The Fishman Diaries: It’s Alive

Filmofile
4 min readMay 17, 2023

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Stay in the city, never leave the safety of concrete and skyscrapers. The bucolic corn fields and rolling green hills of middle America are full of crazies. Haven’t you seen Tourist Trap, House of 1000 Corpses, Two Thousand Maniacs, Deliverance, Psycho, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? If you’re still not convinced, maybe you should go see It’s Alive. No, not the one about the carnivorous baby with two hairy little fingers. The one about the hillbilly who has a prehistoric water monster in his own private cave. You know, like most hillbillies have.

It’s Alive is one of a million copycat films trying to cash in on the success of Creature From The Black Lagoon. All you need is a cheap fishman suit and a camera and you’re set. Here is a little visual survey of the miserable rip-offs that have been presented to innocent moviegoers over the years.

Would you believe I’ve sat through all of them? What’s wrong with me?

It’s Alive adds itself to the list, but can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to be. I’m not sure if it’s a cheap monster movie, a cheap psychological thriller, or a cheap romance, but I guess they all have one thing in common.

Whatever it was supposed to be, it was directed by the infamous Larry Buchanan, a prolific pervader of pulp and shitty schlock. It was released in 1969 to no acclaim. It was an American International Picture but somehow it ended up in MGM’s catalog.

The film begins with Norman and Leela Sterns, a not-so-happy couple, driving along the road on their vacation. Norman is a nasty little whiney asshole who never seems satisfied with anyone or anything. Buchanan makes Norman intolerable in an effort to prepare the audience for when Norman is killed, and Leela skips the mourning process so she can instantly fall for a strapping stranger named Wayne.

Norman is put out of his (and our) misery when he and Leela are trapped by the crazy hillbilly who locks the couple in a cave with a man dressed in a cheap monster costume. It just so happens that Wayne is in the cave, too. So, never mind your husband’s corpse, bring on the romance! Besides being hunky, Wayne is a paleontologist, and so can mansplain what the man in the cheap monster costume is supposed to be. According to Wayne, there used to be a vicious aquatic predator called a mosasaurus. It was 56 feet long and roamed the oceans 75 million years ago. I looked it up, and when comparing the costumed man to what paleontologists think mosasaurus looked like, the likeness is… well, it is what it is.

The whole killer dinosaur plot is interrupted by a psychological thriller subplot. We flash back to the past when the hillbilly entraps a middle-aged woman and tortures her until she becomes his slave. It doesn’t have much relation to the rest of the movie, but they had to fill up the time somehow. They all end up dead anyway, except for the star-crossed lovers, Leela and Wayne. I guess the moral is, don’t pay for marriage counseling when a dinosaur can fix everything for free.

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Filmofile

I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince my school to let me teach film. My website http://www.filmofileshideout.com/