Eaten Alive

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Eaten Alive
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Alvin L. Fast
Larry Huly
Robert Kantor
Mardi Rustam
Mohammed Rustam
Samir Rustam
Written by Kim Henkel
Alvin L. Fast
Mardi Rustam
Starring Neville Brand
Mel Ferrer
Carolyn Jones
Marilyn Burns
Music by Wayne Bell
Tobe Hooper
Cinematography Robert Caramico
Edited by Michael Brown
Mars Productions Corporation
Release date
September 23, 1977 (USA)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

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.[1]

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 demand for kinky sex from a frisky customer named Buck (Robert Englund), naive prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) is evicted from the town brothel by the Madame, Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones). Clara makes her way to the decrepit Starlight Hotel, located deep in the remote swampland of rural Texas, where she encounters the hotel's mentally-disturbed proprietor, Judd (Neville Brand). Suffering from his own demented sexual frustrations, Judd attacks Clara with a pitchfork, then chases her outside where she is attacked and eaten by his pet Nile crocodile, who lives in the swamp beside the hotel.

Some days later, a fractious couple, the outgoing Faye (Marilyn Burns) and the disturbed Roy (William Finley), arrive at the hotel, along with their young daughter, Angie (Kyle Richards). Shortly after their arrival, the family dog, Snoopy, is brutally attacked by the resident crocodile, which sends little Angie into shock. In retaliation, Roy goes out to kill the carnivorous swamp creature, but is stabbed and killed by Judd, who is wielding a large scythe. Judd then straps Faye onto her bed and attempts to grab Angie, but she is able to escape and hides under the hotel's porch.

Later, Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and his daughter, Libby (Crystin Sinclaire), also arrive at the Starlight Hotel seeking information on the now-deceased Clara, who is Harvey's runaway daughter, but leave when Judd denies having seen her. Accompanied by Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman), Harvey and Libby question Miss Hattie, who also denies ever seeing Clara. Harvey returns to the creepy swamp hotel alone, while Libby goes for dinner and drinks with the sheriff. After Harvey discovers a captive Faye in her hotel room, Judd murders him, once again implementing his giant scythe.

Meanwhile, after being kicked out a bar by the sheriff, Buck and his underage girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe), venture to the Starlight, much to the annoyance of Judd. When Buck hears screams coming from Faye's room, he tries to rescue her, but is pushed into the swamp by Judd and devoured by the crocodile.

Later, Libby arrives back at the hotel and manages to untie Faye from her bed and retrieve Angie from under the porch. Consumed with madness, Judd chases the three survivors into the swamp where he is finally attacked and killed by his own pet reptile.[2]



Working under the title, Death Trap, Eaten Alive was filmed entirely on the sound-stages of Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, which had a large-scale pool that could double as a swamp.[3] Shooting on a sound-stage instead of a practical location contributed to the atmosphere of the film, which director Tobe Hooper described as a "surrealistic, twilight world."[4] However, the film eventually proved to be problematic for the director, who left the set shortly before production ended, due to a dispute with the producers.[5] But Hooper's good relationship with his actors remained intact. The director later recalled how he worked with actor Neville Brand to fully develop the character of Judd, declaring, "He understood what he was doing exactly.”[6]

Adapted for the screen by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-writer Kim Henkel, 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 owned a bar with a live alligator attraction during the 1930s in Elmendorf, Texas. During this time, several murders of women were committed by Ball, and the legend is that he would dispose of his victims' bodies by feeding them to his pet alligators, but this was never proven.[7]


Although passed with cuts for its theatrical release in England in 1978, when Eaten Alive was released on home video by VIPCO under the title Death Trap in 1982, the film became one of the first of the so-called "video nasties" to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.[8][4] Its gratuitous violence became the focal point of many social critics in the UK, including a very vocal crusader for the moral minority Mary Whitehouse, and consequently all video copies were removed from retail stores. When the film was finally re-released on VHS in 1992, the BBFC edited out approximately 25 seconds from the original cut.[9] The film was eventually released in its uncut version on DVD in 2000.[10]

Aside from the controversy surrounding its video release, Eaten Alive received mostly negative responses from critics, and currently holds a 23% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on ten reviews.[11] A contemporary review by David Pirie for the Time Out Film Guide called the film, "trite and unconvincing." However, voicing a minority opinion, critic Ken Hanke reappraised the film as a misunderstood masterpiece which captured "the other-worldly madness of the death of the amateur-night-in-Dixie brand of the American Dream."[12]


  1. ^ Jane, Ian (October 11, 2007). "Eaten Alive: 2-Disc Special Edition". DVD Talk. 
  2. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2002). Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre: The Films of Tobe Hooper. McFarland. p. 68. ISBN 9781476613352. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  3. ^ Patterson, Cleaver (15 October 2015). "EATEN ALIVE: Film Review". SCREAM Magazine. Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Brown, Ford Maddox. "EATEN ALIVE". Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  5. ^ Muir (2002), p. 23.
  6. ^ Balun, edited by Chas. (1989). The deep red horror handbook. Albany, N.Y.: Fantaco Enterprises. ISBN 0938782126. 
  7. ^ Hawkes, Rebecca. "Eaten Alive: the bizarre true story behind Tobe Hooper's alligator horror movie". Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  8. ^ Waddell, Terrie. Cultural Expressions of Evil and Wickedness: Wrath, Sex, Crime. Rodopi. p. 114. ISBN 9042010150. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  9. ^ Martin, John Wiley. Seduction of the Gullible: The Truth Behind the Video Nasty Scandal. Stray Cat. p. 156. ISBN 9780953326181. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  10. ^ Hooper, Tobe (13 October 2003). "Death Trap". Vipco. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  11. ^ "Eaten Alive - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Henderson, Eric. "Eaten Alive Film Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 

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