It’s time for another look at those wonderfully silly films that help to shape lil’ Miyuki into the movie loving Catgirl Princess I am today. This week we take a look at “It’s Alive”, 1974’s mutant killer baby movie….
A lot of films since then have touched on this idea, but this one was there first…. and all the others since owe it a more than a passing nod for reminding us all just how scary babies really are. Given that the news is this one is currently the latest classic horror franchise due for a remake soon, and since I have “Tamami, The Baby’s Curse” winging it’s way to me direct from Japan, I thought this one would make just the perfect entry into my “Lil’ Kittens Classics” reviews…..
I remember first seeing this one uncensored on pay cable, I think…. It was over at a friend’s house during a sleepover with some other girls from school. Her family had cable, and she had a TV in her room, which was a novelty waaaay back then.
This was way before those silly “parental controls” started popping up on the decoder boxes, so we were able to watch this one without having to sneak around to do it.
So…. was it worth forgoing the usual sleepover hi jinx to watch? Or should we all have just talked about boys, had the prerequisite pillow fight, and painted each others toenails? Let’s “Read On” and find out…..
Hehehehe…. you have to love a film that was actually banned in Finland… twice!! Neko-chan just knows those are usually the best ones to rot your mind….
We start this one with expected parents, Frank and Lenore Davis (played by John Ryan and Sharon Farrell, respectively) expecting the immanent arrival of their second child. No time is wasted, and after a couple of character scenes establishing just how normal and loving a middle income typical american family they are, we go to the hospital as Lenore goes into labor. But not everything goes as planned. After a long and painful labor, Lenore gives birth to a freaky deformed cannibal baby thing that attacks and kills everybody in the delivery room except its mother. It then escapes the hospital by crawling away into the ventilation system, triggering a frantic police manhunt headed up by police Lt. Perkins (played by James Dixon). Our hero, Frank is at first traumatized by the whole situation, then both disgusted and ashamed of his freaky monster spawn as it continues to elude all police efforts to track it down.
Director Larry Cohen wastes no time by having the police do all the stupid denial about the situation at hand. Refreshingly, here we see the entire Los Angeles police force mobilized, motivated and armed to the teeth, ready to blow Frank junior to hell whenever they manage to catch his lil’ mutant butt. Ah…… Dirty Harry would be sooo proud!!
Much of the film revolves not around the killer baby at all, but instead focuses on the terrible effect of this on the previously stable relationships of the Davis among themselves, their friends and co-workers and with the incredible media circus surrounding the whole incident. Here we start to see the cracks in that family, barely hidden before now coming to the surface dramatically. Seems this wasn’t exactly a planned pregnancy…. Frank and Lenore were close to having it aborted till they changed thier minds. Their 11 year old son is sent to stay with a family friend, to keep him out of the media spotlight, but it ends up confusing him and making him worry.
As a relatively low budget effort, there isn’t a lot of explicit gore… for example, we never get to see the violent attack in the delivery room at all…. just see an intern stumble out of the room and die of his wounds. Later, a milkman is killed in the back of his truck…. there’s no view of it, just the creepy image of spilled milk running out of the back and down the street, slowly turning pink with mingled blood. That’s pretty much how the violence is handled here…. but it works well. Just imagining the lil’ freak ripping apart his victims was plenty effective… lil’ Miyuki was scared silly back then, and apparently the good people of Finland thought it was too gross to even think about. Maybe babies are scarier in Finland…..
There were a lot of talented people associated with this one too. Rick Baker of “American Werewolf in London” fame handles the special effects building the baby puppet itself and doing most of the other stuff needed for the few gory bits shown. The film’s score was done by the great Bernard Herrmann, and it’s listed as being some of his last work before he died. Although the budget here is small, each did their usual stellar job lending some real class to what could have been just another cheesy exploitation film that would otherwise slid into obscurity long ago.
I think the most fun in this one is the absolutely earnest way the police race around on the hunt for the monster. We’re talking the cream of the crop of police action from the seventies… no assault rifles or SWAT guys, no girly body armor…. just a bunch of guys who look just like the entire cast of “Adam 12” armed with revolvers and shotguns tearing around in those retro black and white police cars, sirens blaring. When it seems that the freaky lil’ guy has some almost mystical ability to sense it’s “family”, the cops not only let Frank join them on the hunt for it, but they actually give him a gun…. don’t see that happen anymore….. Naturally we have to have a tense showdown in the sewers and a shootout in the LA river…. just to make everything perfect here. This is just soooo silly and yet serious at the same time. You don’t get that kind of fun anymore.
So…. to conclude, Neko gives “It’s Alive” a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5 for being the perfect film to ever serve as a testimony for birth control. The DVD for it is great too… with a Widescreen 1.85:1/16×9 screen format, an optional French audio track, and it has English, French, and Spanish subtitles….. There are Trailers on board for this film, and the two sequels it “spawned”… and surprisingly even a nice audio commentary track by director Larry Cohen.
Naturally there a cool Trailer available, and here it goes!!