It's Alive (1974 film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Larry Cohen|
|Produced by||Larry Cohen|
|Written by||Larry Cohen|
|Starring||John P. Ryan
William Wellman Jr.
|Music by||Bernard Herrmann|
|Edited by||Peter Honess|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$7.1 million|
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 avoided having a child for several years while Lenore took contraceptive pills. When their child is ready to be born, they leave Chris with a family friend, Charley (William Wellman, Jr.), and go 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 travels to the Davis home, and kills anyone it encounters. 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 sees the child as symbolic of the monster and comes to see himself as Dr. Frankenstein, the true monster who created and abandoned the creature. Frank denies the child is his son, and joins the hunt for the murderous infant.
The doctor who prescribed drugs to Lenore is contacted by a pharmaceuticals executive. The executive acknowledges that the child's mutations may have been caused by the drugs. He tells the doctor that the child must be destroyed to prevent discovery of the company's liability.
The Davis infant reaches the Davis home. Lenore embraces the child and hides him in the basement. Chris becomes homesick and runs away from Charley's house. Charley follows him. Frank discovers that Lenore is hiding the infant. Lenore desperately defends her child and promises it would not hurt the family. Frank then takes a gun into the basement to kill the infant, but he finds Chris talking to it and promising to protect it. Frank shoots at the child and hits it. The infant then flees the basement, and attacks and bites Charley on the neck, killing him. Frank shoots again. Lenore hysterically tries to stop Frank, and Frank tries unsuccessfully to reason with her.
The police track the infant into the sewers, where Frank hunts it with a rifle. When he finds it, he realizes that the child is frightened and will not hurt him. He apologizes to the child and picks it up. Wrapping the baby in his coat, Frank tries to elude the police, but a mob of armed cops confronts him as he exits. He pleads for them to study the child but not hurt it. The fertility doctor screams at the police to kill it. The child suddenly leaps from Frank's arms and attacks the doctor as the cops open fire, killing both the infant and Lenore. As the Davises are being taken home by the police, the detective in charge receives news that another deformed baby has been born in Seattle as the film ends.
- John P. Ryan ... Frank Davis (as John Ryan)
- Sharon Farrell ... Lenore Davis
- James Dixon ... Lieutenant Perkins
- William Wellman Jr. ... Charley
- Shamus Locke ... The Doctor
- Andrew Duggan ... The Professor
- Guy Stockwell ... Bob Clayton
- Daniel Holzman ... Chris Davis
- Michael Ansara ... The Captain
- Robert Emhardt ... The Executive
The film had a 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. 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. The film drew respectable business, but the company still did not fully support the project.
Three years after its original release, Warner Bros. saw another change in executives and Cohen asked the new group to review the film. 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.
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The novelizations of the first film and its 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. In the story, the mother of the first mutant child 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.
Sequels and remake
- 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.
- Wilson, William S. (2014-10-19). "Mutant Baby Turns 40". Video Junkie. Retrieved 2014-10-18.
- "It's Alive (1973) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 October 2015.