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‘Eaten Alive’: Tobe Hooper’s 1976 horror film about a man-eating crocodile was banned in the UK
08.28.2017
09:22 am
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Eaten Alive
 
Dangerous Minds was saddened to learn that director Tobe Hooper died on Saturday. Hooper is best known for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, his 1974 low-budget horror masterpiece concerning a group of young people terrorized by a family of cannibalistic nutjobs. The movie was an artistic, critical and financial success, grossing more than $30 million in the U.S. Hopper’s anticipated follow-up was initially given a limited release in 1976.

Eaten Alive is a horror/exploitation film about a deranged hotel owner who kills his guests and feeds them to his pet crocodile. It has solid B-movie cast, including Marilyn Burns, who memorably screamed her head off in Chain Saw, and a heavily made-up Carolyn Jones, who was “Morticia” on the The Addams Family, playing brothel owner Miss Hattie. A young Robert Englund (a/k/a “Freddy Kruger”) is great as the lowlife “Buck.” Englund utters the unforgettable first words in the picture: “Name’s Buck. I’m rarin’ to fuck.’” The dialogue was later adapted by Quentin Tarantino and used in Kill Bill: Volume One.

Eaten Alive was given a wide release in the states in 1977, and in 1978, a slightly edited cut was approved by the BBFC, the British ratings board. Released in the UK as Death Trap, it gained notoriety a few years later, after it appeared on home video.
 
Death Trap VHS
 
In Britain during the early 1980s, there was a moral panic regarding the availability of certain movies on VHS. At first, motion pictures that came out on video didn’t have to be rated, meaning anyone of any age could rent them. Especially violent and gory pictures like Driller Killer and I Spit on Your Grave were singled out as being inappropriate for young people; the films identified as such came to be known as “Video Nasties.” In 1982, Death Trap was one of those successfully prosecuted under Britain’s Obscene Publications Act, and the distributor had to surrender all VHS copies to the court. If you’re wondering the fate of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, well, it was denied certification by the BBFC in 1975 and didn’t come out in Britain until 1999—! The following year, Death Trap was once again made available on home video in the country.
 
Hooper and Brand
Hooper and actor Neville Brand on set.

After repeated disputes with producers, Hooper quit before filming of Eaten Alive was complete, leaving it to be finished by others. While the final product certainly doesn’t match the quality of Chain Saw, the picture isn’t without its merits. Many scenes are effectively unsettling, especially those involving the terrorized child staying at the hotel, which are particularly unnerving. Hooper’s use of color is notable, and the atmospheric outside shots look really cool.
 
Judd
 
I tend to agree with this IMDb user’s assessment of the film and of Neville Brand, who plays the hotel owner:

‘Death Trap’ reminds me of Dario Argento’s movies. Not in the subject matter, or directorial style, but in the sense that what you’re seeing is a filmed nightmare, devoid of logic, but full of memorable over the top images. The sets are cheap and nasty, the acting varies from quite good to plain silly, the “plot” can basically be summed up as: people check into a seedy motel and get fed to a pet crocodile by its nutty owner, but you know what? It’s still a hell of an entertaining trashy horror movie.

Neville Brand (‘The Ninth Configuration’) gives a gonzo, almost vintage Timothy Carey-like performance as psycho scythe wielding “Judd,” owner of the one place in town you really don’t want to check in to.

 
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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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08.28.2017
09:22 am
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Magic, Madness & Dreamers: Tribute to William Finley

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One of the most unappreciated roles in the world is the role of the character actor. It’s a cruelty, since the character actors are the ones with the real personalities and true charisma. Traditional leading stars are so bland in comparison. The Wonder White Bread of acting. Sadly, we have lost one of the best of this wondrous breed, with the passing of actor William Finley. Truly one of the most wholly unique and talented actors, Finley made an impression on me the moment I first saw him in his brief but brilliant turn as drunken carny magician, Marco the Magnificent in Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse. The shock of blonde hair, half painted Dracula make-up and the way his voice just oozed whiskey-soaked malaise bordering on malice made a mighty impression on my then teenage self. It was love at first sight, leading me to discover some of his better known work, namely with director Brian DePalma.

Both Finley and DePalma were Sarah Lawrence alumni, with a collaboration dating back to the director’s earliest underground works. This includes 1968’s Murder a la Mod and 1970’s Dionysus in ‘69, a film of an experimental version of the ancient Greek play, “The Bacchae.” (Two days before I heard of his passing, I had actually found my long lost DVD copy of this film.) One of his best early roles was in DePalma’s excellent Hitchcockian (right down to the Bernard Herrmann score) Sisters. Playing Margot Kidder’s charismatically creepy Quebecois husband Emil, Finley, with slicked back hair and a thin mustache, cuts an unforgettable figure. Despite all of his borderline villainy, he still infuses enough humanity into the role to make you feel empathy for this weird character.

However, Finley’s best known role, in a very rare leading turn, was DePalma’s rock musical, Phantom of the Paradise. Playing the titular Phantom, Finley is Winslow Leech, a gangly and passionate struggling composer who has written a rock opera based on the old German legend of “Faust.” Life takes a turn for the worse for Winslow as his work gets shanghaied by rock and roll impresario Swan (Paul Williams, who was also responsible for the fantastic score). Life soon imitates art, with the presence of the sweet and beautiful Phoenix (Jessica Harper) to further the potential heartbreak and redemption.

Phantom is undoubtedly one of the best rock musicals ever and Finley is perfect as our unlikely hero, fleshing out Winslow, an awkward genius with a temper, into a poetic, warm blooded, tragic figure. This turned out to be Finley’s only major starring role, though he did follow it up with a memorable turn in Tobe Hooper’s EC Comics film come to life, Eaten Alive, where he gets to bark like a dog and threatens to put a cigarette out IN HIS EYE. There were also smaller roles in the obscure Alan Arkin comedy Simon, DePalma’s The Fury and even the Chuck Norris flick, Silent Rage.

Roles become a little more sparse, with a few parts cropping up, like the Christian zealot/archeologist father in the 1995 Tobe Hooper film, Night Terrors. (A movie notable for Finley, equal gender nudity and Robert Englund as the Marquis De Sade, which makes it sound way better than it is.) Finley was an actor who should have been better utilized by Hollywood and the film industry at large. Like too many artists worth their salt, he did not get his proper due while he was still here.

But instead of wallowing in any past injustice, let’s make a wrong a right and celebrate the strange,stark and superb work of William Finley. The man’s acting legacy deserves it and you deserve to watch some great acting and filmmaking

Recommended Viewing: Sisters, Eaten Alive, Phantom of the Paradise, The Funhouse, Murder a la Mod,

Posted by Heather Drain
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04.17.2012
01:39 am
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