Review: THE ALIEN WITHIN (1990)
What’s not obvious from Retromedia’s new The Alien Within DVD, front cover and back, is that it’s a double feature. Paired with Evil Spawn (1987), Alien Within is the remake of that flick. I’ve heard of Evil Spawn but had never seen it until now.
It stars Bobbie Bresee as Lynn Roman, an over the hill starlet who wants to be anything but. Just when things seem to be at their worst, a strange woman pays her visit and tells Roman she works, or had worked, for skin specialist, Dr. Zeitman (John Carradine from an earlier scene) and that these routine injections can give her back the youth she’s been sorely missing. As predicted she starts injecting herself with this untested serum, gets her young again, but also transforms into this monstrous insect-like creature when she gets enraged. This results in a few deaths, two of which are her assistant and her cheating boyfriend.
One of these people deserved it, one didn’t; can you guess which is which?
I knew you could.
The movie is told from the flashback of this guy writing Roman’s biography, or autobiography? I always get them confused. I guess it doesn’t matter for things don’t work out so well for him in the end and that (auto)biography never sees the light of day.
This movie reminded heavily of The Wasp Woman (1959) and it almost feels like an unofficial remake. Carradine’s performance in the film, I believe, is the last thing he ever acted in before his death. It’s filmed with generic dialogue so it could be reused for other films but was initially intended to be used in a Frankenstein movie thus making Carradine the notorious doctor himself but that movie never materialized.
The monster FX was very good. Of course this was back in the heyday of movie making when CGI was nothing but a Hollywood nerd’s wet dream and the main monster was a man-in-a-suit with animatronic mouthparts.
The transfer is widescreen, but not anamorphic. You’ll need to do some pix shape adjusting to get the picture to fill the screen. None needed if you’re still using a tube television though. Though zooming in gives it more of a VHS quality.
The Alien Within version ports over the main story of Roman, her plight with wanting to be younger and the monster she turns into, while implanting a “B plot” that for the most part is integrated fairly well into the existing footage. The Evil Spawn version makes mention of a movie being filmed, ‘Savage Goddess’ and the name of the director and the starlet being used in it are mentioned but never seen, in Alien Within, they are now played by Richard Harrison and Melissa Moore, while Gordon Mitchell takes up the role of the movie’s producer. Recruited to investigate Zeitman and his unsavory skin care procedures is private detective, Jay Richardson and his female assistant, Suzanne Agar.
Forrest Ackerman, who played the pool cleaner in the first film, is the only actor to make a second appearance, playing the same character, but with new lines, to link his old scene and his new scene together.
SOTA FX contributed two new monsters, a mutant dog and a lizard creature that Harrison turns into in the end..
The aspect ratio of Alien Within is 1.33:1 windowboxed.
Extras you’ll find on this disc is an Evil Spawn trailer, Roughly four minutes of outtakes by John Carradine, a general Behind The Scenes (2:26) featurette, photographic evidence (1:16) of The Missing Monster that was originally used in the movie but scrapped for a more elaborate and better looking creation. The first monster was clearly and admittedly in the vein of The Wasp Woman. Those photographs are the only existing proof it was used. No footage exists any longer. And finally you get a pretty damn good and informative commentary by Fred Olen Ray and Ted Newsom that covers varied topics about the movie, Evil Spawn, filmmaking, dating actresses/marrying them, friendships lost but not forgotten, and other sundry anecdotes which I loved hearing about.
Aside from the commentary, the well-executed monster FX and the well-photographed nudity (partial and full frontal) nothing else, unfortunately, about these movies worked for me. However, Ray does tease that he should do a proper remake of Evil Spawn/Alien Within and I actually hope he does one day.