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Larry Cohen
John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Shamus Locke, Andrew Duggan
Writing Credits:
Larry Cohen

The one film you should not see alone.

Our modern world is full of marvels - but also polluted air, foods sprayed with deadly chemicals, misused drugs and hidden radioactive substances. Ever wonder how these poisons might affect a developing child in theiwomb? It's Alive offers a shocking possibility - and in so doing has become a creepy cult classic!

It's Alive is the first film of the now-legendary terror trilogy from writer/director Larry Cohen about murderous mutants - and its birth was chillingly midwived by the crucial contributions of two Academy Award winners: makeup master Rick Backer (who created the makeup and "played" the infant monster) and composer Bernard Herrmann. Discover It's Alive for yourself. A baby's cry will never sound the same.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 10/5/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Larry Cohen
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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It's Alive (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 18, 2004)

With flicks like Rosemaryís Baby and The Omen, we got tales about demonic children that went for the subtle side of things. Both flicks never played out matters in a literal way, as they left it up to audience interpretation to determine the reality of the situation.

Donít expect that kind of approach from 1974ís Itís Alive, as it plays out events in a significantly more overt manner. We meet the Davis family, with father Frank (John Ryan), mother Lenore (Sharon Farrell), and 11-year-old son Chris (Daniel Holzman). Lenore is due to give birth, and the early parts of the flick show this process as she goes into labor.

Problems arise. Lenore produces a violent monster baby who slays all of the delivery room personnel except its mother. It then escapes, which triggers a manhunt headed by police Lt. Perkins (James Dixon). The movie follows the police pursuit and other investigations, the babyís killings, and the impact on the Davis family.

To my surprise, that latter elements plays a rather large role in the proceedings. That factor makes Alive more memorable and distinctive than I expected. I thought Iíd find a cheap piece of schlock with little more than cheesy ďmonster babyĒ scares. Sure, the movie tosses in some of those moments, but it maintains a generally subdued tone that manifests more depth than normal.

Early on, the movie sets its tone as it gently introduces us to the participants. The beginning scenes donít warn us of the problems to come, as it focuses wholly on what seems to be an average family as they deal with the childbirth. Not until Lenore gets into the delivery room to problems emerge, but if you donít know anything about the movieís premise, you wonít anticipate what happens.

Even when the bloodshed occurs, the film remains restrained. We donít see the attack. Instead, we watch as a maimed hospital worker staggers out of the delivery room. Itís a nicely understated way to introduce us to the terror, and it works really well.

Alive goes with the ďless is moreĒ model in how it depicts the baby, which seems like a good idea. The puppet probably would have looked goofy in extended shots, so the quick glimpses allow it to become more effective. Actually, the movieís rare cheesy bits connect to the baby, particularly when we see things from its double-vision point of view. Nonetheless, those donít last long, so they donít create substantial distractions.

I also like the movieís ambiguousness. It sets up lots of potential bits of intrigue but doesnít beat us over the head with them. We get hints that the monster baby wasnít unexpected, and we hear vague theories about what caused the mutation, but we never learn anything concrete. Some may dislike these tendencies, as they can come across as wishy-washy. However, I like the vagueness, as the film triggers our imagination to fill in the blanks on our own. I can understand why some would see it as unsatisfying, but I like the fact it doesnít spell everything out for us.

I really didnít expect the movieís emphasis on the lives of the Davis family. The film concentrates a lot on how the developing events affect the clan, and it displays a surprising amount of compassion within that area. I canít really call the movie ďdeepĒ, but it displays layers that I didnít anticipate from a film in this genre.

Half cheesy shocker, half sociological study, Itís Alive surpasses expectations and turns into a reasonably effective movie. It leaves just enough to the imagination to keep us interested, and it follows its story nicely. Chalk it up as a good horror flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C/ Bonus C+

Itís Alive appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didnít expect much from the visuals for a cheap horror flick from the mid-Seventies, but Alive mostly looked pretty solid.

Sharpness usually remained distinctive. Occasionally the image became a bit soft and ill-defined, but not with much frequency. The majority of the film came across as nicely detailed and concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but a little edge enhancement popped up at times. As for source flaws, the movie mostly appeared clean. Some specks, grit, nicks and blotches showed up sporadically but never created significant distractions.

Colors varied but usually came across well. Most of the hues were appropriately bright and full. Some shots looked a little flat and dingy, but not many of them suffered from those problems. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows seemed a bit less consistent. Though low-light shots mainly appeared smooth, they sometimes were somewhat too dense. Part of that stemmed from some awkward ďday for nightĒ shots. Despite these minor issues, I thought Alive presented a satisfying picture.

Nothing special came out during the monaural soundtrack of Itís Alive, but it was perfectly acceptable for a product of its era. Speech occasionally sounded somewhat reedy and flat, but mostly the lines were natural and distinct. I noticed no issues with edginess or intelligibility, though the mix sometimes made dialogue tough to hear because it favored the music too strongly. Bernard Herrmannís score lacked great vivacity, but it was reasonably bright and lively. Effects also failed to demonstrate much range, but they didnít suffer from any overt concerns like distortion. Ultimately, the audio was lackluster but decent.

In addition to trailers for Itís Alive, It Lives Again, and Itís Alive III: Island of the Alive, we find an audio commentary from director Larry Cohen. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. Cohen goes over topics such as the cast, how he came onto the project, problems with the filmís promotion, its slow path to success, and general production notes. Cohen talks a lot about his relationship with Bernard Herrmann and offers many interesting notes about the famously prickly composer. Too much dead air mars the commentary, as Cohen occasionally goes silent for extended periods. Otherwise he offers an entertaining chat with a reasonable amount of good information about the flick.

On the surface, Itís Alive looks like little more than a cheesy schlock horror movie. It includes some of those elements but proves classier and richer than I expected, as it gives us a look at the human toll behind the action. The DVD presents good picture with mediocre audio and minor extras highlighter by a pretty interesting audio commentary. Itís Alive holds up well after 30 years and remains a surprisingly good monster movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.75 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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