Friday, December 7, 2018

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!
Larry Buchanan

Larry Buchanan was given a tiny amount of money to crank out a batch of TV movies that mostly drew from the American International Pictures (AIP) library as sources for the remakes. This series includes such luminaries as the remake of Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) titled, The Eye Creatures (1965), and a redo of It Conquered the World (1956), which was called Zontar, The Thing from Venus (1966).  Not all of these films were remakes though, It’s Alive* is an original story albeit from a script that was kicked around AIP and never actually made into a film. After watching It’s Alive, some might suggest it still hasn’t been.

Norman (Corveth Ouserhouse) and Leela (Shirley Bonne) are newlyweds driving across the country when they manage to run out of gas and attract the attention of Wayne (Tommy Kirk), a paleontologist. They all decide to wander over to a nearby farm looking for gas. The farm is owned by a guy named Greely (Bill Thurman) and not only does he not have gas but he manages to lock everyone in the caves by his house. In the cave is Greely’s favorite pet, a giant dinosaur-man.

"Alright folks, let's get to Kirk..."
Out of all Buchanan’s TV movie output, It’s Alive is probably the best one. It has a compelling set-up and a decent proto Texas Chain-Saw Massacre (1974) vibe with unsuspecting travelers wandering into the backwoods den of a madman. The overgrown swaps and caves contribute to the oppressive atmosphere. Things keep up a steady pace until a lengthy flashback drags everything to a complete stop. The movie struggles to get back up to speed with a big finale, and it’s a credit to the script that it almost succeeds.

I tend to give older films some leeway when it comes to special effects, especially something as impoverished as this production, but the dinosaur-man that Greely is keeping captive is especially embarrassing.  Not only is it reused from an earlier Buchanan film, Creature of Destruction (1967), it is a decidedly non-scary ping pong balled eyed goof. It looks nothing like a dinosaur, and it’s never in the same frame as any of the actors. It is a complete failure… or perhaps an absurd success depending on the reason you are watching.

Are you scared yet?
If for some reason you find yourself on the wrong end of a bet or perhaps a gun and you are forced to select a Larry Buchanan movie to watch, you could do a lot worse than It’s Alive. You’re probably still going to have a bad time, but there is some modicum of entertainment to find here and depending on your love for terrible rubber-suited monsters you might even grow to like it a little. Just prepare for a momentum-killing and nearly silent flashback to ruin your fun before getting back to the monster action.

*This is the first film to be called It’s Alive directed by a guy named Larry. Larry Cohen would later make a completely different film about mutant babies. 

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