Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: Eaten Alive (1976)

Ponty and I have decided to run down our lists of Top Ten Worst Films, and this week it’s my turn to kick off my list.  The problem is that I often like bad films, so I don’t have a large list conjured up in my head, ready to go.

Nevertheless, I watch some real stinkers.  Most of the “bad” films I watch are simply boring—meandering, pointless, tripe.

This week’s selection, however, is not necessarily boring—there’s quite a bit going on in it—but is so ridiculous and poorly structured, I’m filing it under “bad.”

With that, here is my review of 1976’s Eaten Alive.

This Eaten Alive is not to be confused with the 1980 Italian cannibal flick Eaten Alive!, which I have not seen, but which sounds as horrific as Cannibal Holocaust, from the same year.  There are no naked cannibals eating cocky film crews in this flick.  Instead, it’s a gigantic Nile crocodile that dispatches the hapless guests of the Starlight Hotel.

The Starlight is operated by Judd, a deranged individual who reminded me of Billy Bob Thornton in his more villainous roles.  Judd somehow manages to get about twelve customers in one night in his rural Texas town, which is about as unbelievable as the rest of the story.

Judd also has some serious hang-ups about the brothel down the road.  A young runaway girl, Clara Wood, gets kicked out of the cathouse after refusing to participate in the world’s oldest profession, and seeks refuge at the Starlight.  Judd immediately figures out she is “one of Miss Hattie’s girls,” and pitchforks Clara, who then becomes crocodile chow.

There’s also a desperately sad but obnoxious scene in which a highly dysfunctional couple arrives at the Starlight looking for a bathroom.  The couple’s poor little daughter witnesses her ceaselessly barking dog, Snoopy, eaten alive (get it?) by the crocodile.  The daughter’s father—also disturbed in his own way—attempts to kill the crocodile, only Judd to attack him with a scythe (an objectively cooler weapon than a pitchfork).

Soon Clara’s father and attractive sister show up at the Starlight.  Judd denies any knowledge of her, as does Miss Hattie, the proprietress of the whore house.  For some reason, the hot sister goes out for drinks with the very middle-aged sheriff, while the father gets his throat slit.  Judd and his scythe strike again.

The character of Miss Hattie is weird.  She’s an old Southern lady wearing a gigantic 1970s ascot and a green accounting visor, but they glommed so much makeup on the actress (Carolyn Jones, who portrayed Morticia Addams on The Addams Family) that she looks like a zombie.  The effect is that she has a gray face that looks like it’s peeling off in chunks.

There’s also Buck, an extremely lascivious good ol’ boy who just wants to sleep with as many whores as possible.  Judd hates Buck, but whatever reason won’t just go ahead and kill him, instead choosing to shout, “Get off my property!” impotently at the annoying yokel.

The film ends—of course—with Judd’s own alligator eating him alive.

Acclaimed horror director Tobe Hooper directed Eaten Alive, and I guess we all have to start somewhere.  There are plenty of great ingredients in this flick—a South Texas madman feeding prostitutes to his crocodile—and the dysfunctional family is interesting (the father is pretty messed up, and it breaks the viewer’s heart to imagine what it is doing to his daughter), but it felt heavy on exploitation and light on substance.

Of course, a film about a man feeding prostitutes to his crocodile pretty much is the definition of exploitation theater, so, you get what you pay for with Eaten Alive.

23 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: Eaten Alive (1976)

  1. Crikey, Tyler, this film sounds like a mash up of several different genres, each one vying to break out and establish itself. The problem with these films is you can see the different ingredients of the concoction but not the finished article. It sounds quite horrific. Pointless is a good description.

    I didn’t include Cannibal Holocaust in my list because it’s an exploitation piece more than an actual film, much in the same vein as House of a 1000 corpses. If you ever see Rob Zombie’s name near a film, don’t watch it.

    I’ll post this link on TCW and see if we can’t get more people either reading or participating in our lists.

    Cheers again, mate. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Y’all are too young to remember the actor Rory Calhoun. He was a solid actor back in the day, probably best known for various westerns in which he was a supporting actor. Handsome guy, really. But he got older (boo-hoo) and I guess he needed the money so he ‘starred’ in this shining piece of excrement, lol. Mine’s worse than yours, Port! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEMFlgbwLRw

    Oh, and because you may not be a cool as I am (giggling), the guy in the white suit is none other than Wolfman Jack – famous radio dj.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! Just…wow! That looks terrible. I loved the voice-over for the trailer though.

      What was going on with that pig with the chainsaw?! That looks like another one of those films that didn’t know what kind of horror it wanted to be.

      If you’ve watched that from start to finish, Audre, have a beer on me! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • One thing I found super creepy about _Motel Hell_ is how this pretty blonde girl—whose boyfriend dies early in the film—falls in love with Vincent, Rory Calhoun’s character. Vincent is clearly old enough to be not just her father, but her GRANDfather. Yet he apparently has a certain reassuring, deranged charisma that the girl finds irresistible.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My memory is not what it used to be; I can’t remember if this one came out before or after Texas Chainsaw Massacre (after, I suspect) and may have been a ‘tip of the hat’ to TCM.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Texas Chainsaw Massacre was good though. It was also Tobe Hooper’s first decent film. It didn’t mix genres and the insanity was well reflected. Plus, and I could be the only one here, I always felt a little sorry for Leatherface.

      You could see he’d been sheltered from the world and when strangers came upon their land, he’d go insane, not just in a crazy psychotic way but in a similar way to those who are really not used to a changed environment. There’s one scene I remember where Leatherface looks out the window and starts to shake his head, as if attempting to throw something uncomfortable from his mind. To the mentally ill, changing environments are a big no no. It can be terrifying to see a world you’ve always known altered drastically. Leatherface had suffered that neglect for a long time, though you never know for how long, in a family of deranged lunatics. You spend long enough in the madhouse and you become mad yourself. That film spoke on many levels.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It seems to me that most horror movies, if watched intently, show a certain sadness for the lead character – even as far back as the original movie of Frankenstein. The child with the flower touches a memory held by the monster of a time when there was sunshine and flowers and simple joy.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Frankenstein’s monster is the quintessential example. And depending on the cut of that film, the monster shows genuine confusion when he tosses the little girl into the lake and she doesn’t float like the flowers.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Exactly. It really is quite a sad movie. What a horrible injustice – whether we believe in an afterlife or not, we all expect to rest undisturbed until nature has completed our course, which, of course, the monster was cheated out of.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes! An overlooked part of that story. It’s also a Gnostic attempt at playing God, and trying to get around God and Nature through the abuse of science. The result is a lumbering abomination, hated by his own creator (whereas we humans—lumbering abominations in a moral sense, perhaps—enjoy the unconditional Love of our Creator).

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I felt for Frankenstein’s monster too. He wasn’t meant for the world and it was pretty obvious what the reactions to his presence would be. Human beings react with fear to anything they don’t understand. There was a lovely simplicity to the monster, as he was attempting to figure out his own place.

    I think it shows the difference between adults and children. Children are fascinated by practically everything they experience growing up, questioning everything around them. Adults are cynical, genuinely suspicious and we react badly when faced with differences.

    Oh, to return to a time when things were much simpler…

    Liked by 2 people

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