Quantcast

It’s Alive Trilogy (Blu-ray Review)

Iconic Cult director Larry Cohen broke onto the scene with a pair of iconic blaxploitation films starring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in the early 70s. Following, he’d begin to carve his legacy as a unique face in the world of horror with It’s Alive. The film proved to be sort of his well he’d return to between God Told Me To’s and Q: The Winged Serpents with two sequels; It Lives Again! and Island Of The Alive. Scream Factory has been fond of Cohen’s works and is now bringing his famed trilogy to Blu-ray for the first time in this new box set. It features some new interviews as well as commentaries on each film from Larry Cohen himself. Scream Factory is releasing it on May 15th and you can pre-order it on Amazon to make sure yours arrives in time for day 1.

It’s Alive 

Leaving their son, Chris, with a family friend, Frank and Lenore Davis head to the hospital for the birth of their second child — which turns out to be a mutant who kills many doctors and nurses as it escapes. Convinced his monstrous son must be destroyed, Frank ignores Lenore and Chris’ pleas and tries to destroy the freakish progeny, unaware that the infant may be the blameless product of an experimental drug gone wrong.

Larry Cohen’s first “Alive” film plays it rather serious and keeps it tight. Some of this still actually works, but for the most part its all very entertaining.  It falls much more into the cult b-movie variety enjoyment now, and that’s not a bad thing and is better in the long run for the aging process. The film is almost humorous in almost dated propaganda way to wage against contraceptive pills. However, I don’t think that was Cohen’s intention just like it the whole purity virtue thing was with John Carpenter and Halloween.

From two aspects of the production, its surprisingly very elite. Beyond Larry Cohen being a notable director, this film also tied to two legends of their craft. Rick Baker, famed make-up and creature artist, was behind the monster and some of the effects for this movie. Funny enough, the film wouldn’t see a proper release until 1977 when he broke out the same year with Star Wars. Scoring the film is royalty, with that of Bernard Herrmann, the same man who scored so many Hitchcock films. This film was praised upon release for the score, and within just moments, you’ll easily see why.

It’s Alive is a very fun film that is brings suspense, gore, thrills, laughs and overall solid horror entertainment. Larry Cohen has some nice artistic touches in spots to go with this one. If you’re a fan of his other notable films, you’ll surely be down for some of this vicious newborn monster killing action. Funny enough, while it does take a Jaw approach to the monster (Showing very little of it throughout) this is super bloody when it pounces and yet its Rated a mere PG. Pretty crazy to think how messed up that is.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: It’s Alive’s transfer is another solid bit of work from Scream Factory this year. It showcases a surprising amount of details in a rather bold lookign image. Couch textures, pattern, clothing threads, dried milk on the inside of a bottle and all sorts of nifty things can be seen in this image. Its also really helps to bolster that whole “this is definitely the 70s” aesthetic that the film naturally has. There was also a moment that has a Looney Tunes short playing on a TV and even that looks really impressive. A bit of a flicker does make itself noticeable at couple points, but as someone who digs the “at the cinema” appeal to that, it wasn’t bothersome.

Depth:  Solid spacing between foreground and background images. Movements are smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and do a great job with saturation as well as shading and keeping details intact during darker scenes. No crushing issues are apparent.

Color Reproduction: Colors are nice and bold. Blues and reds are the strongest, with blood being very goopy and bold.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Its impressive how much facial detail comes through, be it stubble, sweat beads, dried blood, make-up wrinkles or lip texture that you can clearly make out from any reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean. There is a nice, welcome layer of grain and spec here or there.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: It’s Alive comes to Blu-ray with a well mixed track. The score in the film is a sure highlight, loud and sweeping the viewer into the madness. Effects and sound free and very distinct. There is a healthy balance between the vocals, score and effects through that make this a crisp experience. And it gets surprisingly really deep and rumbly as well.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and sound free and fresh in this mix. Nothing sounds overly analog or dated.

It Lives Again 

Is it human? Is it a beast? Whatever it is, It Lives Again! Once again, Cohen brings to the screen a hideous threesome of mutant baby monsters that are the evolutionary response to man’s polluted environment. These frightened creatures lash out with deadly claws at what they don’t understand. There are only three, but they could reproduce into uncontrollable millions if someone doesn’t destroy them. Fredric Forrest and Kathleen Lloyd star as the loving parents of one of the monstrous creatures. Parental love, however, is no match for these hell-spawned mutants. Their wild blood binge must be stopped. Will the next stage of their evolution become our last?

After a delayed release of three years, followed by some solid box office success, Warner Bros asked Larry Cohen to “make another one”.  At first, this film feels like we are going to see a retread of the first film with two different characters. Which, would be fine quite honestly. However, to your surprise, that is only a first act misdirect. It Lives Again builds upon the first film by showing that people have learned from the first film and the backdrop of the film has expanded to this weird complex where a group has gathered to monitor and take care of these monstrous babies that are killing machines right out of the womb.

While I enjoy that this movie is doing its best to give you the goods of It’s Alive and also build upon it and be a completely different movie than the first film, it doesn’t quite work out. The film has a bit of a balance and pacing issue to it as there is too much downtime between attacks spent just talking about these monsters. I’m not sure what kind of money Cohen was given this time around (Probably less), but when its the second film, you can’t play the whole “hide the monster/keep it a mystery” angle. We’ve already seen it, don’t hide it from us.

Overall, I do like the outline of this film, it just didn’t really get filled out too well. Not helping it out as well is that this film is rated R and manages to be WAY less gross and gory than the PG-rated first film. Its not a long movie, but I found myself bored with it right after the first act ended. A lot of it just feels like our leads hanging out and chatting in a house only to have them leave that house and go to another house and chat some more just waiting for the monster babies to attack.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: It Lives Again at first glance gives the feel that this is a pretty similar transfer to that of the first movie. But a closer inspection shows its less detailed. Not by a whole lot, but the faces and fabrics are where you can tell most. Puppet detail is pretty strong as you get a real feel for the texture of it. The image overall has a decent enough sharpness to it.

Depth:  Movements are fluid and cinematic in appearance with no distortions. Spacing between background and foreground is decently above average.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and really look quite good in the rather nighttime set film. Some details can be consumed depending how far away the detailed object is. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are natural and the palette in the film with the sets and all doesn’t boast any that jump right out at you. There are some nice pastel looking ones with a green robe and some colored walls. Browns, burgundys and the like are all bold in appearance.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the duration of the film. Facial features are pretty strong in closeups and decent in medium shots, showcasing lip texture, makeup, dimples and more.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: It Lives Again has another really good mono track to bolster this film. Its loud and has some really impactful sound effects in this well blended mix. Once again, the star of this mix is the score which has fun consuming the room. There are some foley effects that feel mixed a bit too high for where the sound is coming from on screen at times. Its not only in a few places but came off kind of weird.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: For the majority, the vocals are pretty good and have just a hint of its analog sourcing. There is a segment that features some choppy vocals and breaths when a woman gets a contraction that sound distorted.

It’s Alive III: Island Of The Alive 

Stephen and Ellen Jarvis are the distraught parents of one of the new mutant children. They’ve watched in horror as government death squads roamed the earth, shooting the humanoids on sight. They’ve suffered through the court hearings that sentenced their child and other surviving mutants to a remote, uninhabited island. And their nightmare continues … because the abandoned creatures are now grown … and they are coming back home to the society that created and rejected them. And no one who stands in their way will live.

I really love where we go here with the third Alive movie. Cohen has had no interest in this series with retreads and no fear in terms of taking this story to new places. You could say this goes off the deep end, but narratively it feels like a next step for this series. The babies now grow to become adults, they inhabit an island and we get a character that communicates with them as they still are ferocious evil beasts.  We also get some better gore and kills than we had in the previous film. Its also not afraid to show the monsters unlike the second film.

Coming off of The Stuff, Cohen finally got his regular Michael Moriarty into one of his Alive movies for the third one. Also in the cast is legend Karen Black as well as Laurene Landon. Not that the first films were poorly acted on anything, but the cast here seems a bit more bubbly and fun. They seem to be having more fun and adding a bit more color and character to the film. While they all might play it a little bigger than what we’ve seen in the first two films, it helps to carry the movie a lot better. Moriarty is a unique presence and if you’re a fan of him, than this movie will easily catapult it over the second one just by him being there.

As a straight horror film, the first It’s Alive definitely takes the cake on the whole series. However, as a b-picture and one that’s a bit more of a breeze and fun to watch, the Island of the Alive is a very watchable piece of enjoyment. Its strange and very different, but delivering and developing on things you’ve enjoy in the series while having the most fun cast. Yes, silly it is, but that’s the nature of this beast. The three movies are a fun escalation and peering into the mind of Larry Cohen, seeing every next move he thinks he should make with these movies.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Island of the Alive transfer is pretty much up to par with the image on the second film. Its a rock solid picture with good enough sharpness and some decent amount of detail at every turn. The image delivers an image that feels like a standard success for a Scream Factory release. Nothing triumphant, but really good and satisfactory, especially for such a cult item like this.

Depth:  The film features some solid, fluid cinematic movements to go along with some above average spacing between characters and their environments.

Black Levels: Blacks are solid and manage to help define the image pretty well. No real loss of detail in the shade or on dark objects. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are on the natural end. Greens are really more the stand out here. There are a lot of tints and and good saturation on that color alone. Nothing really pops, but its not that type of movie to be showing of big, bold colors. That said, of course, when there is a bunch of blood, it does relish on your screen in puddles and on torn apart corpses.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the runtime of the film. Facial features like freckles, drool, wrinkles and more come through solid in medium shots and very good in closeups.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean. Features a little heavier grain during some darker jungle sequences.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The third Alive film features a healthy, balanced mix. The music isn’t as prevalent as the first two, but sounds pretty nice. Effects and vocals blend quite well and sound natural with one another. Stereo mixing has some fun with accurate placement and sound travel speaker to speaker. Overall this is a rock solid mix that more than does the trick for a film of this ilk.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

It’s Alive Trilogy is a 3-Disc set with each movie in an individual case, all cases fitting in a sleeve. The first two films in the series have reversible cover art featuring alternate poster designs.

It’s Alive

Audio Commentary

  • By Writer/Producer Larry Cohen

Cohen’s Alive: Looking Back At The It’s Alive Films (HD, 18:14) – Features intervies with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actors James Dixon, Michael Morairty, Lauren Landon, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and historians/journalits John Burligame, FX Feeney. Cohen’s interview appears to be taken from three different sessions. The first film is more heavily featured on this, the second one is briefly brushed over and the third gets a bit of focus.

It’s Alive at the Nuart: The 40th Anniversary Screening (HD, 13:27) – Footage from the whole Q&A that took place either before or after the screening.

Radio Spots (HD, 1:49)

TV Spots (SD, 1:05)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:03) 

Still Gallery (HD, 4:44)

It Lives Again

Audio Commentary

  • By Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen

Trailer (HD, :42)

Still Gallery (HD, 3:40)

It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive

Audio Commentary

  • By Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen

Interview with Special Effects Makeup Designer Steve Neill (HD, 10:11) – He discusses his work on the film and how it is to work with Rick Baker and Larry Cohen. Neill discusses his desire to evolve the creatures from the first one while also trying to keep with a different vision Cohen had for them.

Trailer (SD, :45)

Still Gallery (HD, 2:50)

Summary 

Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive Trilogy from Scream Factory actually created a nice bit of buzz beyond the whole “Holy crap, they are doing Warner Bros movies!” B-movie geeks are fond of these movies (and Cohen) and its easy to see why. There’s a good match of thrills, goofiness and fun to be found. Scream Factory puts them together looking very nice and coming in a solid set with ideal collector packaging and extras. A definite easy pick up for any b-movie or horror film collector.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments