Angry Robot

The Michael Moriarty Project stage one

The Michael Moriarty Project: Island of the Michael Moriarty
stage one: deep background

Well, I intended to start by renting Q: The Winged Serpent, but Queen Video didn’t have it. (Shock! No sweat; I think they’ll bring it up from the other location.) I would have rented It’s Alive 3: Island of the Alive, but I was concerned that if I hadn’t watched It’s Alive! and It’s Alive 2, I might have trouble following it. So, I decided on the first of the series, which doesn’t even have Moriarty in it. But I was not disappointed.

One-line summary: a baby is born, and goes on a killing spree until it is shot.

This is a horribly made film. The continuity was fucked, a good colour timing was sorely missed, and I swear at one point you can hear an unexplained cough – either a baffling mistake by a flu-ridden sound editor, or a subversive commentary by someone involved with the production. This is also an intermittently hilarious film. Like many B movies, there are long stretches of monotony, then sudden onslaughts of (inadvertent) comedy genius. In this case, there are laughs any time the baby shows up. That’s not often; Larry Cohen was wise enough to show very little of the little guy, possibly because a) unseen monsters are scarier, and b) the doll they used was a real piece of work. Fangs, googly eyes, the whole deal. It even leaps on people! Word to the wise: if you are ever forced to deal with a killer baby, or plan to enter a killer baby-infested area, wear adequate neck protection.

But semi-finally, this is a somewhat thought-provoking movie. I imagine that Cohen lined up deals for some shlock horror pictures, but felt superior to the task, so he made all of them subversive in some way. A scene in which dozens of cops descend, guns drawn, on an innocent baby – bad tip-off, I suppose – made me laugh, then wonder if this was not some inspired criticism of our tough-on-crime treatment of juvenile offenders. Other themes are explored, such as nature vs. nurture, fear of medicine, the environment, parental responsibility and self-blame. It’s not going to win a Nobel prize or anything, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

From a Moriarty angle there was one cool aspect. Protagonist John Ryan has a scene at the beginning where he’s in a hospital waiting room chatting with other fathers-to-be. I guess he’s supposed to be “acting happy”, but he renders it with such a strange swagger that it seems like he’s about to punch someone. He sways, glances about intimidatingly, chews gum like a maniac, and speaks in a sing-song voice. All in all, there was a bit of a Walken/Moriarty thing going on. Maybe Cohen’s directing style helped form the Moriarty persona that we all know and love today. It’s too soon to tell.

I’ll close with some great Michael Moriarty facts:

  1. Unlike most actors, who are shrimpy people, Michael Moriarty is 6’ 4”.
  2. In 2000, Michael Moriarty wrote a film called Hitler meets Christ, and played the part of Hitler.