It's Alive! (1974)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Larry Cohen (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-It Lives Again, It's Alive III: Island Of The Alive
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 87:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Larry Cohen
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring John P. Ryan
Sharon Farrell
James Dixon
William Wellman Jr.
Shamus Locke
Andrew Duggan
Guy Stockwell
Daniel Holzman
Michael Ansara
Robert Emhardt
Case ?
RPI ? Music Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Norwegian
Swedish
Greek
Dutch
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Lenore (Sharon Farrell) and her husband Frank (John Ryan) are expecting their second child and anticipating the end of a troubled pregnancy. The child Lenore is carrying is unusually large and the subject of abortion was raised on more than one occasion, with the mother's best interests at heart. Eventually the baby is born prematurely, but the labour room is left splattered with blood, the nursing staff and doctors all found dead. The only clue as to what happened is the missing baby and a broken skylight - must be an agile little blighter! The infant is marked for death by the authorities, and it's hardly surprising that even a doting Dad like Frank refuses to acknowledge it as his own. The creature embarks on a murderous rampage, but is it merely seeking its family? After an extensive hunt and an emotional confrontation Frank is forced to rethink his paternal responsibilities.

    As far as horror films go, this is a decent effort that I'm sorry to say hasn't aged all that well since its theatrical release nearly thirty years ago. The performances from Ryan and Farrell are solid and to their credit they manage to turn what would normally be a laughable concept into a reasonably tense outing. The supporting cast is quite strong as well, with many recognisable faces from 70s b-films.

    The special effects in this film were created by renowned makeup artist Rick Baker at a very early stage in his career, and considering the film's low budget  the results are very good. Baker went on to contribute effects to films such as The Howling and more recently the Planet of the Apes remake starring Mark Wahlberg.

    Writer and Director Larry Cohen is responsible for penning the recent Colin Farrell hit Phone Booth and countless b-film classics such as Q: The Winged Serpent and Black Caesar. Cohen is currently in the process of producing a remake of It's Alive with a New York setting, which should prove interesting. There are three films in his original Alive series, all of which are presented in this box set.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is presented in an aspect of 1.78:1, which is relatively close to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    In this case it's important to take into consideration the film's age and very low budget. Judging by the commentary, it appears director Larry Cohen supplied the negative and was actively involved in bringing these films to DVD. He cites the inferior prints that were produced in some countries and states on several occasions how pleased he is with the results of this transfer to DVD. Despite the few flaws that are present here, it is likely that this transfer even eclipses the quality of the original theatrical exhibition. The level of sharpness is quite good, although some scenes are marred by a noticeable wash of grain over the image. Shadow detail and black levels are also good, but suffer from intermittent peaks of brightness. The final scenes of the film take place in a series of dark underground tunnels and show this effect most of all (82:38). There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    There isn't a lot of bold colouring present in the film, as this was the intention of the director. He has stated that he avoided bold colours altogether for fear that they would beautify the picture and detract from the effects and tension. The transfer doesn't contain any bleeding or rendering glitches and maintains a reliable consistency throughout.

    Artefacting is limited to some noticeable hairs and dirt in the first two minutes, but remains relatively controlled for the remainder of the film. There are no major MPEG compression or aliasing issues to speak of.

    Both English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle streams are included, among many other languages. The subtitles are moderately accurate and free from any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

    This disc is single layered (DVD5 format).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. The default soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 1.0, while French and German mono soundtracks are also included. As with the video transfer, some interesting facts about the audio presentation are raised in the feature commentary by director Larry Cohen.

    The quality of the English dialogue can only be described as average and it would appear there is a reason for this. Cohen believes that looping vocal tracks in post production removes the immediacy of the performances, so what we hear is essentially the location audio. The background is a little noisy at times, but you have to appreciate his reasoning. Audio sync is virtually flawless.

    Being a mono soundtrack, there is obviously no surround or subwoofer activity. The mix has a decent depth considering its age and aside from a few minor clicks and crackles it's in acceptable condition.

    The score by Bernard Herrmann is an essential part of this film and contains one of the most recognisable horror themes in cinema. Cohen had a remarkable working relationship with Herrmann, which is also discussed extensively in the accompanying audio commentary.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu page is static and 16x9 enhanced, accompanied by an audio clip from the film's theme. The feature begins playback automatically after two rotations of the main menu.

Feature Commentary-Larry Cohen (Writer, Director)

    Cohen is a great talker and offers plenty of interesting insights into the making of this film, the locations, his relationship with the studio and his friendship with composer Bernard Herrmann. Cohen also supervised this DVD transfer and shares a lot of anecdotes from the period surrounding the release of the film, how it began with very minimal distribution and grew to become the number one film in the United States three years after its initial release. Anyone who is familiar with Cohen's films or 70s low budget cinema will find a lot to gain in this commentary.

Trailers (3)

    Trailers are included for all three It's Alive! films, playable via a play all function or individually. The It's Alive! trailer negative was bought by Larry Cohen from a collector on the internet and is presented here with 16x9 enhancement.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This boxed collection of the three Alive films is identical across all regions. Given the modest local price, I don't see any need to import this title.

Summary

    It's Alive! is a modest low budget affair, and should appeal to anyone with an interest in horror or 70s b-films.

    The video transfer is good.

    The audio transfer is faithful to the original mono soundtrack.

    The extras include a great commentary and some trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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