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 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 is travelling to the Davis home, killing 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 the prescription 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 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 flees the basement and attacks and kills Charley by bitting his neck. 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 the baby. 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, the detective in charge receives news that another deformed baby has been born in Seattle.


Box office[edit]

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.[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's Alive received polarized reviews from critics. It currently has a rating of 69% "Fresh" on film review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 5.9/10 based on 16 reviews.[3]


It Lives Again[edit]

It Lives Again, 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]

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive, released in 1987, was also written and directed by Larry Cohen. This film is set years after the first two. The monstrously deformed children are now living on an island. As they reach adulthood, one of the females gives birth to a child of her own.


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.[citation needed]


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

See also[edit]


  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. 
  3. ^ "It's Alive (1973) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 

External links[edit]