It’s Alive! (1969)
Perhaps you know of my creature…. It’s great and powerful…. My greatest discovery!
Sometimes a poorly framed opening title sequence sums up a movie. This irrefutable TV made stinker from Larry Buchanon might possibly be the worst man in a rubber monster suit film I have ever seen —except that it is saved by an entertaining and over the top performance by veteran hick Bill Thurman (The Last Picture Show, 1971; bit part in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977). In fact, Thurman carries the film and I toss It’s Alive (1969) into my pantheon of “Bad Films I Love” along with Manos: THOF (1966), The Madmen of Mandoras (1963), Fire Maidens of Outer Space (1956), the William Smith jungle vehicle Piranha (1972) and a few others.
Like William Smith, Bill Thurman was a physical actor and his natural screen presence was typified by playing resourceful redneck types, guys with cowboy hats, roughneck cops, sheriffs, an air traffic controller in CE3K (1977), and a gym teacher in The Last Picture Show. In It’s Alive (1969) Thurman plays both the looney-tunes reptile collector Greely and the Massosaurus (a kind of a prehistoric aquatic lizard).
The story is allegedly based on the Richard Matheson story Being (1954, available in Richard Matheson: Collected Stories, Vol. 2), which was penned the same year as Matheson’s seminal I Am Legend. This film has nothing in common with scripts typical of Richard Matheson adaptations. It’s a mess, and convoluted even worse due to hack editing and a bizarre flash-back sequence.
The plot has the dumbest paleontologist on the planet (Tommy Kirk) and a clueless couple (Corveth Ousterhouse and Shirley Bonne) crossing paths with wacko animal collector Greely (Thurman), who also houses and feeds a reptilian throwback in a cave. Guess what he feeds the monster? The film at time reminds me of the far superior and recommended The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959), about another reptilian cave-dwelling monster fed meat scraps by a local nut. Except, Piedras Blancas has a fine cast and a terrific man-in-a-suit monster. It’s Alive features a ridiculous, inept googly-eyed fabrication that I suspect was the same creature suit that appeared in Buchanon’s earlier Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)(another stinker, but carried by the capable John Agar).
When I watch these old films shot in caves I wonder how much damage the production crews left on the delicate subterranean ecosystems and geological formations. Things are different now, requiring permits and careful oversight. I bet these caves were just trashed.
And our hero Corveth Ousterhouse lets the creature have it! Bang!
The Massosaurus is 40 feet tall! Behold one of the greatest forced perspective shots of all time.
Take a look at this composition. This rock must’ve been a bitch to film around. It is present in the film more than the monster….
It’s Alive! Bad film aficionados will appreciate this piece of crap. I’ve heard about it for years and found it buried on a Mill Creek 100 flick set for $20.