Combustible Celluloid
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With: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Stuart Whitman, Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards, Robert Englund, Crystin Sinclaire, Janus Blythe
Written by: Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast, Mardi Rustam
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 91
Date: 05/13/1977

Eaten Alive (1977)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Croc Stopping

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This bizarre little item was director Tobe Hooper's follow-up to his groundbreaking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It has a similar low-budget, grainy look, with Hooper's signature style on display, but it has an impressive cast full of veterans and cult stars. Neville Brand gives a strong performance -- with shaggy salt-n-pepper hair and taped-up glasses -- as Judd, a sexually-frustrated lunatic who runs a "hotel" near a Texas swamp; a giant crocodile lives nearby. Just about everyone who stops by gets slashed by Judd's huge sythe and fed to the beast (which looks fake and probably inspires more laughter and cheers than screams).

There's a fighting couple (William Finley and scream queen Marilyn Burns from Texas Chainsaw) and their small daughter (Kyle Richards); they lose their little dog to the croc immediately, sending everyone into a tizzy. (The dog's name was "Snoopy"... did he meet his end because of copyright infringement?) Then comes dignified gent Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and his daughter (Crystin Sinclaire), looking for his other daughter, who became a prostitute and Judd's first victim. Finally, we get good ol' boy Buck (a young Robert Englund) bringing a girl back to the hotel for some nookie.

Hooper shoots almost the entire movie in the hotel, with only a couple stops by the local brothel, run by Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones, from TV's The Addams Family), and a stop at the local redneck bar. The whole movie could almost be staged as a play! The sound design is surprisingly superb, with Judd's droning radio playing ancient country-western tunes, accompanied by staccato music cues, and disturbing effects. The film uses shadows and fog and darkness to satisfying effect. Eaten Alive might have been another hit for Hooper, but it suffered an erratic release pattern, with several title changes, and to this day it remains misunderstood and largely unloved.

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