Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It’s Alive (1974, USA)

Directed by: Larry Cohen
Produced by: Larry Cohen
Written by: Larry Cohen
Starring: John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Shamus Locke, Andrew Duggan, Guy Stockwell, Michael Ansara
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton
Editing by: Peter Honess
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release dates: October 18, 1974
Running time: 91 min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: Unknown
Box office: $7.1 million
Rentals: $6,900,000 (USA)
Plot: Heavily pregnant Lenore Davis tells her husband, Frank, that she is in labor. They leave their eleven year-old son Chris with their friend Charley and they head to the Community Hospital. Lenore feels that something is wrong and delivers a monster that kills the team in the delivery room and escapes through a skylight. Lieutenant Perkins comes to the hospital to investigate the murder and the press divulges the identity of the parents. Frank discovers a dark secret about Lenore and the baby.

Info: It's Alive is a 1974 American horror film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen. In the movie, a couple's infant child turns out to be a vicious mutant monster that kills when frightened. Notable talents involved in the movie were Bernard Herrmann who composed the score (noted for his work on many films of Alfred Hitchcock) and Rick Baker for makeup and puppet effects.

The film was a financial failure in its initial 1974 release. Three years after its original release, it was reissued with a new advertisement campaign. The new 1977 TV advertisement showed a baby carriage with the music "Rock-a-bye Baby" playing, then a claw came out and a voice-over said, "There is only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. It's alive". The new ad drew people into theaters, ultimately earning Warner Bros. $7.1 million in U.S. domestic rentals.

It's Alive original 1974 trailer.

Although some countries such as Finland banned the film, the movie received a MPAA rating of PG in the United States. It originally received an 18 certificate in the UK that was recently lowered to a 15. It originally received an R rating in Australia, where it has been lowered to an MA rating. It received an R16 rating in New Zealand.

Relative to the movie, the movie-tie-in novel and two film sequels expound on the dangers of various prescription drugs administered to expectant mothers during the 1950s and early 1960s (i.e. Thalidomide), the use of fertility drugs, and the indirect use of pesticides on people. No doubt, Cohen was inspired by the various and possible iatrogenesis, mutagen, teratology effects of these drugs on the unborn baby—especially when these drugs were used either in succession or combination. Fictionally, the mother of this story—Lenore Davis—had a history of taking combined oral contraceptive pills prior to planning her second pregnancy, whereupon she instead began taking an inadequately tested fertility drug to facilitate the conception of her second child.

It's Alive 1974 VHS distributed by Warner Home Video.

It's Alive has two sequels and a remake. It Lives Again (AKA It's Alive 2), the first sequel was released in 1978. The film was written and directed by Larry Cohen. This film continues with Frank Davis (John P. Ryan) still reeling from the death of his child and the part he played in it, sees his chance to atone by assisting other would-be parents of mutant children. He tries to warn soon-to-be parents Jody and Eugene Scott of the vast and dangerous conspiracy to murder their baby and the other unborn mutant children who are being born around the country.

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive, released in 1987, it was also written and directed by Larry Cohen. This film occurs years after the first two. The monstrously deformed children are now living on an island. During 2008, the film was remade in Bulgaria, with Bijou Phillips as the creature's mother.

Promotional photos of the baby creature from Larry Cohen's It's Alive.

Film Facts: Bernard Herrmann titled the music cue where the milkman meets his demise "The Milkman Goeth."

It's Alive is also known as Baby Killer in Denmark.

The film is also blessed with one of the last soundtracks to be composed by Hitchcock favorite Bernard Herrmann.

It's Alive has been spoofed in South Park: Cartman Joins NAMBLA (2000), Kenny's nightmare is based on this movie and Hell Baby (2013), a killer baby parody.

Presumably It's Alive was inspired by Rosemary's Baby (1968) and a desire to see what happened next. The poster even repeats the image of the pram (though there isn't one in the films). But rather than link this mutant baby to religion, Cohen switches the probable cause of abnormal size and psychosis to manmade - suggesting food additives, pollution, and radiation.

Bump in the Night Productions It's Alive baby creature puppet. As seen at Little Shop of Horrors.

Amazon: It's Alive Latex Puppet (Bump in the Night Productions) - $50.68

Director Larry Cohen creates a thoughtful script about the effects of our environment on our reproductive systems in this thoroughly predictable yet immensely entertaining film. A father and a mother expecting rush to the hospital to have their second child. The only snag is that when the baby comes out of the womb it has razor-sharp fangs and claws with which it kills every doctor and nurse in its reach before fleeing the scene. The effects by Rick Baker (who of course became one of the top effects guys in Hollywood and did the work on Star Wars, An American Werewolf In London, Men In Black and so many more) are rather cool-the baby puppet is creepy. The film is full of insights and revelations as to what may be someday as we abuse our environment and use chemicals to sustain life.

The father has a conversation in the waiting room with other expecting fathers. This conversation covers the ill-effects of pesticides, drugs, and other additives we use in our daily lives. The film uses the baby as a means to move action. With a distorted camera lens, we see things in the world through the eyes of this mutated infant. Initially the father wants to kill his beastly progeny. The police want to pump it full of lead. The doctors and drug companies want it destroyed to negate any possible backlash. A university professor wants the carcass for study when captured. Cohen shows us the underbelly of humanity.

It's Alive poster art print by Jon Smith.

The people surrounding this infant are often no better than the child. All they want is gain...and it matters not at whose cost. John Ryan plays the introspective dad and does a fine job with this rather difficult role. He plays an ad executive who begins seeing the good in things and then slowly sees only the stark horror of his own life, his family life, his job, and his child. The other actors all do credible jobs. Cohen obviously likes horror as he names the wife Lenore and has the father talk at length about the novel Frankenstein. The production values and budget are minimal, but the film has a lot of heart where it counts.

Photo credits: Little Shop of Horrors (London, KY)

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