“Nearly a decade before he donned Freddy Kruger’s famous red and green sweater, horror icon Robert Englund delivered a supremely sleazy performance in Eaten Alive – another essay in taut Southern terror from Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Deep in the Louisiana bayou sits the ramshackle Starlight Hotel, destination of choice for those who like to check in but not check out! Presided over by the bumbling, mumbling Judd (and his pet croc which he keeps in a large pond out front), the patron of this particular establishment may seem like a good-natured ol’ Southern gent – but he has a mean temper on him, and a mighty large scythe to boot…
Oozing atmosphere from its every pore (the entire film was shot on a sound-stage at the famous Raleigh Studios, which lends it a queasy, claustrophobic feel) Eaten Alive matches The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for sheer insanity – and even draughts in Chain Saw star Marilyn Burns as the terrorised woman-in-peril, alongside William Finley and Mel Ferrer”.
- via Arrow Video
With his “second, difficult album”, as it might be termed in music, director Tobe Hooper decided to follow his hit debut “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” with another film that likely did very little for the tourism industries of the Southern states of the USA.
“Eaten Alive”, problematic during its shoot as Hooper came into conflict with its producers, is often considered the director’s “lost film”, living in the shadows of its older, more successful big brother from Texas, and met with uncertainty (as was the “Texas” sequel) by its producers due to the mixture of tone. Hooper was often prone to black comedy: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1 & 2) had it, as did “Poltergeist” and Hooper’s sci-fi cult classic “Lifeforce”. But, the mixture of extreme gore, violence and humour was a problem for the studios and money men and “Eaten Alive” fell victim to the same ‘logical’ view from the men in suits.
Driven by an excellent performance from the late Neville Brand as Judd, the deliriously psychotic hotel owner, a character that comes across as a mentally shattered Vietnam vet with a pathological hatred towards prostitutes as well as an uneasy respect towards the alligator cum crocodile that lives in the water beside Judd’s run down hotel of horror, Brand delivers a maniac more frightening than the well-spoken Norman Bates of “Psycho”. Gone may be the chainsaw from Texas, but Judd and his scythe are equally as destructive.
“Eaten Alive” is classic exploitation cinema that reunites Hooper with “Texas” star Marilyn Burns, introduces future “The Nightmare on Elm Street” icon Robert Englund, as well as noted actors including Mel Ferrer and Stuart Whitman. The latter, as the local sheriff, is seemingly redundant, no sense of the heroic lawman riding in to save the day, here. One again, it is the women that take centre stage, either as victims and/or as those who will fight to kill the monster.
That so many unwitting victims should stumble upon the most run down backwater hotel in the US is part of the film’s charm. In “Eaten Alive” it’s as though road kill season has arrived, so much so that Judd simply doesn’t seem to know what to do to deal with the many problems that have arrived at his door within hours of each other. Bordering on farce, how does one deranged lunatic attempt to fix so many interruptions as well as deal with a killer croc? Hooper’s mixture of horror and black comedy may have raised eyebrows among the financiers at the time, but it remains a fine companion piece to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and is understandably a favourite among fans of Hooper and exploitation cinema in general.
The restored Blu ray is excellent and once again shows that low budget films from the past can still look great if care is put into their restoration and release. The Special Features, as we’ve come to expect from Arrow Video, are extensive. Among the highlights are new interviews with Tobe Hooper; Robert Englund discussing his career; a brief interview with Marilyn Burns; and a fascinating documentary about Joe Ball, the Texan killer upon which “Eaten Alive” is loosely based.
“Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the Blu-ray release of Eaten Alive, director Tobe Hooper’s grizzly and grimy follow-up film to his genre defining The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in the atmospheric Louisiana bayou, Eaten Alive was reputedly inspired by the activities of Texan serial killer Joe Ball and boasts a cast that includes a suitably sleazy performance from Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.
Tobe Hooper’s 1977 grindhouse nasty will debut on Blu-ray from 21st September 2015 and comes presented in a brand new 2K transfer of the film. The disc will feature a wealth of bonus content including both newly shot and archival featurettes and an exclusive and new interview with Hooper himself.
This exciting release comes packaged together with newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and a fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Brad Stevens, illustrated with original stills”.
Brand new 2K transfer from the original camera negative.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations.
Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, make-up artist Craig Reardon and stars Roberta Collins, William Finley and Kyle Richards.
New introduction to the film by director Tobe Hooper.
Brand new interview with Hooper.
My Name is Buck: Star Robert Englund discusses his acting career.
The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball – The story of the South Texas bar owner on whom Eaten Alive is loosely based.
5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns – The star of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre talks about working on Eaten Alive.
The Gator Creator: archival interview with Hooper.
Original theatrical trailers for the film under its various titles Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel
US TV and Radio Spots.
Alternate credits sequence.
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin.
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld: