It's Alive (1974 film)

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It's Alive
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Larry Cohen
Produced by Larry Cohen
Written by Larry Cohen
Starring John P. Ryan
Sharon Farrell
James Dixon
William Wellman Jr.
Shamus Locke
Andrew Duggan
Guy Stockwell
Michael Ansara
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Fenton Hamilton
Edited by Peter Honess
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 18, 1974 (1974-10-18)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $7.1 million[1]

It's Alive is a 1974 American horror film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen. In the movie, a couple's infant child turns out to be a vicious mutant monster that kills when frightened. Notable talents involved in the movie were Bernard Herrmann who composed the score (noted for his work on many films of Alfred Hitchcock) and Rick Baker for makeup and puppet effects.


In Los Angeles, Frank Davis (John Ryan) and his wife Lenore (Sharon Farrell) are expecting their second child. Frank is a successful public relations consultant and his wife is a stay-at-home mom for their first child, Chris (Daniel Holzman). The couple had avoided having a child for several years while Lenore took contraceptive pills. When the child is ready to be born, they leave Chris with a family friend, Charley (William Wellman, Jr.) and head to the hospital.

Their second child is born monstrously deformed, with fangs and claws. Immediately after birth, one of the doctors attempts to suffocate the child. The child kills the doctors and nurses, and flees through a skylight. Lenore is left alive, screaming for her child as a horrified Frank discovers the carnage.

Frank and Lenore are allowed to leave the hospital while the police investigate the killings. Unknown to anyone, the child is making its way to the Davis home, killing people it comes across, including a musician and a milkman. As the killings continue, the press and the police hound Frank and Lenore.

When talking with medical researchers investigating the case, Frank is reminded of watching Frankenstein and Karloff's portrayal of the monster. He looks at the child as related to the monster and comes to see himself as Dr. Frankenstein, the true monster as he created the original creature. Frank denies the child is his son, and joins the hunt for the murderous infant.

Meanwhile, the doctor who prescribed the prescription drugs to Lenore is contacted by a pharmaceutical executive. The executive acknowledges that the child is a genetic monstrosity that may have been created due to the prescription drugs. He tells the doctor that the child needed to be destroyed to prevent research that might point to its origin. After Frank is called to a local school where a break-in has been reported and a police officer is found killed, the infant makes it way to the Davis home where Lenore accepts the child as her son and hides him in the basement. Missing his family, Chris runs away from Charley's house to go back home, and Charley follows him. Frank discovers that Lenore is hiding the infant, and Lenore pleads with him, saying the child is just scared and frightened and would not hurt the family. Frank takes a gun into the basement, still intent on killing the deformed infant where he finds Chris talking to his little brother, saying he will protect him. Frank yells for Chris to move and shoots at the child, hitting it.

The infant runs out of the basement and leaps at the just-arrived Charley and bites his neck, killing him. The child flees as Frank shoots again. Lenore runs into the basement screaming at Frank, who yells that her son just killed Charley. He slaps his wife, telling her to take his son back upstairs while he hunts the murderous infant.

The police contact Frank and inform him that the child has been tracked to the sewers. Frank takes a rifle into the sewer to hunt the infant. While in the sewer, Frank catches sight of the child and leaves as the cops continue searching. As Frank nears the child, he realizes that the child is simply frightened and will not hurt him. He apologizes for hurting the child, and picks up the crying infant.

Wrapping the baby in his coat, Frank tries to escape the police, but is confronted as he exits the sewers by a mob of armed cops intent on killing the child. He pleads for the cops to take the child away and study him, but to let him live. As the fertility doctor screams for the police to just open fire and kill them, the child leaps from Frank's arms and attacks the doctor. The cops open fire, killing both the infant and the doctor.

As the Davises are taken home by the police, a call comes in from HQ, telling the detective that another deformed baby has been born in Seattle.



Although some countries such as Finland banned the film, the movie received a MPAA rating of PG in the United States. It originally received an 18 certificate in the UK that was recently lowered to a 15. It originally received an R rating in Australia, where it has been lowered to an MA rating. It received an R16 rating in New Zealand.

Box office[edit]

The film had complicated release through Warner Bros. beginning in 1974. Upon completing the film, Cohen found the executives who had backed the production had been replaced and the new executives showed little interest in the project.[2] The studio gave the film a one theater run in the May 1974 in Chicago and, after that, gave it a limited release beginning October 18, 1974.[2] The film drew respectable business, but the company still did not fully support the project.[2]

Three years after its original release, Warner Bros. saw another change in executives and Cohen asked the new group to review the film.[2] It was reissued in March 1977 with a new advertisement campaign. The new 1977 TV advertisement showed a baby carriage with the music "Rock-a-bye Baby" playing, then a claw came out and a voice-over said, "There is only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. It's alive". The new ad drew people into theaters, ultimately earning Warner Bros. $7.1 million in U.S. domestic rentals.[1]



It Lives Again[edit]

AKA It's Alive 2, the first sequel was released in 1978. The film was written and directed by Larry Cohen. This film continues with Frank Davis (John P. Ryan) still reeling from the death of his child and the part he played in it, sees his chance to atone by assisting other would-be parents of mutant children. He tries to warn soon-to-be parents Jody and Eugene Scott of the vast and dangerous conspiracy to murder their baby and the other unborn mutant children who are being born around the country.

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive[edit]

Released in 1987, it was also written and directed by Larry Cohen. This film occurs years after the first two. The monstrously deformed children are now living on an island. With them now quickly reached adulthood and one of them being female and bearing a child of their own


Relative to the movie, the movie-tie-in novel and two film sequels expound on the dangers of various prescription drugs administered to expectant mothers during the 1950s and early 1960s (i.e. Thalidomide), the use of fertility drugs, and the indirect use of pesticides on people. No doubt, Cohen was inspired by the various and possible iatrogenesis, mutagen, teratology effects of these drugs on the unborn baby—especially when these drugs were used either in succession or combination. Fictionally, the mother of this story—Lenore Davis—had a history of taking combined oral contraceptive pills prior to planning her second pregnancy, whereupon she instead began taking an inadequately tested fertility drug to facilitate the conception of her second child.


During 2008, the film was remade in Bulgaria, with Bijou Phillips as the creature's mother. See It's Alive (2008 film).


  1. ^ a b Litwak, Mark (1986). Reel Power: The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood. New York: William Morrow & Co. p. 251. ISBN 0-688-04889-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wilson, William S. (2014-10-19). "Mutant Baby Turns 40". Video Junkie. Retrieved 2014-10-18. 

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