It’s Alive! 1969, 4/10

I’m pretty sure the Ozarks haven’t been used as a sci-fi setting. And I don’t know why not, given its legendary, if unfairly stereotypical reputation as a oddball mecca. There’s handy fake dinosaurs to show us as the credits roll. The local guys are characteristically a bit off; Greely (Bill Thurman, an Ernest Borgnine look-alike) talks to his snakes, and has some cool taxidermy projects, not to mention a makeshift zoo. He even has a tourist attraction, the Onyx Cave.

Now, a cave works in any sort of movie: instant ambience. “What kind of place is this?” wonders the stranded pre-yuppy couple Leilla and Norman (Shirley Bonne and Corveth Ousterhouse). Then, shazam! They’re locked in a cage; it’s that kind of place. The other prisoner thinks there’s some kind of creature down there, so they go exploring. “Perhaps you know of my creature?” asks Greely; he’s kind of interesting, but in the next scene we get the yuppie couple in a spat. At least now he has the Greely’s gun. Thankfully, the beast shows up at :35, takes a few slugs, and wipes out Norman. The local prisoner Wayne (Tommy Kirk) seems to be as good a paleontologist as the dead one, giving his analysis of the creature. It’s big, green, has cool fangs, but the goofy eyes ruin the overall look–and the very plastic-like scales are better suited to kid’s swimming-pool flotation devices. It’s at least a decade behind the typical sci-fi critter in sophistication.

Greely makes his own subplot–as the abusive domestic nutcase, with an animal fetish–which warrants his housekeeper Bella’s (Annabelle Weenick’s) flashback. “He looked kind the first time I saw him…” he’s more or less lured her there, just as he did with the yuppies. We get about :30 out of this captive-woman horror in the sociopathic vein of The Collector. In many ways, it’s a better plot than the main one. It’s more coherent, the role suits Thurman’s character very well, and it’s believable. The problem is, the creature is pretty much forgotten, not to mention the two prisoners in the cave.

Fairly predictable ending. Bella brings the heroes some dynamite, which means that everything, creature and all, goes boom. Not before Greely kills Bella. I thought he’d lost the gun already… Why the good guys didn’t get buried in the rubble, or blown away in the blast, seems a tad lucky. They’ve drummed up a nice relationship by this point, the dead husband apparently unremarked on. “Maybe there never really was anything” good guy tells recent widow. Well, he’s into something there. The subplot, which didn’t involve them, was more ‘real’.

Though the sci-fi elements failed to gel in It’s Alive!, I’ve got to admit that the horror element had potential. I wanted to review this because IMBd folks give it a kiss-of-death 2.8 average rating; as bad a score as anything I was able to put my hands on. If you have to pay to see this, spend your money on a couple of donuts or a car magazine instead. 4/10.

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