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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Eaten Alive (Elite DVD-Video re-issue)

Eaten Alive (Elite DVD-Video re-issue)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: B-



It seems that director Tobe Hooper is climbing back into the public eye, and his status as an important figure within the horror genre may be nearing the same place it was when he undertook the task of directing Poltergeist under Steven Spielberg’s influence in the early 80’s.  Eaten Alive is one of a handful of films he did following The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that remain largely unknown outside circles of involved horror movie fanatics.  However, even those largely unfamiliar with the horror genre, or at least with the somewhat obscure ones such as this, it will probably still strike a chord as the movie that originated the phrase “My name’s Buck, and I’m raring to fuck.” - which was later used, unaltered, by Quentin Tarantino as a line of dialogue in Kill Bill Vol. 1.


Though no broader impact from this film seems to have ever been felt, it is better than many of the other films found on Hooper’s filmography; but also sadly revealing the limited potential he exhibits at times when not bolstered by the right collaborators.  Spielberg was definitely driving much of the workload on Poltergeist, with Hooper reportedly just carrying out orders to a large extent.  On The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, both cinematographer Daniel Pearl and art director Robert Burns were integral to the “authentic” look and feel of the film.  While the screenwriter of that film, Kim Henkel, did join him on this outing - this exploit doesn’t seem to have been written all that swiftly.


As mentioned earlier though, Tobe Hooper may be in for something of a larger-scale comeback in the near future if his cards are played to their fullest.  What remains to be seen is if Hooper can select the right projects from here on out in order to better his overall career.  Recently enough, George Romero was given a sizable budget to work with on Land of the Dead, reviewed elsewhere on this site).  While the film has garnered recognition, it was something of a disappointment to witness and a flop at the box office.  Since then, it seems that a few projects he had lined up have fallen through... one would hope that the same fate doesn’t befall this director as well.


In addition to this older release of the film, I’ve recently come across a couple other editions making their way out into the open market.  One of them is strange in that it is put out by a bargain basement company as a double bill with another film - the copy I ran across in a local overstock store costing only 79 cents.  The reason this seems so unusual is because I was not aware that this was a public domain movie, and chances are that it indeed is not.


On the other side is an upcoming release by Dark Sky Films.  This version contains special features and improved picture quality that I feel should have been included when Elite re-issued this title to DVD.  Instead of upping the quality a few notches and placing it alongside the other films in their Millennium Edition collection, they merely put their prior edition back into circulation with little or no alterations.  The version I received for review even had a sticker to cover the outdated product number on the side of the box.  The story of a motel owner who gives tourist trap a new name by killing all the guests with the aid of his pet alligator is bound to find new viewers and even fans with all these versions, especially with a cast that includes Carolyn Jones (the original Addams Family TV series, also reviewed elsewhere on the site), Robert Englund, Mel Ferrer, Stuart Whitman and Neville Brand.


For this Elite edition we have only one special feature - the inclusion of a theatrical trailer from the original release of the film.  In contrast with some of Elite’s other releases, there’s nothing in the way of an attempt at bonus features or restoration  The picture is 1.85:1 widescreen, but is an older non-anamorphic transfer that could easily rival the quality of an outdated VHS tape.  The sound has pops and cracks throughout, and on the whole it feels rather muffled.  It shouldn’t be too hard to displace this transfer from the top spot it previously held, though we are hearing the new Dark Sky edition does not have the best sound upgrade either despite some of their titles (reviewed elsewhere on this site) sounding good.  The one saving grace this may hold is that you’re likely to find this edition much cheaper than the one being released by Dark Sky.  If you happen upon it by chance, go for it; but be cautioned, as the film itself doesn’t command many repeat viewings on its own merit.



-   David Milchick


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