31 Days of Horror Cinema Reviews

Eaten Alive (1976): 31 Days of Horror

#13. Eaten Alive (1976)

eaten alive italian posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Tobe Hooper

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s
There Must Always be a Tobe Hooper
Reptile rampage (tribute to Crawl)

Just rounding out my Tobe Hooper filmography with one I haven’t seen because, per Cinemonster’s rules, there must always be a Tobe Hooper. I knew nothing about this one except it featured an alligator or a crocodile or some such beast and it also, fortuitously, satisfied the “reptile rampage” requirement.

‘Eaten Alive’ Elevator Pitch

There’s this motel located deep in the south of Texas where guests check in, but they don’t always check out because some of them get fed to the gator by a wild-eyed Jack Elam-looking coot played by Neville Brand.

And the protagonist of your story?

The gator, obviously.

The man-eating alligator that lives off the porch is going to be your hero of the picture? You’re pulling my leg.

Not a bit. The girl you think is the main girl gets eaten. And then the next one gets eaten, too — also the dog — and so on and so forth until the sister of the one that gets eaten shows up and she becomes the focus of the story.

And the alligator?

You’ll just have to see, won’t ye?

Hold on. Did you say the dog gets eaten?

Eaten Alive's Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.
Eaten Alive’s Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.

No One Suspects the Starlight Motel

And I have to ask why. It looks like people have been murdered there, with regularity. Anyone stopping by thinking they’re in for a good night’s rest must have a seriously problematic home life. When the naive prostitute Clara gets evicted from her brothel for refusing Robert Englund “butt-stuff” she turns to the Starlight Motel for accommodations. I questioned her judgment.

She’s met immediately by the proprietor, the grizzled Judd, more cured meat with a woman’s wig than man, who attempts some sort of kooky blend of murder and #MeToo crime before hacking her to pieces with a scythe before — you guessed it — making her gator meat.

a bloody Roberta Collins in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (1976).
Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) getting prepped to be gator food in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive (1976).

Put Eaten Alive’s so-called narrative on the back burner for just a second so we can take a look at how Tobe Hooper presented this wild (inept?) premise for public consumption. Eaten Alive has no definitive structure. Hooper’s cobbled together a series of murders by placing a madmen and his pet alligator at the center of a Southern Gothic nightmare. Whereas something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt rooted in a nightmare version of reality, Eaten Alive feels more like straight nightmare.

Low budget single-location set design shrouded in fog. Caustic, unnatural lighting techniques. Stilted dialogue and unnatural pauses. Dutch angles and numerous POV shots. While Tobe Hooper’s fingerprints remain all over the blood and morbidity, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that maybe David Lynch had a hand in this production as well.

Neville Brand handles a scythe in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive
Jud (Neville Brand), the “mentally disturbed” proprietor at the Starlight Motel, keeps a scythe on hand for feeding time.

Surrealistic, Twilight World

Contemporaneous critics couldn’t help but compare this film to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more often than not faulted Eaten Alive‘s hyperreality as the reason why it failed to live up to Hooper’s past precedent. I won’t go as far as to suggest that Eaten Alive is some overlooked classic because it’s too sloppy and shapeless to be a masterpiece, but it is indeed a special viewing experience and not the supposedly “inept” and worthlessly trashy horror flick. Scratch that last bit — it is definitely trashy.

Filmed entirely around an indoor pool on a sound stage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, Hooper achieved his goal of creating a “surrealistic, twilight world” through the apparent artifice of the set-bound production. The story had been adapted by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel and based loosely on the story of Joe Ball (known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man). Ball owned a bar with a live alligator attraction during the 1930s and also murdered several women. Though rumors persisted that he disposed of their corpses by feeding them to the alligator, it was never proven.

Hooper perfectly captures the isolated eccentricities of a grisly and desperate carnival of weirdos parading through the Texas swampland. Eaten Alive provides a grotesque and singular hallucinatory grindhouse experience. To watch Eaten Alive is to bathe in a mosquito-infested pool of the trashy macabre. It’s leering and sticky and no amount of showering can wash it away.

Robert Englund plays one of those trashy weirdos tucked away in Tobe Hooper's freak show attraction.
Robert Englund looks and acts like gator bait.

Final ‘Eaten Alive’ Thoughts

But I do not believe, however, that Eaten Alive displayed narrative ineptitude. Narrative indifference, on the other hand, sounds far more likely. Hooper doesn’t even attempt to create a traditional cinematic story. In order for a narrative to be inept, one must exist. In many ways, Eaten Alive reflects cinematic horror influenced by the giallo through garish colors and a foregrounding of a distinct visual style over substance. The violent vignettes become substance in lieu of traditional narrative.

Since the film’s backloaded resolution comes together during the final fifteen minutes it’s fair to suggest the film would have been better served without it. I wouldn’t call it unnecessary, but the film crawls to a halt when it most closely resembles narrative.

Trashy, gruesome and hyper-stylized, Eaten Alive provides an unforgettable experience for gorehounds and fans of David Lynch’s otherworldly, artificial milieu. Tobe Hooper’s production challenges the viewer to submit to his scattered whims. I can see why some would be turned off by the bizarre construction and lack of character development but why struggle? Sit back, get sweaty and enjoy the feast. Eaten Alive‘s a mile short of being called a masterpiece, but at times I couldn’t keep the word from popping into my head.



Eaten Alive is available via and Arrow Films Blu-ray.eaten alive arrow blu-ray

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive


James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add whatever this is to that list. Follow his blog at and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

31 Days of Horror Cinema

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978): 31 Days of Horror

#17. The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

the bloodstained shadow 1978Nature of Shame:
Later-era giallo that takes cues from the best of the genre and I will pretty much watch anything labeled “giallo.” Unwatched 88 Films Blu-ray.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s
Anniversary: 40th

I read about The Bloodstained Shadow in Troy Howarth’s So Deadly So Perverse Vol. 2 and subsequently picked the Blu-ray up from 88 Films. It’s been on my shelf for ages, but with the arrival of the Underrated ’78 lists on Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I had to finally crack the seal and do the deed.

The Bloodstained Shadow Elevator Pitch

It’s a murder mystery and insular society whodunnit with strangulations, mediums, unsolved murders, repressed psychoses and black gloved killers! In Venice!

the bloodstained shadow 1978

In the Bloody Laguna of Venitian Delights

Antonio Bido’s The Bloodstained Shadow (aka Solamente Nero) recalls Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Ducking in that in focuses on the crimes committed within an insular society. Where Fulci goes bombastic to unearth the message in his film, however, Bido peels back layers with tweezers.

Stefano visits his priest brother in the Venice laguna whom warns of a decadent community of evildoing and makes vague allusions to a medium. And because this is a giallo, Stefano then witnesses the strangulation of the medium by a killer (dressed in black, naturally). When Stefano investigates and uncovers the truth about a string of murders, he becomes a target for the murderer himself.

the bloodstained shadow 1978

No One Expects the Venetian Priest #SpoilerAlert

So Bido might telegraph the identity of the killer rather early on in the film, but the fun of The Bloodstained Shadow has nothing to do with uncovering the truth. It’s about how you got there — and you’ll cross multiple genres and wildly erratic pacing to make it happen.

Like Bido’s other successful film, Watch Me While I Kill, it sometime feels like the director merely flies by the seat of his pants, piecing together genre aesthetics and cues like mismatched puzzle pieces. While it’s easy to interpret that as a lack of vision or incompetence, Bido appears (feel free to argue) to use his lack of convention to keep viewers off balance. Seeing as how he’s working within a very restrictive genre, this methodology has less madness than you might think.

the bloodstained shadow 1978

How Does a Shadow get Bloodstained Anyway?

In certain ways, Bloodstained Shadow reminded me of Francisco Barilli’s Pensione Paura, another film that dances between predictable genre beats to create something resistant to categorization. Bido manages to include a smattering of visual tropes that still ground the film within the giallo genre range. This has probably served Bido better than Barilli’s non-conformity.

As a result of the style of the murders and procedural drama, Bloodstained Shadow gets that genre credibility. Viewers will remain interested in giallo-classified films, whereas Barilli’s film floats outside the genre and therefore off of most horror fans’ radar. It’s not even currently available on DVD to my knowledge and that’s a bloody shame.

the bloodstained shadow 1978

Final The Bloodstained Shadow Thoughts

The Bloodstained Shadow has such awkward pacing that you’ll forget for long stretches that what you’re watching is supposed to be a horror film. Normally, I’d use that very same line as a complaint. In this instance, however, Bido so effectively deploys exotic cityscape cinematography an score (by Stelvio Cipriani and mixed and re-recorded by Goblin) that the languid pacing feels more like a strength. The film has plenty of other weaknesses, but it largely overcomes them by having a unique feel in an otherwise narrow genre bandwidth.

The Bloodstained Shadow Rating:


bloodstained shadow blu-ray

The Bloodstained Shadow is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video. The film looks rather dark and colorless on the stream, but it’s quality enough to sample for free.

I watched the film on 88 Films’ Region B Blu-ray release, which offers better color and sharper black contrast. 

It’s not a major upgrade, however. I still hope that the film will received a nice Region A offering in the near future from a caring distributor willing to do some restoration work. The visuals and score are the most important parts of the film — so it’s a shame that we can’t view a better source.


2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
#10. Chopping Mall (1986)
#11. The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
#12. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
#13. Messiah of Evil (1973)
#14. Possession (1981)
#15. Blood Diner (1987)
#16. Inquisition (1978)
#17. The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

31 Days of Horror Cinema

The Raven: 31 Days of Horror

the raven 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Long overdue for a rewatch Shame.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1930’s



#9. The Raven (1935)

the raven 1935 posterYou could transcribe, pretty much verbatim, the introduction to my prior #31DaysofHorror review about The Black Cat (1934) and place it right here for The Raven (1935).

Let’s go on a tangent instead. Tangents are often more interesting anyway.

I always meant to make a triple feature of this, Roger Corman’s The Raven (1963) and James McTeigue’s The Raven (2012) starring John Cusack. So wildly different in tone and form and yet all equally disinterested in adaptation. Instead of considering how they treat the material, you could study the ways in which they just don’t bother.

I’ve been guilty of judging films based on their adaptive muscle, but in many ways this falls back on lazy criticism. It’s a worthwhile exercise to throw shade on poor adaptation — but not adaptations that want nothing to do with adaptations to begin with.

Turning Poe’s poem into a full-length cinematic property approaches the definition of insanity. Marketing shorthand dictates that Poe has been a successful cinematic commodity, and therefore more Poe must be produced to make the dollars — but only a small segment of the population legitimately cares whether the film uses the original text. There’s a reason that three “adaptations” of The Raven exist and none of them approach the material earnestly.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”


the raven 1935

The Story

David Boehm’s screenplay merges bits of Poe’s “The Raven” with “The Pit and the Pendulum” to spin a story about an eccentric millionaire surgeon Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) whose obsession with Edgar Allan Poe has turned him into a deranged torture-happy psychopath. I should clarify. The story contains a taxidermed raven and features a pendulum. Director Lew Landers populates his screen with familiar Poe imagery, but never actually attempts anything beyond face value association.

the raven bela lugosi

After Vollin saves a girl who had been injured in a car accident, he falls madly in love with her. When she rebukes his advances (she is engaged to be married after all), he makes associations with Poe’s “Lenore” and slips further into his Poe mania. He invites the girl, her father and her fiancé to his humble abode with the nefarious intentions of murdering them with his collection of torture devices.

I considered Karloff’s performance in The Black Cat to be one of the best of his career. In that film he plays a villain of quiet and calculating cruelty, yet the performance never lacked eccentricity. While I admire his work as Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy, the prosthetics handicapped his performance. Watch The Black Cat or the Val Lewton-produced Body Snatchers (1945) and you can see Karloff’s full arsenal of talents and subtlety.

the raven 1935

Lugosi, on the other hand, lacked, shall we say, similar nuance. He never learned to mask his thick accent and therefore always found himself reduced to a narrow collection of put-upons and Balkan misfits. Dracula stands as the monument of his career. Restraint benefitted his characters. When a director managed to corral his enthusiasm for showy performance, Lugosi gave gold. And in this instance, Landers starved Lugosi until it was high time to commence scenery chewing.

In The Raven Karloff again finds himself hidden behind grotesque prosthetics (the fake eyeball is especially unnerving), and Lugosi benefits by slipping into the trousers of the brilliant but sociopathic doctor. Here he’s allowed to underplay Villon’s madness until it all comes pouring out during the film’s wild and eccentric ending. In a bit of a role reversal, Karloff becomes the put-upon assistant and Lugosi the proper, regal villain.

the raven boris karloff
The makeup effects on Karloff after the mad Doctor Lugosi has his way with him.

Landers competently handles the material he’s given, but contemporary reviews proved unkind.

From the New York Times on July 5th, 1935: “If The Raven is the best that Universal can do with one of the greatest horror story writers of all time, then it had better toss away the other two books in its library and stick to the pulpies for plot material.”

And this was not an isolated criticism. Most everyone it seemed still believed that studios should attempt to adapt Edgar Allan Poe. As has been proven time and time again, adapting Poe’s stories — which almost wholly belong to the realm of psychological terror — proves problematic. How does one convey internal terror in a commercially-viable film?

Let me answer that. One doesn’t. One borrows bits and bites and plays fan service. A black cat wandering. The shadow of a raven. Haunting echoes. Reciting a poignant line hither and thither. The palette holds only so many shades of black and grey.

Final Thoughts:

The Raven entertains by virtue of Lugosi’s potent performance. Landers presents the mad doctor’s torture devices statically and perhaps in the vein of a low-budget adventure serial, but his grasp of light and shadow make up for a lack of inventiveness with the camera. Despite a prolific career, Landers never emerged from B-film purgatory.

It’s always entertainment when Karloff and Lugosi get to share the screen as equals. The Raven works, not because it has any inclination towards adapting Poe, but because it doesn’t bother and lets Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff fill in the gaps.

30Hz Movie Rating:



the bela lugost collection universal

The Raven (1935) is available on the Universal Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The set also features Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.






2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935)