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Retromedia presents
It's Alive! / Year 2889 (1969/1967)

"And remember, if they get scared and run away, you'll take their place!"
- Mr. Greevy (Billy Thurman)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 18, 2004

Stars: Tommy Kirk, Shirley Bonne, Billy Thurman, Paul Petersen, Quinn O'Hara, Charla Doherty
Other Stars: Annabelle MacAdams, Corveth Ousterhouse, Neil Fletcher, Hugh Feagin, Max Anderson, Byron Lord
Director: Larry Buchanan

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, attempted rape, cheesy monster costumes)
Run Time: 02h:39m:48s
Release Date: January 20, 2004
UPC: 014381213423
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- D+D+D C-

DVD Review

The annals of drive-in fare are littered with low budget horror movies, some good, some bad, and some beyond bad. Down at the very bottom of the barrel were the zero-budget Texas horrors of Larry Buchanan. This Retromedia disc collects two of Buchanan's more notorious efforts.

It's Alive (1969) tells the story of Norman Sterns (Corveth Ousterhouse) and his wife Leilla (Shirley Bonne), who get sidetracked in the Ozarks and run out of gas near the roadside zoo attraction run by the viciously abusive Mr. Greevy (Billy Thurman). Before long, Greevy has kidnaped the couple and stuck them in a cave to be fodder for his main attraction: a dinosaur-man that loves human flesh! Disney has-been Tommy Kirk is a third victim of Greevy's hospitality.

Not to be confused with the much better (and more lurid) 1974 film of the same title featuring a monstrous infant, this picture has one of the most ludicrous rubber monster costumes ever put on the screen, complete with ping-pong ball eyes. Kirk is the only capable actor in the bunch, and manages to turn in a decent performance as the captive paleontologist who gets interested in Mrs. Stearns. Thurman has some decent moments of cruelty, especially as he sadistically mistreats his wife Belle (Annabelle MacAdams). Buchanan's budget must have been even lower than usual here, since large chunks of the film are shot without any sound at all; a library track covers a lengthy flashback in a feeble attempt to cover up the lack of sound.

More interesting is In the Year 2889 (the onscreen title), dating from 1967. Captain John Ramsey (Neil Fletcher) and his daughter Joanna (Charla Doherty) have holed up in their cottage, deep in a valley with updrafts that act as a natural buffer against fallout from the atomic war that has devastated the world. Steve Marlow (Paul Petersen) and his irradiated brother Granger (Max Anderson) stumble into the house, as do Mickey Brown (Hugh Feagin) and his stripper girlfriend Jada (Quinn O'Hara), as well as an old bootlegger named Tim Henderson (Thurman again). Since the captain only has enough provisions for three, tensions quickly rise. Meanwhile, monstrous, formerly human creatures get increasingly bold in their approaches to the cottage.

Even though absolutely no pretense towards futurism is made here, despite the title, this is a much more interesting picture than the companion film. Particularly well done are the sequences that take a grim look at the interaction of the characters; despite apparently being the last representatives of the human race, they're quick to turn murderous. There's also a fairly intense sexual undercurrent as Mickey gets interested in Joanna even though she has fallen in love with Steve. The infected Granger is also unnerving with his growing taste for uncooked meat, though this isn't played out as well as it could have been. The main problem, however, is that equally ludicrous rubber monsters with long white hair populate this picture. But at least it has sound all the way through!

The cast is decent for the most part here, with Petersen, fresh off the end of The Donna Reed Show, making for a decent and likeable hero without being smarmy. The exotic dancer and her boyfriend manage to be pretty entertaining as well, especially after she gets drunk and starts performing for the disapproving crowd. Unlike the companion feature, this picture actually shows some promise, which unfortunately remained unfulfilled. The script winds up becoming fairly absurd by the end, and the conclusion is so abrupt it feels as if a few minutes must have been hacked off somewhere along the line. Perhaps it was cut to fit into a TV slot, but I don't know for certain as to whether it's actually edited. Perhaps Buchanan just ran out of film.

Although not quite as inept as an Ed Wood extravaganza, these pictures aren't anything to get excited about. But if you're interested in reliving the halcyon days of terrible movies at the drive-in, this disc is a decent representation of the worst that the genre has to offer.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Buchanan shot these films in 16mm and thus the 1.33:1 ratio is probably appropriate. However, since television prints are used, it's a little difficult to tell for certain. It's hard to say whether people are cut out of the frame because of inept camera work or a cropped image. The source prints are quite faded, with little color for the most part and weak black levels. The picture is quite soft, with occasional damage. There are regular scratches, although not too severe, and speckling as also present throughout. Day for night sequences are not properly color graded, so events supposedly occurring at night are plainly shot in broad daylight.

Image Transfer Grade: D+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono English tracks both suffer from substantial hiss. Electric buzzes also appear in numerous places. 2889 has a rather muffled sound, perhaps the side effect of an attempt to get rid of a persistent high-pitched squeal. However, it is less noisy than the first feature, so that's something. Music is thin and tinny and dialogue is often difficult to make out.

Audio Transfer Grade: D

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: An interesting recent interview (10m:08s) with Paul Peterson is the principal extra here. It's a wide-ranging discussion that runs through his career as a Mouseketeer and as a child star and bubblegum pop star. He's not hesitant to talk about his quick decline into low-budget work like 2889. A still gallery includes six shots of Peterson, eight jackets of paperbacks written by him after leaving Hollywood, and two record jackets from his short-lived singing career. No introduction on this disc from Fred Olen Ray, or more lamentably, Miss Kim, however.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Two poorly-made cheapo horrors, though 2889 has a number of decent aspects. The transfers are okay renditions of television prints, and there are a few slight extras.

 


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