A Southern-fried Slasher from Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper
How do you follow a genre-defining classic in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Director Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive does not have the power of his earlier movie but is an enjoyably sleazy slasher with a man-eating crocodile and a crazy killer. Moving the setting from Texas to Louisiana, a redneck runs a dilapidated hotel with a taste for killing guests and feeding them to his pet crocodile. The 1976 film would prove influential for a number of later slashers, including Friday the 13th. A young Robert Englund, years before he would become Freddie Krueger, plays a local good ol’ boy looking for trouble.
Neville Brand plays Judd, caretaker of the Starlight Hotel. It is a ramshackle place in the deep South built on a swamp infested by hungry gators. Why anyone would think to stay there once they see it is beyond me, but it is the rural South after all. Judd is the crazy killer in Eaten Alive, prone to slash his guests with a scythe when they start asking too many questions. Mel Ferrer plays a man looking for his missing daughter. Little does the man know his daughter has become a prostitute. Guests check into the Starlight Hotel but they don’t check out.
Eaten Alive has a simple, off-kilter logic to its story that flows remarkably well for a slasher. The eerie Starlight Hotel oozes atmosphere even if its owner wasn’t killing any guest that crosses his path. Inspired by the success of Jaws, Eaten Alive has Judd feeding his victims to the man-eating gators in the bayou. It’s a nasty end for the odd assortment of guests that come through the Starlight Hotel. A local sheriff played by Stuart Whitman tries to help a man find his missing daughter. They don’t know she has fallen victim to Judd and his hungry crocodile.
The performances from Robert Englund and others are perfect for this type of material.
The performances from Robert Englund and others are perfect for this type of material.
Like most early slashers, Eaten Alive features a bevy of screaming victims, including many young women. Marilyn Burns pops up in a histrionic role. Hooper repeats his style used so successfully in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, helping to set an influential standard that would spread to later horror movies. It is a raw, untamed exploitation movie that remains enjoyable without feeling heavily dated. The performances from Robert Englund and others are perfect for this type of material. Their odd characters fit perfectly into this film about a decaying rural hotel in the swamp. The honky tonk vibe adds character and charm, a fairly unique addition that hasn’t been repeated with too much success.
The only thing preventing Eaten Alive from being classic exploitation fare is the unfinished development of Judd’s character. The script doesn’t give its central character much background or justification. He simply exists as a scythe-wielding maniac that runs the hotel. Neville Brand invests everything he can into the psycho killer but the character isn’t given enough dialogue to allow us inside his head. That may have been intended but should have been changed.
Genre label Arrow Video continues their excellent restoration work with this brand-new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative overseen by James White. Approved by director Tobe Hooper, the intended saturation and color timing for Eaten Alive has finally been achieved in this extraordinary film-like presentation. It pulls fine detail and excellent definition from the film elements, which are found in mostly nice condition. The following information has been provided in the accompanying booklet:
Eaten Alive has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films.
The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution at OCN Digital, USA. Kodak Digital Ice was used to remove thousands of instances of negative dirt and debris. Some sections of the CRI element were also scanned for completion.
The film was graded on the Baselight Grading System at Deluxe Restoration, London. Director Tobe Hooper Supervised and approved the grading.
Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed through a combination of digital restoration tools. Image stability, density fluctuation and other picture issues were also improved. Some scenes appear softer than the surround footage as they only appeared in the CRI element.
It is a marvelously colorful upgrade in 1080P resolution on Blu-ray. This is some of Arrow’s better restoration work, carefully done to ensure a consistent presentation while remaining faithful to the movie’s intended appearance. The generous AVC video encode flawlessly handles the tough grain structure, averaging a very high 31.95 Mbps on a BD-50.
The picture has fairly crisp black levels, a stable contrast, rich colors and a decided push towards magenta. The hotel was always meant to be bathed in eerie red and that is seen on this Blu-ray. Chroma resolution is high and the encode effortlessly handles it without noise. A lesser video encode would have choked on the rough grain and swirling fog. Definition is much stronger than I expected, the benefits of scanning from its negative produces sharp dimensionality. This is a top-shelf film transfer done with best practices. It shows Arrow’s dedication and knowledge handling rougher films.
OCN Digital transferred the original mono soundtrack from the original 35mm magnetic stripe tracks. That translates into a shockingly clean 1.0 PCM track. It allows the frequent bursts of honky tonk and country music in the mix to come through with clarity. The mono mix has fine range and fidelity, cleanly reproducing dialogue. Recorded on a sound stage, the film has an engaging sound quality that sounds much fresher than its age. For vintage mono audio this is a superb sounding track. Eaten Alive hasn’t sounded better in decades.
Arrow Video provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.
Arrow Video provides their standard Blu-ray and DVD combo package. The clear case comes with reversible art and a deluxe 24-page booklet with pictures and a new essay on Hooper’s film. The essay by Brad Stevens is all over the map but covers a wide range of film analysis. The commentary is a patch-work job, consisting of separate interviews with each person. This is yet another loaded package for hardcore fans by Arrow.
Arrow Video apparently has licensed all the material that appeared on Dark Sky’s deluxe DVD edition of the film from 2007. The new interviews by Arrow cover different ground than the older archival interviews. There is a wealth of promo material, including several vintage trailers and galleries of advertising material. A featurette on the real Texas killer this movie is based on adds a nice perspective from the man’s own relative.
- Audio commentary with co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, actors Roberta Collins, William Finley and Kyle Richards, and make-up artist Craig Reardon
- New introduction to the film by Hooper (00:20 in HD)
- Blood on the Bayou – a brand new interview with Hooper (14:03 in HD)
- Gator Bait – a brand new interview with star Janus Blythe (11:38 in HD)
- Monsters and Metaphors – a brand new interview with make-up artist Craig Reardon (11:25 in HD)
- The Gator Creator – an archive interview with Hooper (19:38 in upscaled HD)
- My Name is Buck – an archive interview with star Robert Englund (15:05 in upscaled HD)
- 5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns – the Texas Chain Saw star discusses her role in Eaten Alive (05:18 in upscaled HD)
- The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball (23:05 in HD) – featurette looking at the true-life story of the South Texas bar owner on whom Eaten Alive is loosely based.
- Original theatrical trailers for the film under its various alternate titles: Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel
- TV and Radio Spots (‘Starlight Slaughter’ TV Spot 1, ‘Starlight Slaughter’ TV Spot 2, ‘Eaten Alive’ Radio Spot 1, ‘Eaten Alive’ Radio Spot 2
- Alternate Opening Credits (01:05 in HD)
- Behind the Scenes Slideshow
- Stills and Promo Material Gallery
- Audience Comment Cards
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.