- For the television special, see Eaten Alive (TV special).
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tobe Hooper|
|Produced by||Alvin L. Fast
|Written by||Kim Henkel
Alvin L. Fast
|Music by||Wayne Bell
|Edited by||Michael Brown|
Mars Productions Corporation
|May 1977 (USA)|
Eaten Alive (known under various alternate titles, including Death Trap, Horror Hotel, and Starlight Slaughter) is an American horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper and released in May 1977. It was written by Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast and Mardi Rustam and produced by Fast, Larry Huly, Robert Kantor and Mardi, Mohammed and Samir Rustam. The film stars Neville Brand, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund, William Finley, Marilyn Burns, Janus Blythe and Kyle Richards.
After refusing a request from a frisky customer named Buck (Robert Englund), naïve young prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) is evicted from the town brothel by the madam, Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones). Clara makes her way to the decrepit Starlight Hotel, located deep in a swamp, where she encounters the middle-aged, mentally disturbed proprietor, Judd (Neville Brand), and, in a fenced-off pool beside the hotel porch, his pet Nile crocodile. Upon realizing that Clara is a prostitute, the sexually frustrated Judd attacks her while ranting and raving about her promiscuity. Clara valiantly fights back, but Judd stabs her with a garden rake and feeds her dead body to the crocodile.
Several days later, a fractious couple, the outgoing Faye (Marilyn Burns) and the disturbed Roy (William Finley), arrive at the Starlight Hotel, along with their young daughter, Angie (Kyle Richards). Their visit soon turns sour when Angie's overly-curious pet dog is eaten by the crocodile. Faye and Roy take their traumatized daughter to their room to try to calm her down.
More visitors, in the form of Clara's father, Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and her sister, Libby (Crystin Sinclaire), arrive at the hotel seeking information on Clara, whom Harvey reveals had run away from home. Judd, however, denies any knowledge of Clara. After their enquiries reveal Clara's connection to the local brothel, Harvey and Libby leave to follow up the lead, but not before checking into the Starlight Hotel.
Roy, meanwhile, decides to shoot the crocodile for killing their daughter's pet dog. Judd intervenes and, during the struggle, Roy shoots Judd in his right leg, only to discover that the leg in question is a wooden prosthetic. Judd manages to get the upper hand during the struggle, stabbing Roy with a scythe and leaving him to be attacked and devoured by the crocodile. Back in their room, Faye manages to get Angie over to sleep before running a bath for herself. Before she can slip into the water she is set upon by Judd, who subjects her to a savage beating. Her mother's screams awaken Angie, who, terrified, attempts to flee the hotel, but finds herself trapped underneath the building. Upstairs, Judd ties Faye up to a bed in one of the hotel's vacant rooms.
Continuing their search for Clara, Harvey and Libby, now accompanied by Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman), arrive at the brothel and question Miss Hattie, who, Like Judd, denies ever seeing Clara. Harvey returns to the hotel alone, leaving Libby in town after Sheriff Martin invites her for dinner. Upon entering the Starlight, Harvey hears Angie's crying and, while investigating, is viciously attacked by Judd, who tears Harvey's throat open with his scythe, killing him, before dragging his body into the swamp to be consumed by the seemingly-insatiable crocodile.
While Sheriff Martin and Libby enjoy dinner and drinks at the bar, they are interrupted by Buck and his girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe). After Buck instigates a fight, the Sheriff forcibly evicts the pair, who proceed to the hotel, much to the annoyance of Judd who had earlier warned Buck to stay away from his property. Once in their room, they, like Harvey, hear cries for help from the still-trapped Angie. Buck goes to investigate, only to be pushed into the swamp by the ever-lurking Judd, where he is quickly devoured. Hearing the commotion, Lynette ventures outside after Buck. She is immediately confronted by the scythe-wielding Judd but, after a desperate chase through the swamp, she manages to reach a road, where she flags down a passing car and gets away.
Judd, angry and frustrated at Lynette's escape, returns to the hotel just in time to see Libby also arrive and head up to her room. He opens up a gate that leads under the hotel, allowing the crocodile to get in under the building in order to kill Angie. Libby, meanwhile, discovers Faye still tied up in the vacant room. After untying her, the women attempt to leave but find that Judd has no intention of allowing any further escapes. The now completely enraged psychopath chases the pair back upstairs, where he manages to further wound Faye with his scythe. Libby, however, succeeds in exiting the hotel, where she literally runs into Angie, who has managed to escape from under the building only to find herself lost in the surrounding swampland. Above them, Judd hurls Faye off of a balcony, injuring her further but failing yet again to kill her. As Libby tries to help Angie navigate the treacherous ground, Judd launches one final assault, attempting to push Angie back into the swamp as Libby struggles desperately to stop him. In the melee, Judd fails to notice Faye approaching from behind. Barreling into him, Faye succeeds in shoving Judd over the wire fence and into the swamp, where he is quickly set upon and devoured by his own beloved pet crocodile.
As the three women try to take stock of the horrors they have witnessed, Sheriff Martin, accompanied by Lynette, arrives at the hotel intent on arresting Judd. He instead finds a distraught Libby, who has lost both her father and her sister, and the deeply-traumatized Angie, along with her severely wounded mother, Faye. All that can be found of Judd, is his wooden right leg, floating in the swamp beside the Starlight Hotel.
- Neville Brand as Judd
- Mel Ferrer as Harvey Wood
- Carolyn Jones as Miss Hattie
- Marilyn Burns as Faye
- William Finley as Roy
- Stuart Whitman as Sheriff Martin
- Roberta Collins as Clara
- Kyle Richards as Angie
- Janus Blythe as Lynette
- Robert Englund as Buck
The film was shot entirely on soundstages at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California. The plot was very loosely based on the story of Joe Ball (also known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man) who lived in Elmendorf, Texas, in the 1930s after Prohibition ended. He owned a bar with an alligator pit serving as an entertainment attraction. Several murders of women ensued, but it was never proven that the flesh found in the pit was human. Joe Ball committed suicide upon possibility of capture.
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Eaten Alive has received a negative response from critics, and currently holds a 18% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on ten reviews. An African hand-made poster for the movie is included in the book Extreme Canvas: Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana by Ernie Wolfe.