ad had an effect on me that I never wanted much to see the movie until I was older and somewhat braver. What an idiot I was as a child, not to see a movie because of a scary ad campaign.

    To this day, however, I refuse to see movies such as "Magic" (1978) and "Tourist Trap" (1979) because their ads freaked me out back in the day.

    Look them up on YouTube yourself if you don't believe me. Yargh!

    All in all, though, great review, TIK!

    -TGWD

    ReplyDelete