IT’S ALIVE TRILOGY BLU RAY REVIEW (SCREAM FACTORY)

1974’s It’s Alive, 1978’s It Lives Again, & 1987’s It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive were all written, produced, & directed by Larry Cohen (God Told Me To, Q, The Stuff, The Ambulance, & Full Moon High). Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Vertigo, Cape Fear, & Taxi Driver) composed the score for the first two films & Laurie Johnson (Dr. Strangelove, And Soon the Darkness, & Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter) did the music for part three. It’s Alive was filmed & edited at the same time as Larry Cohen’s other film Hell Up in Harlem. That was shot on the weekends during the production of this. That means that most of the cast & crew had to work every day with no breaks to do both films together. The original Warner Bros executives that backed the production of the first film had been replaced before it had a chance to be released. The new executives weren’t really interested in this project & gave it a limited theatrical run in 1974. It was re-issued in March 1977 with a new AD campaign & it ended up making $7.1 million at the box office.

It Lives Again was shot on an 18 day schedule. It had such a great response at the sneak preview that Warner Bros thought the test crowd was fake & planted there. The original cinematographer Fenton Hamilton hated Cohen’s improvisational style so he quit during filming & it ended being replaced by Daniel Pearl. It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive only got made because Larry Cohen was pitching a House of Wax remake to Warner Bros & it got rejected. At the same meeting Warner Bros offered him a back to back picture deal aimed more towards the home video market for It’s Alive III & A Return to Salem’s Lot instead. He used the same crew for both films. James Dixon reprises his role as Lieutenant Perkins & he’s the only actor to be all  three films for the horror series. In 2009, the it’s Alive franchise was resurrected & remade by Millennium Films. Larry Cohen’s concept & his original screenplay was re-worked but besides that he had nothing to do with the re-boot of his “baby”. He actually gave it a negative review in public & he wasn’t shy to share his disappointment in it.

It’s Alive is about public relations consultant Frank Davis (played by: John P. Ryan from Avenging Force, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Best of the Best, & Class of 1999) & his wife Lenore (played by: Sharon Farrell from Night of the Comet, Sweet 16, Lone Wolf McQuade, & Arcade) are expecting their second child. They weren’t ready to have another one for awhile after having Chris (Daniel Holzman). Lenore was taking contraceptive pills. Something doesn’t feel right this time. They go to the hospital to have their second born, it’s a baby boy but there’s a major problem! Their new pride & joy is a monster. He feeds off the killing of others. After a massacre, the child escapes without a trace. Lt. Perkins (played by: James Dixon from Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem, & God Told Me To) shows up to investigate the mess. They won’t let the couple leave the hospital. The press & police are all over this case. They want answers about this mysterious creature that came from these two normal parents. This pharmaceutical nightmare has went too far to alter the existence of mankind. It’s a experiment that’s gone wrong & it’s past a solution. Can these parents kill their own child to save everyone else? or Will they embrace the monster they created?

It Lives Again is about Frank Davis (played by: John P. Ryan from Hoffa, Star Time, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, & Runaway Train) being devastated after the tragedy from the original. He had to make hard choices that changed his life forever. He feels like he needs to make everything right with what happened before. Now he wants to assist the soon to be parents Eugene (played by: Frederic Forrest from Falling Down, Apocalypse Now, Trauma, & The Conversation) & Jody Scott (Kathleen Lloyd from The Car, Best Seller, & E.R.) from avoiding the experience he had with his own mutant child. He shows up to their party & no one knows him there so the couple confronts the stranger. He warns them that they are hunting down babies with certain traits & killing them before they are born. Mr. Mallory (played by: John Marley from The Godfather, The Car, Deathdream, & Vengeance)  & an army of police are waiting at the hospital. Frank manages to help the couple escape before they are tracked down which includes the familiar Lt. Perkins (played by: James Dixon from Maniac Cop, A Return to Salem’s Lot, & The Ambulance) before birth. The wrong people were trusted & they are found. All hell is about to break loose in Los Angeles!!!!

It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive takes place many years after the first two events. Paranoia is running wild when it comes to pregnant women. Is the baby healthy or Is it a monster like all the others? Stephen Jarvis (played by: Michael Moriarty from Q, The Stuff, Troll, & Law & Order) is doing everything in his power to save his mutant son. He goes against lawyer Ralston (played by: Gerrit Graham from TerrorVision, Chopping Mall, C.H.U.D. 2, & Child’s Play 2). He convinces the court to spare his child & a few others like him. The only catch is that they will be quarantined on a remote deserted island. After the trial Mr. Jarvis is ruined & he can’t catch a break on anything in life. His ex wife Ellen Jarvis (played by Karen Black from House of 1000 Corpses, Burnt Offerings, Trilogy of Terror, & Invaders from Mars) wants nothing to do with him also. Single working girl like Sally (played by: Laurene Landon from Maniac Cop 1/2, Airplane II: The Sequel, Full Moon High, & The Ambulance) feels the same way. Greedy pharmaceutical owner Cabot (played by: William Watson from Stingray, Lawman, The Sword and the Sorcerer, & In the Heat of the Night) wants to re=produce his dangerous drug under a new name. He takes some associates & they decide to end their problem themselves on the isolated island. No kids means no problem for the money hungry business man. Lieutenant Perkins (played by: James Dixon from Maniac Cop 2, Is There Sex After Death?, & Wicked Stepmother) convinces Stephen Jarvis to go to the island on a expedition with Dr. Swenson (played by: Art Lund from Black Caesar, Bucktown, & The Last American Hero). It turns out to be a huge mistake! The kids are tired of being trapped & they want to go back to America. No one is safe when these creatures set their minds on revenge on the same people that cast them away from their own home!!!!

Larry Cohen was always aware of his surroundings & he usually added his own social commentary within his films. For the longest time, these big pharmaceutical companies would produce experimental drugs that would help or cure many of the health issues going on. The problem was lots of them had dangerous side effects or unknown results because they were rushed out to make money rather than solve problems. It’s Alive is a rude awakening of what could happen if medicine is produced for the wrong reasons. The scariest thing about this is it’s still relevant today. You know how Jaws made you not want to go in the water? Well, It’s Alive made mothers not want to experience child birth. Especially back then, it was more of a mystery of what exactly was going to come out after nine months. Speaking of Jaws, Cohen used that same approach for the monster in this a year before that gigantic hit. The tension, suspense, & thrills kept building up until the very end. You didn’t really see what the baby looked like until it was too late. It kept you on your toes & curious the whole time. I know these days, more people expect to be shown everything right away but I love when the anticipation just keeps growing through out the entire running time & it leaves you waiting on every possible moment. The payoff is more satisfying that way. Everything is carefully crafted in this, the special effects were ahead of it’s time in this. Then again, look at who handled them so it’s not a big surprise. John P. Ryan gives a powerhouse performance as the conflicted father that has make everything right after dealing with this living nightmare that he created.

It Lives Again is a true expansion of the first film. It has plenty of similar qualities from the original. Two different fathers had the same experience that sent them on completely opposite paths. One wants to save these babies from being destroyed. Trying to look into everything to help the families going through this situation. The other wants to kill all these babies before they are born & trying to make sure that the disaster he experienced never happens to anyone else. It’s not as isolated as before which means more characters are introduced & involved in this. It has some nice bloody moments but you can tell Cohen restrained himself because he was trying to get a PG-13 rating at the time. It’s a good companion piece & follow up to It’s Alive!

It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive is a completely different film compared to the others. Cohen showed us a whole new direction on this. So much so that you don’t even need to see the previous films to enjoy it. It has more adventure to it & the settings are a nice change. It’s away from reality more on this & it confides itself to the waters for a decent amount of the screen time. The babies have grown up & they are more dangerous than ever! It doesn’t hold back from showing the monsters this time. They were more of a mystery in the last two. They are definitely not shy to be in front of the camera for this. It actually features a good balance of humor added in with the horror. Bringing up the horror, it’s the most gruesome & brutal addition to franchise. Nothing was held back on this unlike the sequel that took place before this. 80s fan will appreciate this one more. Honestly, I consider this to be funniest & most entertaining entry in the It’s Alive world.

Let’s talk about the high definition presentations. All three It’s Alive films have had their share of home video releases over the years. As you would expect, this Scream Factory release provides a HUGE upgrade over the previous Warner Bros efforts. Good news, each film gets a BD-50 disc so these are all at their best possible quality! The 1080p (1.85:1) widescreen transfers give these films a whole new look, everything really pops out. So much more detail to be seen with these with this major improvement. The effect used for the baby/monster view might throw off someone who isn’t familiar with this horror series but it’s a fun nostalgic style. The English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA track sounds GREAT, it gives the full experience while viewing it. I’ve owned all the other versions of the It’s Alive trilogy at some point in my life & it’s like a completely different observation now. It also includes English subtitles. The picture & sound are elevated, it’s probably the closet thing to what it was like in the theaters but much better! If this is any indication of what’s to come with this new Scream Factory & Warner Bros collaboration then all of us collectors are in for a great run between these two top notch companies working together.

Let’s talk about the special features on all three discs for this It’s Alive trilogy box set. The original film features most of the extras between the three. Audio Commentary from writer, producer, & director Larry Cohen. This is from the original Warner Bros release. He talks about working with legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. The rough distribution start with Warner Bros for the film. How it had it had a successful theatrical run eventually. He discusses his film making style which was very independent & all the responsibility he had just for himself. “Cohen’s Alive: Looking Back At The It’s Alive Films” is a 18 minute look into the horror franchise. This was exclusively made for this release. It features interviews with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, cinematographer Daniel Pearl,  author/critic F. X. Feeney, author/journalist John Burligame, actor James Dixon, actor Michael Morairty, & actress Lauren Landon. It talks about Bernard Herrmann’s score for the film. Larry Cohen talks about his experience working with the iconic film composer. He talks about how he handled most things on the production. Working at his home made it easier.

They talk about Cohen’s skills when it came to writing. They chat how he was creative when he had to shoot on the streets. James Dixon brings up the difficult filming conditions & how they all ended up sick at one point. Larry Cohen talks about how Warner Bros originally didn’t really want anything to do with this after seeing the finished product. They gave it a limited push in America with not much promotion but it did amazing overseas so they decided to give it another chance here years later & it ended up being very successful. Cohen mentions the studio immediately wanted a sequel made after it being a hit all over. He says only three negative letters caused It Lives Again to be Rated R & he tried to get it changed with the ratings board but he had no luck. He doesn’t say much about this sequel after that. He talks about how It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive was made. He went into Warner Bros pitching to remake one of their classic horror films but got denied for it. They offered him a back to back direct to video picture deal instead which included this 3rd film. Honestly, it wasn’t for that meeting I don’t think It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive would have ever been made.

He decided he wanted to something different with this sequel. He added more humor to it compared to the others. He also wanted to show the monsters more in this production. They talk about the cast & crew getting seasick during this. James Dixon, Michael Morairty, & Lauren Landon briefly chat about working on the film. Cinematographer Daniel Pearl brings up that Michael Morairty always wanted to be alone during his close ups. 13 minute “It’s Alive at the Nuart: The 40th Anniversary Screening ” is a chat with the writer/producer/director Larry Cohen. He gets asked about his inspirations. He says he barely used the baby in the film to save money but it ended up working out better that way. He talks about the cast. He talks about working with special effects master Rick Baker. He talks about how he gave Bernard Herrmann full creative control on the score. He talks about making 2 films at the same time during this. Some of the same stories from before get repeated here but it’s still fun to watch. Various promotional materials which include Radio Spots, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer, & an almost 5 minute Still Gallery.

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It Lives Again is the lightest disc in the box set when it comes to extras. Audio Commentary from writer, producer, & director Larry Cohen. This is from the original Warner Bros release. He talks about creating the main titles himself. He chats about replacing the original cinematographer with Daniel Pearl & how he saved the film. He tells stories about the cast & the production. He jokes about using the same people all the time in his films. He discusses the various locations used here including his own house & working with the studio on this sequel. At one point he brings up that he is going to remake the original film in New York. I wondered what happened with this, clearly he had nothing to do with the 2009 remake that was made instead. It has moments of silence since there’s no moderator here but Cohen keeps the information flowing & it ends up teaching you lots of stuff about this film. Last but not least, you get a few promotional materials which include the Theatrical Trailer & the almost 4 minute Still Gallery.

It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive does include one exclusive special feature on the disc! First off, there’s an Audio Commentary from writer, producer, & director Larry Cohen. This is from the original Warner Bros release. He talks about lead actor Michael Morairty. He mentions his previous collaborations with him & all his accomplishments over the years. He chats about other actors, the crew, locations, & the production of the film. He talks about how he wished they shot behind the scenes footage for this. He mentions he regrets showing the monsters so much in this. He talks about some of the cameos in the dinner party scene. He brings up how impressed the studio was with what he accomplished on the budget he had for this. Cohen is always full of stories & knowledge when it comes to his commentaries. “Interview with Special Effects Makeup Designer Steve Neill” is a 10 minute chat with one of the men behind the awesome FX in this feature. This is the exclusive extra on here, it was made just for this release. He discusses working on this sequel. He talks about collaborating with the legendary Rick Baker. When he moved to Los Angeles that was the first person he looked up! How it was to do a project with the creative Larry Cohen. He wanted to do more a little more with the FX but Cohen preferred to keep it on a budget so everything else went smooth with the production.  Cohen wanted everything more bloody & vicious looking to stand out more in the film. He mentions they wanted to bring the creatures from the series to a whole new level in this. Last not least, you get some promotional material which includes the Theatrical Trailer & an almost 3 minute Still Gallery. This box set comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from Scream Factory!!!! The It’s Alive trilogy has never looked & sounded this good before, pick it up on May 15th!!!!