It was written by Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast and Mardi Rustam and produced by Fast, Larry Huly, Robert Kantor and Mardi, Mohammed and Samir Rustam. The film stars Neville Brand, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund, William Finley, Marilyn Burns, Janus Blythe and Kyle Richards.
After refusing a demand for kinky sex from a frisky customer named Buck (Robert Englund), naive prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) is evicted from the town brothel by the Madame, Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones). Clara makes her way to the decrepit Starlight Hotel, located deep in the remote swampland of rural Texas, where she encounters the hotel's mentally-disturbed proprietor, Judd (Neville Brand). Suffering from his own demented sexual frustrations, Judd attacks Clara with a pitchfork, then chases her outside where she is attacked and eaten by his pet Nile crocodile, who lives in the swamp beside the hotel.
Some days later, a fractious couple, the outgoing Faye (Marilyn Burns) and the disturbed Roy (William Finley), arrive at the hotel, along with their young daughter, Angie (Kyle Richards). Shortly after their arrival, the family dog, Snoopy, is brutally attacked by the resident alligator, which sends little Angie into shock. In retaliation, Roy goes out to kill the carnivorous swamp creature, but is stabbed and killed by Judd, who is wielding a large scythe. Judd then straps Faye onto her bed and attempts to grab Angie, but she is able to escape and hides under the hotel's porch.
Later, Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and his daughter, Libby (Crystin Sinclaire), also arrive at the Starlight Hotel seeking information on the now-deceased Clara, who is Harvey's runaway daughter, but leave when Judd denies having seen her. Accompanied by Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman), Harvey and Libby question Miss Hattie, who also denies ever seeing Clara. Harvey returns to the creepy swamp hotel alone, while Libby goes for dinner and drinks with the sheriff. After Harvey discovers a captive Faye in her hotel room, Judd murders him, once again implementing his giant scythe.
Meanwhile, after being kicked out a bar by the sheriff, Buck and his underage girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe), venture to the Starlight, much to the annoyance of Judd. When Buck hears screams coming from Faye's room, he tries to rescue her, but is pushed into the swamp by Judd and devoured by the alligator.
Later, Libby arrives back at the hotel and manages to untie Faye from her bed and retrieve Angie from under the porch. Consumed with madness, Judd chases the three survivors into the swamp where he is finally attacked and killed by his own pet reptile.Neville Brand as Judd
Mel Ferrer as Harvey Wood
Carolyn Jones as Miss Hattie
Marilyn Burns as Faye
William Finley as Roy
Stuart Whitman as Sheriff Martin
Roberta Collins as Clara Wood
Kyle Richards as Angie
Robert Englund as Buck
Crystin Sinclaire as Libby Wood
Janus Blythe as Lynette
Working under the title, Death Trap, Eaten Alive was filmed entirely on the sound-stages of Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, which had a large-scale pool that could double as a swamp. Shooting on a sound-stage instead of a practical location contributed to the atmosphere of the film, which director Tobe Hooper described as a "surrealistic, twilight world." However, the film eventually proved to be problematic for the director, who left the set shortly before production ended, due to a dispute with the producers. But Hooper's good relationship with his actors remained intact. The director later recalled how he worked with actor Neville Brand to fully develop the character of Judd, declaring, "He understood what he was doing exactly.”
Adapted for the screen by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-writer Kim Henkel, the plot was very loosely based on the story of Joe Ball (also known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man) who owned a bar with a live alligator attraction during the 1930s in Elmendorf, Texas. During this time, several murders of women were committed by Ball, and the legend is that he would dispose of his victims' bodies by feeding them to his pet alligators, but this was never proven.
Although passed with cuts for its theatrical release in England in 1978, when Eaten Alive was released on home video by VIPCO under the title Death Trap in 1982, the film became one of the first of the so-called "video nasties" to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Its gratuitous violence became the focal point of many social critics in the UK, including a very vocal crusader for the moral minority Mary Whitehouse, and consequently all video copies were removed from retail stores. When the film was finally re-released on VHS in 1992, the BBFC edited out approximately 25 seconds from the original cut. The film was eventually released in its uncut version on DVD in 2000.
Aside from the controversy surrounding its video release, Eaten Alive received mostly negative responses from critics, and currently holds a 23% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on ten reviews. A contemporary review by David Pirie for the Time Out Film Guide called the film, "trite and unconvincing." However, voicing a minority opinion, critic Ken Hanke reappraised the film as a misunderstood masterpiece which captured "the other-worldly madness of the death of the amateur-night-in-Dixie brand of the American Dream."