Film Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

Also known as: Brutes and Savages, Slaughter Hotel, Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Horror Hotel Massacre, Legend of the Bayou, Murder on the Bayou, Starlight Slaughter, The Devil’s Swamp (alternative titles)
Release Date: October, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast, Mardi Rustam
Music by: Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund

Mars Productions Corporation, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Name’s Buck… and I’m rarin’ to fuck.” – Buck

A film that was directed by a young Tobe Hooper that features both Robert Englund and William Finley is enough to hook me. Now add in great TV legends Neville Brand and Carolyn Jones and you’ve got me hooked even further. Toss in Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns and Roberta Collins and this picture is now boasting some serious f’n talent!

But overall, this isn’t a classic and from a historical and cultural perspective, doesn’t hold a candle to Hooper’s previous film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

However, this was still an awesome experience and even though I know that I had seen it in my youth, I barely remembered anything about it other than it taking place in a shitty bayou hotel where the owner chases people with his scythe until they fall into a pit where he keeps a large man eating crocodile.

But you don’t really need to know more than that. And frankly, that’s all the film needs to be. One doesn’t need to get bogged down by details and an elaborate story. This was ’70s horror. Just throw boobies and blood at the screen every few minutes and consider it a job well done. Granted, this could’ve used more boobage.

This is gritty and pretty brutal but not so much so that it’s a gore festival. But if you like watching people get slashed by a madman and then chomped by a large animal, this should satisfy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Tobe Hooper’s other earlier films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Funhouse and Salem’s Lot.

Film Review: Killdozer! (1974)

Release Date: February 2nd, 1974 (TV)
Directed by: Jerry London
Written by: Ed MacKillop, Theodore Sturgeon
Music by: Gil Melle
Cast: Clint Walker, James Wainwright, Carl Betz, Neville Brand, James A. Watson Jr., Robert Urich

Universal Television, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“How do you go about killing a machine?” – Lloyd Kelly, “A machine? It’s too heavy to hang and it’s too big to put in the gas chamber.” – Dennis Holvig

I first learned about Killdozer! from seeing the Marvel Comics adaptation in a discount bin, back in the day. I bought it and later on, a friend of mine told me about the movie.

I never did see that movie until now and it’s actually streaming on YouTube for free, assuming it doesn’t get pulled down.

Anyway, this was a really short movie but I guess it was wedged into just a 90 minute TV time slot with commercial breaks.

The movie is exactly what you’d expect, a bulldozer comes to life and kills people. Nothing more, nothing less.

Killdozer! suffers, however, from just how cheap it was. Everything conveniently takes place on a tiny beach island where there are only six construction workers. The kills are all pretty weak, because this is a ’70s TV movie and there isn’t much action, except a killer bulldozer moving at a snail’s pace and a few old dudes running around going, “How do we kill the damn thing?!”

I guess the film is notable for having a very young Robert Urich in it. But really, he’s the first guy to feel the rage of the killer machine and it’s psychic alien meteor powers.

This wasn’t a terrible watch but there is nothing all that worthwhile here, either. I’m glad it was short because anything longer would have made this worse. Frankly, it could have been whittled down to 40 minutes and just been an episode in any random horror anthology TV series.

Also, the poster is really misleading, as the guy in it is shrunk down a lot. The “killdozer” is not that big. Not at all.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other killer vehicle movies: DuelChristine, The Car and Maximum Overdrive.

Film Review: Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Also known as: The Secret Four (UK)
Release Date: November 11th, 1952
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: George Bruce, Harry Essex, Rowland Brown, Harold Greene
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: John Payne, Coleen Gray, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Neville Brand

Associated Players and Producers, Edward Small Productions, United Artists, 99 Minutes

Review:

“What makes a two-bit heel like you think a heater would give him an edge over me? ” – Tim Foster

Kansas City Confidential is a pretty intense and fun film-noir. It also has two of my favorite western stars in it: Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The film is directed by Phil Karlson and is considered by many to be his best.

While the big crime in the film takes place in Kansas City, a big portion of the film goes down to Mexico. You see, an ex-con trying to go straight, is framed for a million dollar armored car robbery. When the real criminals go to Mexico, the ex-con follows in order to expose them and clear his name.

The story is pretty good and it has a lot of interesting twists and turns that make it a good textbook noir, as far as the scheming plot goes. Most of the characters are despicable and you’re always waiting for one of them to turn on the others. Lee Van Cleef is especially good and always does a villainous role justice, as he slithers in and out of the scenes like a snake ready to strike at anything that moves. His facial expressions and body language in this are so predatory, it really shows that he is an actor better than the roles he was getting at this point in his career.

John Payne was good as the lead but he always seemed to be overshadowed by the villains on screen, as they all had a really dark and powerful charisma.

I loved that this film felt larger than most noirs, which seem very confined and small. This was vast and open and really stepped outside of the box.

The film did really well upon release for Edward Small Productions, who responded by turning this into a series with followups New York Confidential and Chicago Confidential. Those were not directed by Karlson, however. Even the more modern neo-noir L.A. Confidential was an homage to this film in title.

Karlson would go on to do The Phenix City Story, which was a sort of spiritual sequel to this. He also dabbled in more film-noir and would go on to do The Silencers, the first of Dean Martin’s spy parody films, and the original Walking Tall with Joe Don Baker.

Kansas City Confidential is a fine motion picture. If you are a fan of film-noir and haven’t seen this one, you should probably check it out.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: D.O.A. (1950)

Release Date: April 21st, 1950
Directed by: Rudolph Maté
Written by: Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland (as Beverly Campbell), Neville Brand, Lynn Baggett, William Ching, Henry Hart, Laurette Luez

Harry Popkin Productions, Cardinal Pictures, United Artists, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Do you realize what you’re saying? Well, you’re telling me that I’m dead.” – Frank Bigelow

This film-noir came out at the tail end of the genre’s immense popularity. In fact, it came out just before Sunset Boulevard, which is the movie that many film historians and noir purists consider to be the final curtain call on the genre’s run. Obviously, there were many noir pictures after 1950 but it would never again reach the heights it did in the 1940s.

Despite the hundreds of noir films before it, D.O.A. still feels like a really fresh take on the style.

I can’t recall any other film (before this, anyway) dealing with a man in a race against time to expose his killer before the poison in his body finally puts the nail in his coffin. This story has been recreated many times since 1950 but it was unique for the time and really, it made this picture a fast paced nail biter.

The movie is quite short but that’s okay. It moves at a good speed, is exciting from beginning to end and doesn’t waste time on filler or window dressing. This is a true action film before action films really existed.

Edmund O’Brien carried this entire picture on his back and he did a damn fine job. He was believable as the already murdered man, trying to solve the mystery surrounding his fatal condition.

Some of the acting was a bit over the top but to be honest, it fit the tone of this high octane action noir. Add in the fact that this film also had a genuine grittiness to it, due to being shot on real city streets. Location shooting still wasn’t a regular practice for this sort of picture. The action shots capturing the motion of O’Brien running or the vehicles chasing him was downright impressive.

D.O.A. is a solid motion picture that presents an authentic film-noir visual style while mixing in a true sense of realism by taking this out of closed studio sets and putting it on the streets. It moves at breakneck speed and never lets up.

Rating: 8/10