Friday, June 11, 2010

"It's Alive"(1974)d/Larry Cohen

First on the agenda this evening,I'd like to take a moment to wish the charming and very talented Stacie Ponder a very happy birthday.You'd do well to mosey your narrow,little woprophile asses on over to her Final Girl page,which is packed with more tasty cinematic goodness than one of Uschi Digard's bobblers,and do the same.Her writing is always highly entertaining,informative,and irreverently humourous.I don't often say that about people who aren't me,but in this case,it's all true.I figured,what would be a better birthday prezzie for Ms. Ponder than to examine her Film Club entry for the month,Larry Cohen's "It's Alive".I know it ain't exactly the pony she may or may not have always wanted,but it's the thought that counts,right?This also negates some of the cobblers that one might encounter if they skimmed over my Kindergarten report card from the same year.I have (finally)learned to play well with others,keep my hands to myself,properly tie my shoes,and make halfway decent 3's,6's,and 9's with a number two pencil.Thirty-six years later or not,progress is still progress.Anyway,buon compleanno e tanti auguri,kiddo.
Though most of Larry Cohen's movies are easily lumped into the low budget,trashy fun category,tonight's entry poses the deep philosophical question:Is it family or just a veiny balloon-headed fanged and clawed monstrosity with Peter Lorre eyes on a killing spree?We can't easily come to any answers without further examining the modest box office hit under the woproscope more closely.It boasts of an excellent score by Bernard "Psycho" Hermann and some effective puppetry and special effects by Rick Baker,early in his career.Surprising,perhaps,is the subdued tone throughout the film,underplaying the potentially shlocky premise,and understating the monstrous element of the killer baby and the murders it commits,instead focusing on the trauma of said events within the family,making for a decent horror experience.Of course,I'm sure this is mostly unintentional luck on Cohen's part,knowing at one point he suggested putting two live chickens in the mutant baby costume for effect.Real nice,Larry.Real nice.
After the jar of Prego sauce exploded,the entire hospital staff decided to take a nap,all at the same time.
The Davises are expecting their second child,with Frank(John Ryan),Lenore(Sharon Farrell),and their son,Chris(Daniel Holzman),making preparations as Lenore goes into labor.The couple avoided a second pregnancy for several years with oral contraceptives,but when they were financially secure enough for the extra mouth to feed,Lenore started taking untested,experimental fertility drugs to speed the process along.Due to this,she gives birth to a musclebound,bug-eyed,fang-yapped,globe-domed freak that proceeds to wipe out the whole delivery room in a bloody post-natal coup,save for mommy,of course.By the time Frank bursts in to see the grue-soaked remnants of humanity strewn about Lenore's gurney,she's screaming for her baby,who's exited the crime scene stage right,via a window.Frank and Lenore are allowed to leave the hospital as the police follow a tragic trail of lifeless sons o'bitches on their city-wide babyhunt.Even the poor milkman eats vicious infant-inflicted death(maybe he's teething?I dunno)as the bellicose baby makes its way back to the Davis house.The press and police badger the couple until Frank is forced to take a leave of absence from work over the unwanted publicity.He draws an ugly metaphor of himself as Baron Frankenstein,and his new fugitive son as Karloff's monster while talking to detectives on the case,only citing himself as the true monster for unleashing such an atrocity upon mankind,disowning it as a son,and ultimately vowing to help the men track down the pint-sized,milk pint-guzzling killer.
Filmed in lush baby-vision:Everybody looks like this to me when I'm partying.
Meanwhile a university prof contacts the quack responsible for prescribing the experimental drugs to Lenore,telling him that the genetic freak was indeed the product of his empty-headed script,and that once the little monster's been eighty-sixed,the doctor can join the team examining and studying the corpse for research purposes,provided he can snag it for them.Lenore hides the homicidal tyke in the basement,when it shows up,shagged,fagged,and fashed from breaking into a school and killing policemen.When Frank discovers his wife is knowingly hiding the belligerent baby,she pleads with him not to hurt their son,and that he's simply frightened and would never hurt the family.He goes to the basement,gun in hand,to find his son Chris talking to his brother,vowing to protect him,and after getting his meddlesome kid out of his sights,he wings the monster,which escapes again,killing an old friend of the family in the process.When the police contact Frank with news of an infant sighting in the sewers,he rushes out to help with the search,but when he finds the baby,he realizes the murderous rugrat is only frightened,and attacks only out of fear.He finally bonds with his son,picking him up and wrapping him in his jacket,before trying to sneak past the cops who draw their weapons.The fertility doctor urges the men in blue to open fire on the creature,who dives out of Frank's arms onto the loudmouth,killing him as the cops empty their barrels into both.As the police escort the Davises home,a call over the radio announces another killer baby has been born in Seattle.And that particular baby would grow up to sing for Alice in Chains.Nah,just kidding.
Is that an orange checkered polyester pajama pantsuit?That really is horrifying.
I'd have an easier time upgrading this decent little shocker to two wops,if Cohen didn't find it necessary to beat the idea into the ground twice more,with "It Lives Again"(three babies)in 1977,and "It's Alive III:Island of the Alive"(giant grown up babies exiled on a deserted island where they can't hurt anybody!!!)in 1987, the most ridiculous of the trilogy(yet,strangely watchable,due to the always great Michael Moriarty's excellent improvisational skills).It probably deserves more than the one I'm bestowing upon it here,like,perhaps one and a half wops(if there were such a rating!),but the verdict is in.A cheesy-yet-enjoyable Cohen cult classic with more than a few brilliant moments that might make you momentarily forget you were watching a Cohen flick.If you ask me,the kid should've killed everybody for their gaudy seventies fashion sense.One wop.
When Eddie Money sang,"Baby,hold onto me",I don't think he meant this particular one.


stonerphonic said...

mmmhmmm... baby vision. yea, II and III def get my vote as a part of the growing "post birth" abortion movement.

beedubelhue said...

I can do without the second two.This one...I've got memories of my old man dragging me to a theater to see it first run in '74,and thinking how cool it would be to have a little mutant brother that killed people when I got back.I'll never change,haha!


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