Eaten Alive [1977]

Stars: Tracey Adams, Janus Blythe, Neville Brand, Marilyn Burns, Robert Englund
Genre: Horror
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 91 minutes

A wild mix of surreal fantasy and grindhouse splatterfest, Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper's 1976 sophomore feature pits an all-star cast against the homicidal owner of a backwoods hotel and his pet crocodile, with expectedly bloody results. Veteran character actor Neville Brand gives a memorably eccentric performance as the deranged hotelier, whose unpredictable rages frequently end in the violent death of his guests; Mel Ferrer is the inquisitive father of one victim, Robert Englund is a lusty local yokel, and William Finley and Marilyn Burns (Chainsaw's heroine) are a married couple on the verge of a meltdown who make the mistake of renting a room from Brand. Naturally, Brand's homicidal impulses get the better of him, and the film's finale nicely echoes the sheer bedlam of Chainsaw's final act, with all parties (including Stuart Whitman as a very laid-back sheriff) struggling to escape Brand and his croc with all body parts intact. While Eaten Alive never hits the same nerve-jangling heights of terror as its predecessor, Hooper does bring considerable style and verve to its crazy-quilt story, most notably in its garish lighting scheme, which suggests the exaggerated panels of '50s horror comics. And horror fans who don't mind a dash of black humor with their grue will appreciate Brand's stream of consciousness mutterings, as well as the cat-and-mouse game conducted by Finley and Burns' daughter (Kyle Richards) and the monster croc under the hotel. The impressive double-disc set includes a widescreen presentation of the original feature taken from vault materials (the picture was available under a variety of titles, each with different running times); disc one also offers commentary by Finley, Richards, producer Mardi Rustam, and makeup artist Craig Reardon. Hooper is profiled on disc two in an interview that details how he became involved in the project, and the difficulties encountered in bringing it to the screen. Englund and Burns are also interviewed about their careers and participation in the film, and a short documentary titled "The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball" sheds like on the obscure real-life crime that in part inspired the movie. The extras are rounded out by a battery of behind-the-scenes photos, theatrical trailers and radio spots for Eaten Alive's numerous retitlings (including a preview from Japan), and two alternate credit and title sequences. The most amusing extra, however, comes in the form of comment cards filled out by test screening viewers, which run the gamut from disgusted to enthralled. -- Paul Gaita

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