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Larry Cohen Collection: “It Lives Again”

It’s Alive 2: It Lives Again

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The next feature up in the Larry Cohen collection is the second entry in the “It’s Alive” trilogy: “It Lives Again.”

“it Lives Again” was written, directed, and produced by Larry Cohen, and marked the first time since “Hell Up In Harlem” that he took on a sequel to one of his films.

The cinematography for “It Lives Again” was provided primarily by Fenton Hamilton, who worked with Cohen on a number of his earlier films (“Black Caesar,” “Hell Up In Harlem,” “It’s Alive”). Additional work was done by Daniel Pearl, who went on to become one of Cohen’s regular cinematographers on films like “Deadly Illusion” and “A Return to Salem’s Lot.” Supposedly, Hamilton left the productions on bad terms, clashing with Cohen creatively. However, Cohen dedicated “Full Moon High” to his memory after his death.

The makeup effects on “It Lives Again” were provided by the now-legendary special effects guru Rick Baker (“Videodrome,” “Men In Black,” “Track of the Moon Beast”), who returned after working with Larry Cohen previously on “Bone,” “Black Caesar,” and “It’s Alive.”

“It Lives Again” features the same music composed by the legendary Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho,” “Taxi Driver,” “Citizen Kane”) that was used in “It’s Alive,” with some additional work done by Laurie Johnson (“Dr. Strangelove”), who would return for “It’s Alive III.”

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Aside from Larry Cohen, the other producer for “It Lives Again” was William Wellman, Jr, an actor who appeared in “It’s Alive” and “Black Caesar.”

“It Lives Again” had a number of editors, including Curtis Burch (“Joysticks”), Dennis Michelson (“On Deadly Ground”) and Carol O’blath (“Brain Dead,” “Puppet Master III”).

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The cast for “It Lives Again” features John P. Ryan, Andrew Duggan, and James Dixon reprising their roles from the original “It’s Alive.” The rest of the cast includes Frederic Forrest (“Falling Down,” “Apocalypse Now”), Kathleen Lloyd (“The Missouri Breaks”), John Marley (“The Godfather”), Eddie Constantine (“The Long Good Friday”), and Jill Gatsby (“Class of 1999”).

The story of “It Lives Again” takes place shortly after the events of “It’s Alive,” following up on that film’s cliffhanger. More killer babies are popping up around the country, and the government is frantically trying to eliminate them before they are born. Frank Davis, the father of the child in the first film, goes on a mission to warn as many potential parents as possible about the government’s plans for their babies.

I couldn’t dig up any budget or box office information for “It Lives Again,” but the existence of “It’s Alive III” seems to indicate some level of financial success. The reception to the movie, however, wasn’t so good. It currently holds a 5.0 rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 44% (critics) and 28% (audience).

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The performance of Frederic Forrest in “It Lives Again” is particularly intense, and the fallout of the central couple after their baby is taken away provides some very real drama in the story. That said, you certainly can’t get attached to him, and the film doesn’t feature any really memorable or sympathetic characters.

Once again, Larry Cohen creates a very serious and dark film out of a truly outlandish concept, while not entirely losing the humor inherent to a horde of babies murdering people.

One of the new ideas in “It lives Again” answers the question of how to deal with the babies that manage to survive. Given they are human, they can’t exactly kill them once they are alive and well. The idea of trying to train the evil babies to be good is kind of hilarious, but it is played off seriously enough that it is almost believable in the film’s context.

“It Lives Again” lacks some of the punch and thought that drove the first movie, but it still isn’t bad in my opinion. It marks a bit of a drop-off in quality, but not nearly to the same degree as your typical sequel.

Cohen is wise to not show too much of the babies in “It Lives Again,” just like he did with “It’s Alive.” As good as Rick Baker’s work is, it provides better tension to show less of them, and they inherently look a little bit ridiculous. Thankfully, they are mostly kept in shadows, blurs, and silhouettes.

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Overall, this is a worthy follow-up if you really liked the original “It’s Alive.” Some people will certainly find it boring because of its comparatively slower pacing, but I think there is still plenty to like here. If you are up for a story about murderous babies, “It Lives Again” certainly delivers that.

Bargain Bin(ge) Las Vegas: Zia Record Exchange – Sahara

Welcome to the newest installment of the Bargain Bin(ge), where I cover used DVD stores from around the country and the various movies I have plundered from them.

Earlier this week, work took me out to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. With the limited free time I had, I decided to check out some used media stores in search of DVDs.

lasvegasI wound up visiting two locations of Zia Record Exchange, a chain of used media stores in the Southwestern states of Arizona and Nevada. This particular segment covers the Sahara Avenue location in Las Vegas, not far from the touristy allures of the casinos and hotels.

ziasahara11 ziasahara10 ziasahara8 ziasahara9 ziasahara4 ziasahara3 ziasahara2 ziasahara1The first thing that stood out to me about Zia was the cool ambiance to the place. The walls and signs are all well-decorated and hip, making for a top-notch atmosphere. As the name suggests, it is primarily a record store, but the inclusion of movies is hardly an afterthought: the selection was really fantastic, and I wound up finding a number of films I haven’t been able to find anywhere else in the wild. “Weekend at Bernie’s 2” comes to mind, though the price wasn’t right for me to walk away with it. Likewise, they had copies of “God Told Me To” with Larry Cohen commentary and “Leviathan,” although both were outside of what I wanted to pay.

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All of that said, I still found some good deals, and walked away with a nice stack of DVDs. If you find yourself in Las Vegas, it is worth your time to check out the selection at Zia Record Exchange if you are a fan of rare and cult films.

Cloned

1“Cloned” is a television movie from the early 2000s starring Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” “Cabin In The Woods”) and Elizabeth Perkins (“Weeds”). I’m a big fan of Whitford, but I haven’t seen him do much outside of his snarky, comedic comfort zone. The same goes for Perkins, who became mostly a comic relief player in “Weeds” in the later seasons. This looks to be a pretty heavy drama laced with sci-fi elements, so I’m interested to see how they work with a more somber backdrop.

It Lives Again / Island of the Alive

2I was rather delighted to find a combined copy of Larry Cohen’s sequels to the 1974 classic “It’s Alive,” partially because I have never seen copies of them before, and party because of how outlandish the premises are. Larry Cohen has a knack for finding the sweet spot between horror and comedy, and is one of my favorite b-movie directors along with Stuart Gordon for doing it so well. I’m planning to go through the whole “It’s Alive” trilogy soon, maybe in a multi-week spotlight on Larry Cohen much like I did with Gordon.

Special Effects

3This is another Larry Cohen flick that I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of. I don’t know much about this one, apart from that it is a twisted homage to Hitchcock’s thrillers. The premise of a movie director making a film about a murder he got away with is certainly intriguing, and I’m interested to see how Cohen pulls it off. He can certainly write suspense if “Phone Booth” is any indication, so this should be an interesting watch.

In Too Deep / Glass Shield / Cry, The Beloved Country / License To Kill / Malevolent / A Rage In Harlem / Road Ends / Ice

4I always love grabbing discount movie collections, because you always get your money’s worth in screen time at the very least. As opposed to most horror box sets composed of amateur flicks with awful effects, this action/crime set seems to be mostly built from TV movies featuring bankable stars (Ice Cube, Dennis Hopper, Forrest Whitaker, and Denzel Washington to name a few in here). The most prominent of the bunch on the box is “In Too Deep,” which was directed by Michael Rymer, who has since made a name for himself producing and directing on the hit TV shows “Hannibal” and “Battlestar: Galactica.” I’ll be interested to do more research into this lot, and see if there is some blog material in here.

Roadie

5“Roadie” is apparently a musical comedy starring Meat Loaf. I didn’t read any further into it than that, apart from finding out that the director, Alan Rudolph, was behind the “Breakfast of Champions” film adaptation. I’m assuming that this movie is going to be just awful, but I’m planning to buckle in for the experience.

Transformed

6I don’t know what this movie is, but it involves Fred Williamson, drugs, and martial arts, so I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. This may have been a mistake.