Blu-ray Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

Eaten Alive BR CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

MPAA Classification: Unrated

Director: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Neville Brand, Carolyn Jones, Mel Ferrer, William Finley, Robert Englund, Marilyn Burns, Janus Blythe

This film of many titles, now known as Eaten Alive, was Tobe Hooper’s post-Texas Chain Saw Massacre horror flick. Self-described by Hooper as a grindhouse flick, it also has some interesting giallo moments as well as some completely off-the-wall weird instances. Interestingly, this was shot entirely on a sound stage, save for a few – and I mean very few – scenes in a local tavern. Hooper directs a story written by executive producer Mardi Rustam (Psychic Killer) and Alvin Fast (Satan’s Cheerleaders), and adapted for the screen by Kim Henkel (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). This combination gives us a clear look into 1970’s horror filmmaking.

This film stars Neville Brand (Stalag 17/Loredo) as Judd, the crazy owner of a hotel stuck out in the swamps, Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family TV series) as notable brothel madam Miss Hattie, Mel Ferrer (The Longest Day) as Harvey Wood, William Finley (The Fury) as Roy, Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) as Buck and Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) as Faye. We have some long-standing actors and actresses, a young Englund, and other lesser known cast thrown together with Hooper and what results is an eclectic collection of scenes that somehow manages to work as a whole crazy movie.

For those that haven’t seen this one, the plot is fairly straightforward – Judd owns a hotel and just happens to have a ‘pet’ crocodile living in the water right outside his establishment. For one reason or another our cast of characters end up at this hotel and along the way Judd feeds some guests to the croc while some others escape. Simple plot, yes, but in doing so this allows Hooper to add his touch and let the cast show their abilities. Sometimes simple is best and in this case it results in a visually interesting and well-acted horror feature. It’s the lighting and the fog effects that lend an air of hallucinogenic and gritty creepiness to this one.

We open on brothel madam Miss Hattie kicking out a young lady (played by Janus Blythe), who would not tolerate Buck’s amorous activities in spite of being paid for them. This opening scene does give us one of the most memorable lines of the movie; I will leave it to you to find this obvious gem, and possible shades of a future Freddy. This young lady stumbles onto Judd’s hotel and is ultimately fed to the crocodile, setting the landscape of what is to come. The next hapless family looking for directions crosses paths with Judd and ultimately the family dog becomes a snack for his pet. Through this sequence we learn that Roy, the father, is just a little off his rocker and Mr. Finley delivers quite a performance to demonstrate this type of crazy. It’s the ’70s over-exaggerated style of acting in horror and it is glorious. The mom, Libby, is soon imprisoned by Judd and their little girl runs away hiding under the house and delivering some on-point kid screams.

Mr. Ferrer makes his appearance as father of the first victim to go the way of the crocodile. With our cast all assembled, save one who will be brought in by Englund’s character later, the cat-and-mouse game can begin. Towards the end Buck brings in Faye (Burns) and we essentially get two heroines, Faye and Libby, and a reluctant almost-hero in the form of Buck. Essentially, it’s everyone versus Judd’s scythe and pet croc. Those that make it out in the end do so with loads of screams, a fair amount of blood and fantastically portrayed characters. You really get behind the characters and want them to toss Judd to his pet, and this is the key point for the film – you like and care about the characters. Hooper does a great job of getting the audience on the side of players through their acting and the visual landscape, and we all want Judd to be introduced to the crocodile’s teeth.

Overall, we are left with a dirty, but visually stunning, slasher-style film. This is bolstered by great acting and a plot that moves along at a good pace. Englund as Buck and Brand as Judd both turned in top-drawer performances that allow the other members of the cast to play off and fit perfectly into this production. All in all this is definitely a great little film to watch and with the new 2K transfer from the negative we get Hooper’s vision preserved forever. This gives modern audiences a chance to enjoy it as it was meant to be seen; so often, for many reasons, we can’t have a rescan of a negative and have to use a master but thankfully here we suffer from none of those problems.

Also included are a large amount of special features, some new, some old but all worth a viewing. Newer interviews are with Hooper, Janus Blythe and make up artist Craig Reardon. All three have great things to say, from what it was like to be an actress at this time to a nice recap of films of the day. The archive interviews with Englund, Hooper and Marilyn Burns are also very interesting to say the least. My favorite part was Ms. Blythe recounting that she was approached to be one of the naked dancing witches in Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem. Also included is a documentary on the Butcher of Elmendorf, the real-life story that this movie was very loosely based on.

Also included are trailers, TV and radio spots, alternative credits, movie stills and a commentary from various cast and crew. This was an interesting commentary as it had Rustman, Finley, Reardon and Kyle Richardson. They use this back and forth style, each one giving their take on particular parts and moments of the film. It really makes for an interesting and enjoyable compliment to the film.

All in all, a great package has been assembled by the folks at Arrow Films. A fresh 2K scan of the film, new interviews and a truly entertaining commentary. This is a timeless look at the mid-’70’s horror genre and a great film to see, well worth the purchase. Get some popcorn and enjoy this little gem.

Eaten Alive

Special Features: Audio commentary with co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, make-up artist Craig Reardon and stars Roberta Collins, William Finley and Kyle Richards, new introduction to the film by director Tobe Hooper, brand new interview with Hooper, My Name is Buck interview with Robert Englund, The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball featurette, 5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns interview, The Gator Creator archival interview with Tobe Hooper, original theatrical trailers, US TV and radio spots, alternate credits sequence, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin, collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

US Release Date: 22nd September 2015

Arrow Films – Website

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One thought on “Blu-ray Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

  1. Pingback: Blu-ray Review: Phantom of the Paradise (1974) | Ancient Slumber

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