Feeding the Pet
Tobe Hooper who brought us “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” gave himself a tough job to follow. With it he had created an almost perfect example of American horror. He decided to follow it with “Eaten Alive”, the story of a psychotic redneck who owns a dilapidated hotel in rural East Texas and kills various people who upset him or his business. He then feeds their bodies to a large crocodile that he keeps as a pet in the swamp beside his hotel. However, it did not have the success that was hoped for.
It stars Neville Brand as Judd, a loony, one-legged innkeeper whose backwater hotel serves as a place for some real craziness. Alone with a mannequin, a monkey in a cage, a Nazi flag, and a hungry alligator, Judd’s madness reaches a breaking point after he murders a prostitute. Before long, he begins terrorizing a cast of character actors who include Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, and a young Robert Englund. The movie is very strange yet totally implausible. What it is, I believe, is a wonderful example of exploitive horror at its untamed best.
Judd is a sexually repressed nut who runs the disheveled Starlight Hotel somewhere in the swamps of Louisiana. We never learn why he behaves the way he does, but in one single night, he decides to initiate a frenzy of bloodshed. The first guest is a wayward prostitute, Clara (Roberta Collins), who is released of her duties by the local madam, Miss Hattie (Carolyn “Morticia” Jones, unrecognizable in heavy repulsive makeup) after she refuses to indulge a client’s awkward sexual fetish. Almost immediately after she arrives at the hotel, Clara is slaughtered by Judd with his scythe, and then fed to his giant crocodile that wallows in a large pen surrounding the hotel. By the way, Judd lost his leg in an encounter with his pet crocodile.
In the movie’s most disturbing scene, a little girl’s cute pooch is swallowed alive by the hungry croc, leaving the poor child traumatized. After settling into a room, Roy, the girl’s father, himself, seeming to be nuts, goes out to kill the giant reptile, only to be assaulted by Judd and fed to it. Judd then chases the poor little girl under the house (where she stays, hiding until the finale) and gags and ties her mother to a bed. Meanwhile Clara’s father Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and daughter Libby (Crystin Sinclaire) show up looking for their long lost family member. They enlist the help of the kindly Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman) since nobody in town admits having seen Clara or knowing her whereabouts. They too stay at the hotel as the body count continues to rise.
Hooper’s direction is fine and he never lets the film drag. We really do not learn anything about the characters but most of them do not have too much screen time before they become dinner for the croc.
Judd mopes around the hotel uttering nonsense to himself while country/western music continually plays in the background. One minute, he seems like an old, oddball hillbilly who’s cordial to his guests and the next minute, he’s a madman, viciously killing just about anyone that shows up at his porch. Also in the cast is Robert Englund as Buck, the town pervert who’s excellent in an early role as Buck, the town’s trouble-making young pervert. Janus Blythe gives us some nude scenes that have nothing to do with anything. There’s plenty of gore— the crocodile attacks are well edited and quite impressive.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new 2K transfer from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, make-up artist Craig Reardon and stars Roberta Collins, William Finley and Kyle Richards
- New introduction to the film by director Tobe Hooper
- Brand new interview with Hooper
- My Name is Buck: Star Robert Englund discusses his acting career
- The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball – The story of the South Texas bar owner on whom Eaten Alive is loosely based
- 5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns – The star of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre talks about working on Eaten Alive
- The Gator Creator: archival interview with Hooper
- Original theatrical trailers for the film under its various titles Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel
- US TV and Radio Spots
- Alternate credits sequence
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin