Back in the early 70s all the way through the late 80s, a legendary filmmaker by the name of Larry Cohen gave us the It's Alive trilogy. These films followed parents who gave birth to murderous mutant babies where, usually, the parents wanted to protect their children from evil government agents. These films gained a huge cult following over the years, thus having three feature films. Not only were the movies scary and entertaining, but they each had a subtle message to go along with the political times. The new 1080p HD transfers and lossless audio mixes are all fantastic. There are a few new extras as well that were made specifically for this release, along with some vintage commentaries and other extras. These films still stand the test of time and come Highly Recommended!
It's Alive (1974)
Larry Cohen can be considered one of the godfathers of B-Movie horror films. He has a proven track record as a director, writer, and producer, often churning out low budget horror and other genre flicks under budget and on time. His films are never big blockbusters, but they all become cult classics that are beloved for many decades. In 1974, Larry made a film called It's Alive, which did very well overseas, even winning numerous awards. However, here in the states, it was received poorly. After a little while in drive-in theaters, It's Alive gained a big cult following and continues to wow genre fans to this day.
The film follows a couple who are having their second child in what seems to be a routine delivery. That isn't the case though, as the baby is born with severe deformities, complete with sharp fangs and big claws. The baby kills the doctors and nurses in the delivery room and escapes, leaving its mother alive. Everyone is shocked at the carnage, but the couple is allowed to go home and make sense of everything. Meanwhile, the baby is wreaking havoc as it makes its way towards its parent's house, as other doctors and law enforcement keep finding bodies, one being a milkman in a hilarious scene. I do believe that Larry was trying to tell a fun story that was also had a decent message of family sticking together and protecting their loved ones, while trying to shed some satirical light on the birth mothers and drug boom of the 1970s (asking if it ok was for pregnant mothers to use birthing drugs during pregnancy).
It's all done in a subtle way and never hits you over the head with its message. With this low budget movie, Larry Cohen managed to get composer Bernard Herrmann to liven up the soundtrack, as well as a very young Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Michael Jackson's Thriller) to deliver the practical visual and monster effects. The results are stunning for 1974 and bring this film to a better spotlight than it deserved. It's Alive also practiced the art of less is more, in which it showed very little of the actual monster baby, but rather just the aftermath and chaos it created, which made it even more terrifying if not a bit silly. It's Alive continues to impress some 45 years later and I imagine it will continue to do so for another 45.
It Lives Again (1978)
Some four years after It's Alive was released, Larry Cohen was back behind the camera again, making the sequel. At the end of It's Alive, it is said that there was a second monster mutant baby being born in Seattle, however, this new film takes place in the Southwest where another couple is celebrating at a baby shower. Here, the father from the first film shows up and warns them that they are about to have a mutant baby and that a group of villainous government agents is out to kill their baby.
Of course, this new couple doesn't believe him until they arrive at the hospital to give birth and there are quite a few government agents waiting for them. This is where the father from the first film helps this couple escape to a portable birthing van in order to deliver the baby safely, study it, and protect it. Of course, things go wrong when the baby escapes and the parents and government agents chase the little monster baby across the country. It's a solid sequel that captures the harsh political climate of the 1970s. In the film, the government is secretly recording and monitoring this couple, while trying to cover everything up, which was as relevant at the time as it is today.
I believe Larry was using this film to say a little something about that in the best Larry Cohen way possible. It Lives Again has some flaws, mostly in the new parents not really having a big story arc. They're just bland and as normal as they come, but that doesn't stop the film from being entertaining at all. 40 years later, It Lives Again is still a good sequel to its original story and furthers the mystery behind these monster babies.
It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987)
Almost a decade had passed before this third It's Alive film was made by the one and only Larry Cohen. From the title and poster of the film, you'd think this third movie would be a spoof of sorts. Did these monster babies all of a sudden want to go tropical? Yes, they did, but for good reason as Larry Cohen explains along with some dark humor and inside jokes. The film takes place several years after Part II where a father of one of the mutant babies is in a courtroom, pleading for law enforcement not to kill his mutant son. It should be known that the mother (Karen Black) wants nothing to do with her child or the father.
Fortunately, the judge decides not to kill the baby, but to send him and other mutant babies to a secluded island to live forever. A few years go by where the father is down on his luck, but is approached by someone to escort a team of researchers and scientists to the island and study and possibly bring back one of the babies to learn about them. Things go horribly wrong on the island, but the father is left alive as he sees his son now grown up with a kid of his own. He also learns how these mutants communicate and that they are not bad mutant people. It's a good twist and story with a fantastic message. I believe that the first two films were much darker in tone, but this third film had a sweeter message and lighter feel to it, which was a nice direction.
I also think that Larry Cohen wanted to play the satire up with his portrayal of the government deciding what to do with a menace to society as well as sexually transmitted diseases, which were rampant in the late 1980s. There are several scenes where the father cannot talk or flirt with women because they feel like he will transmit his mutant genes into them by touch. It's brilliant when you actually think about it. All said and done, this third and final film of the original trilogy is still a good one some years later, making this horror trilogy a fantastic discovery and nostalgic piece of horror cinema.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
The It's Alive trilogy comes with three 50GB Blu-ray Discs that have their own individual plastic cases and artwork. There is no insert for digital downloads here or even a booklet. All three hard, blue plastic cases come with a big cardboard sleeve.
It looks like all three films have all new HD transfers created in 2K resolution and cleaned up quite a bit from previous releases. That means that Shout!/Scream Factory took their time with these new amazing transfers.
It's Alive comes with a new 1080p HD transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is the best the film has ever looked, for sure. Detail is sharp and vivid, showing the practical makeup effects of the mutant babies where you can quickly see the textures in the latex as well as their fangs. Other facial features, such as wrinkles, individual hairs, and makeup effects look great in close-ups as well. Wider shots look strong too without going soft. There is a good layer of film grain that never heavily fluctuates or clumps up in darker scenes.
Colors are well-balanced throughout too, with the red blood showing very bold to emphasize the horror of it all on the subdued greens in the hospital. Other primary and earthy colors stand out nicely too. Black levels are deep and inky, while the skin tones are natural with a tiny bit of warmer shading in certain spots. Lastly, debris, scratches, warps, and dirt were removed from the print, giving this new transfer an excellent video presentation.
It Lives Again
It Lives Again comes with a new 1080p HD transfer and is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors this time around are much brighter with well lit primary colors pummeling through the vaguer colors. This is mostly seen in wardrobe and parties that take place throughout the movie, along with some accent lighting.
These colors really pop in the darkness as well as in places like the green-walled hospital room. Detail is sharp and vivid as well, revealing the practical monster effects and facial features. Wide shots never go soft either. Black levels are deep and inky throughout and skin tones are much more natural this time around. There is a slight issue with video noise here and there, along with a bit more scratches and dirt showing up throughout, but it's still a very good video presentation.
It's Alive III: Island of the Alive
It's Alive III: Island of the Alive comes with a new 1080p HD transfer and is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are much greener this time around since a lot of the film was shot in Hawaii, which is supposed to be a secluded island. The new transfer shows the different shades of plant life as well as the orange and beige sand surrounding the island. The bold blue ocean looks fantastic and the grayish mutant babies all look very good in this new transfer.
Detail is sharp and vivid too, with much more textured practical effects and gore. Facial features and plant life all show excellent detail, even in lower lit scenes. The film grain never fluctuates either, which is nice. The black levels are deep and inky, while the skin tones are all natural. There are no major issues with banding or video noise here.
All three films now come with a brand new lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix that sounds quite good. While I wish there was a 5.1 option to gather the surround moments of nature, the city, and the mutant baby noises, this 2.0 option does a great job for sure. One of the highlights of all three films is the iconic and bold score, which was done by legendary composer, Bernard Herrmann.
The brass band he conducted along with the synthesizer really amplifies the suspense and horror in each scene. It's really the heart and soul of all three films. The music has depth from the highs and lows, and always adds to the intense moments in each film. Sound effects are loud and robust too and do not have a tin-can sound. There's some good heft to these soundtracks, which was nice to hear.
Dialogue is clean and clear and always easy to follow along with, and free of all pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. There's never a major difference in any of the films, sound wise, although Part III shows off more island and nature sounds rather than the usual cityscape noises.
All in all, this audio presentations for all three films are quite good.
Audio Commentary - Larry Cohen delivers a great commentary track on the film, but it's from 2004. He's amusing for sure and tells some great stories about the production of the film, how he came to make it and tons of information on the actors, crew, and story. It's definitely worth a listen.
Cohen's Alive: Looking Back at the It's Alive Films (HD, 19 Mins.) - This is a brand new extra that features Larry Cohen, some of the actors and crew from the film as they recall making the movie, the story, and working with Larry. It's a great series of interviews.
It's Alive at the Nuart (HD, 14 Mins.) - This is also a brand new bonus feature where Larry Cohen talks at an anniversary screening of the film, with some old and new stories about making it.
Trailers (HD, 6 Mins.) - Several trailers and radio spots for the movie.
Still Gallery (HD, 5 Mins.) - A decent slideshow of images from the film, production and artwork.
It Lives Again
Audio Commentary - Larry Cohen delivers another great commentary track that was recorded back in 2004, where he discusses the production, the advertising, and budget, and the story in depth.
Trailer (HD, 1 Min.) - Trailer for the film.
Still Gallery (HD, 4 Mins.) - Another slideshow of production photos, artwork, and posters for the film.
It's Alive III: Island of the Alive
Audio Commentary - Yet another 2004 commentary track from Larry Cohen where he discusses working on the third film, it's island setting, the story, and his work with his favorite actors. There are several big gaps in between Larry talking here.
Interview with Steve Neill (HD, 10 Mins.) - This is a brand new interview with the special effects makeup designer as he talks about Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and Larry Cohen, and how he's worked with them, along with building the creature for the film and how he got into the business. It's a great interview.
Trailer (HD, 1 Min.) - Here is a trailer for the film.
Still Gallery (HD, 3 Mins.) - A slideshow of production stills, promo art, and posters from the movie.
The It's Alive trilogy has finally found a good home at Shout!/Scream Factory where they took their time in fully remastering and restoring the video and audio elements. Not only were these films scary and gory, but they added a satirical message that went along with the social and political climate of the 70s and 80s, which helped make them cult classics that are still adored today. The video and audio presentations are all great, as well as the new and vintage bonus features that have been added in here with each film. If you're a horror fan, this trilogy is Highly Recommended!