It's Alive


1h 30m 1974
It's Alive

Brief Synopsis

A couple's use of an experimental fertility drug produces a monstrous infant.

Film Details

Also Known As
Baby Killer
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Horror/Science-Fiction
Horror
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Frank and Lenore are looking forward to the birth of their second child. But when the baby is born, it is a monstrosity with claws and fangs. When one of the doctors tries to suffocate the freakish child, it kills him, along with the rest of the staff in the room. This is just the beginning of a string of murders by the vicious newborn, who is eventually being hunted by almost everyone, and protected only by its mother.

Film Details

Also Known As
Baby Killer
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Horror/Science-Fiction
Horror
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

It's Alive (1974)


Larry Cohen's $400,000 killer baby shocker It's Alive (1974) reaped better than $30 million in worldwide box office rentals for Warner Bros., with credit for the film's unexpected popularity due in large part to an unforgettable advertising campaign; deucedly simple, the thirty second TV spot consisted of a back-to-front camera move around a wicker perambulator while an offscreen narrator declaimed "There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby... It's Alive!" and a monstrous claw jutted violently from within. That the film earned back nearly ten times its shooting budget (making Cohen, in the process, independently wealthy) is less remarkable than the fact that its success came three and a half years after its original theatrical release.

Produced by fiat of former Warners head of production Dick Shepherd (emboldened by the success of The Exorcist, 1973), It's Alive fell victim to a regime change that occurred when Shepherd quit Warners for MGM. Disowned by its home studio, the film was dumped into a single Chicago bijou before being remaindered to the ass-end of double and triple bills. Encouraged by praise from overseas (It's Alive was exhibited at the Cinémathéque Française in Paris and became Warner Bros.' highest-grossing release in Singapore, second only to My Fair Lady, 1973), Cohen kept hope alive. When the players at Warners changed seats yet again, he showed the film to marketing executive Arthur Manson, who concurred with head of distribution Terry Semel (later CEO of Yahoo!) that they had a potential hit on their hands. It's Alive was given a proper re-release in March 1977 and, later that year, was booked by Warners as a co-hit in support of Exorcist II: The Heretic.

Conceived in the aftermath of such scandals as Watergate and thalidomide-born birth defects, at a time when the so-called Generation Gap seemed stretched to its absolute limit, It's Alive reflects the fears of parents about the nature and implications of procreation. While recalling the sundry monstrosities of Greek mythology (Cohen hired New York actor John Ryan to play Frank Davis, a businessman whose newborn child tears its way from the womb and wreaks havoc across Western LA on its journey home, after seeing him play Agamemnon on Broadway to Irene Papas' Medea), Cohen also imbues It's Alive with a canny sense of film history. While Rosemary's Baby (1968) is an obvious precursor, Cohen's use of the Los Angeles River Basin forges a kinship with the noir classics He Walked by Night (1948) and The Third Man (1949), as well as the big bug scare film Them! (1954).

The specter that haunts It's Alive most thoroughly is Mary Shelley's immortal manmade man, the Frankenstein monster. Cohen cadged his title from the iconic scene in James Whale's 1931 film adaptation of the Shelley novel, in which Colin Clive (as Dr. Henry Frankenstein) heralded the birth of Boris Karloff's unnamed monster with "It's alive! It's alive!" Midway through the Cohen film, Frank Davis (fittingly, a public relations man obsessed with image) ruminates on his perceived fraternity with that most infamous maker of monsters:

"When I was a kid, I always thought the monster was Frankenstein. Karloff walking around in these big shoes, grunting. I thought he was Frankenstein. Then I went to high school and read the book and I realized that Frankenstein was the doctor who created him. Somehow, the identities get all mixed up, don't they?"

As with the Universal Frankenstein, It's Alive spawned its own share of sequels -It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987) - as well as a 2008 remake shot in Bucharest.

All too fittingly, It's Alive marked the ending of one Hollywood career and the birth of another. Composer Bernard Herrmann, long since on the outs with frequent collaborator Alfred Hitchcock, agreed to score Cohen's film as long as he could record his symphonic shades of terror at the storied St. Giles without Cripplegate, a Gothic church in the heart of London's Barbican. (Herrmann would compose scores for Brian De Palma's Obsession and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver before his 1975 death, but his cues from It's Alive were repurposed for the first sequel.) Design of the problematic Davis child was the work of 23 year-old Rick Baker. Baker had assisted veteran makeup man Dick Smith on the set of The Exorcist but would soon distinguish himself for his own work on such films as the 1976 King Kong remake, Star Wars (1977), and An American Werewolf in London (1981), for which he won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hair Styling.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

It's Alive DVD audio commentary by Larry Cohen
Larry Cohen interview by Andrea June and V. Vale, RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films, no. 10 (RE/Search Publications, 1987)
"Auds have hankering for horror" by Jonathan Bing, Variety, November 30, 2003
Richard Shepherd obituary by Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, January 15, 2014
It's Alive (1974)

It's Alive (1974)

Larry Cohen's $400,000 killer baby shocker It's Alive (1974) reaped better than $30 million in worldwide box office rentals for Warner Bros., with credit for the film's unexpected popularity due in large part to an unforgettable advertising campaign; deucedly simple, the thirty second TV spot consisted of a back-to-front camera move around a wicker perambulator while an offscreen narrator declaimed "There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby... It's Alive!" and a monstrous claw jutted violently from within. That the film earned back nearly ten times its shooting budget (making Cohen, in the process, independently wealthy) is less remarkable than the fact that its success came three and a half years after its original theatrical release. Produced by fiat of former Warners head of production Dick Shepherd (emboldened by the success of The Exorcist, 1973), It's Alive fell victim to a regime change that occurred when Shepherd quit Warners for MGM. Disowned by its home studio, the film was dumped into a single Chicago bijou before being remaindered to the ass-end of double and triple bills. Encouraged by praise from overseas (It's Alive was exhibited at the Cinémathéque Française in Paris and became Warner Bros.' highest-grossing release in Singapore, second only to My Fair Lady, 1973), Cohen kept hope alive. When the players at Warners changed seats yet again, he showed the film to marketing executive Arthur Manson, who concurred with head of distribution Terry Semel (later CEO of Yahoo!) that they had a potential hit on their hands. It's Alive was given a proper re-release in March 1977 and, later that year, was booked by Warners as a co-hit in support of Exorcist II: The Heretic. Conceived in the aftermath of such scandals as Watergate and thalidomide-born birth defects, at a time when the so-called Generation Gap seemed stretched to its absolute limit, It's Alive reflects the fears of parents about the nature and implications of procreation. While recalling the sundry monstrosities of Greek mythology (Cohen hired New York actor John Ryan to play Frank Davis, a businessman whose newborn child tears its way from the womb and wreaks havoc across Western LA on its journey home, after seeing him play Agamemnon on Broadway to Irene Papas' Medea), Cohen also imbues It's Alive with a canny sense of film history. While Rosemary's Baby (1968) is an obvious precursor, Cohen's use of the Los Angeles River Basin forges a kinship with the noir classics He Walked by Night (1948) and The Third Man (1949), as well as the big bug scare film Them! (1954). The specter that haunts It's Alive most thoroughly is Mary Shelley's immortal manmade man, the Frankenstein monster. Cohen cadged his title from the iconic scene in James Whale's 1931 film adaptation of the Shelley novel, in which Colin Clive (as Dr. Henry Frankenstein) heralded the birth of Boris Karloff's unnamed monster with "It's alive! It's alive!" Midway through the Cohen film, Frank Davis (fittingly, a public relations man obsessed with image) ruminates on his perceived fraternity with that most infamous maker of monsters: "When I was a kid, I always thought the monster was Frankenstein. Karloff walking around in these big shoes, grunting. I thought he was Frankenstein. Then I went to high school and read the book and I realized that Frankenstein was the doctor who created him. Somehow, the identities get all mixed up, don't they?" As with the Universal Frankenstein, It's Alive spawned its own share of sequels -It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987) - as well as a 2008 remake shot in Bucharest. All too fittingly, It's Alive marked the ending of one Hollywood career and the birth of another. Composer Bernard Herrmann, long since on the outs with frequent collaborator Alfred Hitchcock, agreed to score Cohen's film as long as he could record his symphonic shades of terror at the storied St. Giles without Cripplegate, a Gothic church in the heart of London's Barbican. (Herrmann would compose scores for Brian De Palma's Obsession and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver before his 1975 death, but his cues from It's Alive were repurposed for the first sequel.) Design of the problematic Davis child was the work of 23 year-old Rick Baker. Baker had assisted veteran makeup man Dick Smith on the set of The Exorcist but would soon distinguish himself for his own work on such films as the 1976 King Kong remake, Star Wars (1977), and An American Werewolf in London (1981), for which he won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hair Styling. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: It's Alive DVD audio commentary by Larry Cohen Larry Cohen interview by Andrea June and V. Vale, RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films, no. 10 (RE/Search Publications, 1987) "Auds have hankering for horror" by Jonathan Bing, Variety, November 30, 2003 Richard Shepherd obituary by Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, January 15, 2014

It's Alive on DVD


"There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. IT'S ALIVE!" So screamed the tagline in one of the most famous ad campaigns in horror movie history. Was the film attached to that campaign worth the attention? Now you can decide for yourself as Warner Brothers has released It's Alive (1974) on DVD.

Larry Cohen, now best known for his screenplays for the recent thrillers Phone Booth (2002) and Cellular (2004), wrote and directed It's Alive after witnessing a baby crying in its crib. Wondering what such a creature could do if it was able to get what it wanted by force, Cohen was inspired to imagine a monster baby. The idea may have seemed ludicrous but at that time it fit right in. What giant insects were to the 1950's, children were to the 1970's. Rosemary's Baby (1968) may have been the beginning of it but the craze got rolling with the overwhelming success of The Exorcist (1973). After that came Stephen King's telekinetic teenager Carrie (1976), the Antichrist child of The Omen (1976), The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976) and on and on.

Perhaps it was leftover tension from the "generation gap" of the 1960's that caused so many movie makers to latch onto this theme at this time. Whatever the reason, It's Alive still manages to push hot topic buttons even today. The horror of the birth that leaves the mother screaming, surrounded by the corpses of the doctors and nurses that attended the birth cuts far deeper than just simple shock and revulsion. You do not have to be a film major to have these scenes remind you of the highly controversial Roe v. Wade decision handed down the year before this movie especially when a S.W.A.T. team surrounds an innocent toddler and holds him at gunpoint.

Cohen's movie does have many of the elements of the horror exploitation genre despite all the topicality. The budget is obviously very low. Cohen even admits in the commentary track that a lot of the film was shot in his own home. Nevertheless, Cohen made two good decisions that add a lot to this shocker. First, after hiring Rick Baker, later to design the aliens for Star Wars (1977), to create the monster baby, Cohen kept it in the shadows. The premise of this movie is somewhat ludicrous after all. A tiny baby that can quickly kill adults? Keeping the terrible tyke in the shadows does buy necessary time for suspension of disbelief. Cohen's second good decision was to hire Bernard Herrmann, composer of the score for Citizen Kane (1941) and Psycho (1960), to supply the music. Hollywood's then obsession with pop soundtracks had left Herrmann out of favor at this time. Cohen, along with Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese, would be one of the new wave of directors that would revive Herrmann's career before his 1975 death.

Warner Brother's DVD of It's Alive makes this low-budget movie look as good as it probably ever will. In addition to the film, there is a feature-length commentary track by Larry Cohen plus the original trailer and trailers for the movie's two sequels. Cohen's monster baby may seem a bit slight in execution but the ideas in this movie still have quite a punch.

For more information about It's Alive, visit Warner Video. To order It's Alive, go to TCM Shopping.

by Brian Cady

It's Alive on DVD

"There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. IT'S ALIVE!" So screamed the tagline in one of the most famous ad campaigns in horror movie history. Was the film attached to that campaign worth the attention? Now you can decide for yourself as Warner Brothers has released It's Alive (1974) on DVD. Larry Cohen, now best known for his screenplays for the recent thrillers Phone Booth (2002) and Cellular (2004), wrote and directed It's Alive after witnessing a baby crying in its crib. Wondering what such a creature could do if it was able to get what it wanted by force, Cohen was inspired to imagine a monster baby. The idea may have seemed ludicrous but at that time it fit right in. What giant insects were to the 1950's, children were to the 1970's. Rosemary's Baby (1968) may have been the beginning of it but the craze got rolling with the overwhelming success of The Exorcist (1973). After that came Stephen King's telekinetic teenager Carrie (1976), the Antichrist child of The Omen (1976), The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976) and on and on. Perhaps it was leftover tension from the "generation gap" of the 1960's that caused so many movie makers to latch onto this theme at this time. Whatever the reason, It's Alive still manages to push hot topic buttons even today. The horror of the birth that leaves the mother screaming, surrounded by the corpses of the doctors and nurses that attended the birth cuts far deeper than just simple shock and revulsion. You do not have to be a film major to have these scenes remind you of the highly controversial Roe v. Wade decision handed down the year before this movie especially when a S.W.A.T. team surrounds an innocent toddler and holds him at gunpoint. Cohen's movie does have many of the elements of the horror exploitation genre despite all the topicality. The budget is obviously very low. Cohen even admits in the commentary track that a lot of the film was shot in his own home. Nevertheless, Cohen made two good decisions that add a lot to this shocker. First, after hiring Rick Baker, later to design the aliens for Star Wars (1977), to create the monster baby, Cohen kept it in the shadows. The premise of this movie is somewhat ludicrous after all. A tiny baby that can quickly kill adults? Keeping the terrible tyke in the shadows does buy necessary time for suspension of disbelief. Cohen's second good decision was to hire Bernard Herrmann, composer of the score for Citizen Kane (1941) and Psycho (1960), to supply the music. Hollywood's then obsession with pop soundtracks had left Herrmann out of favor at this time. Cohen, along with Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese, would be one of the new wave of directors that would revive Herrmann's career before his 1975 death. Warner Brother's DVD of It's Alive makes this low-budget movie look as good as it probably ever will. In addition to the film, there is a feature-length commentary track by Larry Cohen plus the original trailer and trailers for the movie's two sequels. Cohen's monster baby may seem a bit slight in execution but the ideas in this movie still have quite a punch. For more information about It's Alive, visit Warner Video. To order It's Alive, go to TCM Shopping. by Brian Cady

Quotes

Trivia

Bernard Herrmann entitled the music cue where the milkman meets his demise "The Milkman Goeth".

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States 1974