Wednesday, November 1, 2017

READ: Eaten Alive (1977)


"Tobe and I instantly clicked.  Tobe and I had this weird shorthand.  It didn't even come from respect, because we didn't know each other then.  It's just, Tobe will say three things, and I absolutely know what he means by one of them. (Hooper impersonation:) 'Uh-- uh-- uh-- Robert, now, you come around the back of the Cadillac and maybe I'll see the brake--,' and he'll say "brake light," and ah... and I could see the shot in my own mind's eye.

At least we can be sure Hooper filmed what is outside of the economical room where Buck and Lynette partake in some heavy petting (above, Hooper seen with shirtless, pre-swamp-dip Buck).  Naturally, there isn't likely an actual room behind that set door.

Below, the realization of the scene Robert Englund describes in his quote above, which may or may not be drawn from actual, reliable experience.  Still a good nudge for the idea that Hooper did shoot scenes with Janus Blythe.



"He'll say one thing [in his direction].  Then you'll be sitting around with Tobe and you'll be wanting to talk about something like that and Tobe will be talking about Gettysburg or Bull Run, or some extraordinary piece of literature, or some great movie that you want to run out and see immediately, you know, because he must have an IQ of 200.  So he can frame of reference everything.  We just sort of understood each other right away." - Robert Englund

"I started thinking about the content of the movie, and what the movie was.  I decided, why don't I Wizard of Oz this thing a bit?" - Tobe Hooper

"Well, the crocodile... it didn't do much, really.  It could open its mouth.  So you don't see a lot of it.  That made it really cool, I mean, it made that part of it cool (you saw its back)... Anyway, what the crocodile could do was: pushing it underneath the house, (laughing) there's a couple of shots you can see it.  Its arms goes this way (demonstrates), you know, like those children's 'quackie duck' toys that they push with wheels and the (demonstrates again) little duck's feet go round... and that's really what was in there, it's like one of those quackie duck wheels that made those--: (demonstrates, laughing).  And shooting it the right way and holding only on the shot for about 2 and half seconds..."

If anyone wants to really see Hooper's zen attitude toward the absurdities of his humble career, it would be in this 2006 interview The Gator Creator With Tobe Hooper, in which he is still rather youthful and sprightly, reminiscing on the experience of Eaten Alive of which he does say was "not that great," but still giggles and gleefully paddles his hands at face-level to demonstrate the joyfully childish image of the life-size crocodile's "quackie duck" feet.

We also now know Hooper was involved in the giant foam debacle's climactic entrance into the crawlspace of the hotel, and the ensuing chase after poor little Angie, as his reminiscence includes pushing it underneath the house.

“The experience of making it was not that great.  I have to say there was a lot of script shifting that I found later didn’t have to be… I didn’t find out until almost three quarters of the way through shooting this… [ ]… that the reason the financing was there was because I’d do the film… I thought, 'Boy, why did I ever go through a lot of shit’ when I find out, this thing was mine.  And all this hell I’ve been going through, which was many, many scripts, and producers– [cuts himself off to make a joke] The children would get ideas!  They’d come back and say, you know, Judd should throw a hand grenade in the crocodile’s mouth and get his head blown off.  And, I mean, it was every day… 'No,’ 'nope.'"

“So yeah, I’m happy for it and I’m happy that it’s out there.”

 Hooper shows a pride for the film, ineluctably tied to a sense of ownership.


One of the two photos showing Hooper with Stuart Whitman, and the only one showing Hooper with that featured deputy; shows, to a reasonable doubt, Hooper was shooting the police station scene.  We must also keep in mind this was a shoot that lasted hardly a month.  Twenty days might be more like it.  Isolated scenes away from the Starlight Hotel - such as the police station, the whorehouse sets, the diner, Miss Hattie's office - were probably shot in one or two days.  For instance, Craig Reardon recalls: "I don't think she [Carolyn Jones] was there more than a day or two."  And we can immediately scupper that small but still recurring rumor of Carolyn Jones directing parts of Eaten Alive.

"Tobe was voluble and social, but quiet.  Neville was expansive.  But I think that they both seemed to arrive at their art through interior means, then it came out.  They didn't talk about it.  There is not, on one of Tobe's sets, a lot of external conversation about your motivation or whatever.  In fact, he often uses just simple shorthand like, 'I want you to scream at this point,' 'I want you to do that.' But if anyone has ever seen Tobe talk at length about his movies or what he was thinking about, there's an awful lot of rational thinking that went on as to what he-- why he used this color, why he used this particular venue or atmosphere." - Craig Reardon

"The more I worked with the film and the screenplay and all of the players on board, the more interested I got in the characters.  Miss Hattie, who runs the whore house - Miss Hattie was a real madam who worked on the outskirts of town just outside Austin city limits, and was protected, I guess, for years." - Hooper, circa 2015

"It was really cool to see these people from-- like Carolyn Jones from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  She was just way cool, and a wonderful lady.  Like, she just loved being Miss Hattie.  She was just loads of fun.  And Stuart [Whitman] I got to know pretty well.  Actually, Stuart was best man at my last wedding... well, no, I'm sorry... he signed the certificate.  The witness." - Hooper, circa 2006

Real memories of the shoot.  A real sense of the Miss Hattie character, a real sense of propriety over what she and all the characters brought to the story.  This is the voice of someone with a sense of ownership and little shame over a work.  He remembers working with Carolyn Jones, and it was nice of him to correct his misspeaking about Whitman being a "best man," rather than just the witness in attendance.  I'm sure they were friends, though.

"The largest problem I had straightaway was I had been used to working with Arriflexes and NPRs and Eclairs, French cameras that you can pick them up and move them immediately.  Or even a large 35mm blimped Arriflex, weighed 100 pounds or so, but you could get it moved.  But I had an old blimped Mitchell, and those things are almost the size of a car.  It would sit on a crane and I couldn't make things move as fast as I'd been used to." - Hooper, circa 2015

"[I remember] almost halfway through the film, feeling an interference... or having suggestions imposed on me that didn't jibe with my through-line.  And so Mardi and I squabbled a lot, and, you know, that would cause me to pack up my stuff and head toward the stage door knowing that I wasn't... well, one time I made it out to the trailer.  Well, I had that feeling and I'm not sure I didn't get my way all the time by fighting and just, you know, screaming.  And at least what was on paper, what was scripted-- I don't recall-- I really don't recall anything that was crucial that wasn't there, once it had gotten locked on paper."

So, contrary to the claims that Eaten Alive was a compromised product, Hooper essentially claims that he got what he wanted (though he has always expressed how much better he could imagine it with greater, more opportune resources).  Eaten Alive was and is compromised, but Hooper is aware of these contradistinctions in the text and exhibits ownership and the satisfaction of a vision, despite the impositions and changeling footage (speaking poetically, meaning footage in the film but with a different mother, something present in most every film under the label of "2nd unit"), which can be deemed minor or merely serviceable.

2 comments:

aquaguava said...

anyone have the country music soundstrack / tracklisting for Eaten Alive??

JR said...

No, but there's a list of the radio song artists in the end credits and I've managed to find two of the songs: "Circuit Queen" performed by Marcia Ball (written by Cam King) and "This Song is Not Just Another Love Song" by Linda Cassady (both listenable on YouTube).