That’s right, it’s week three of Crocsploitation Cinema, our salute to cinematic crocodilian anthropophagy! What, you thought the total lack of reader interest could dissuade us from this project? Think again, because this here is a labor of love. On with the man-eating crocodilian flicks!
This week’s picture: Alligator (1980)
In this classic b-flick, a father flushes his girl’s unwanted pet baby gator Ramon into the sewer, where it lives for years, growing humongous on a diet of chemically enhanced dog corpses dumped there by a shady animal experimentation lab. This monster movie masterpiece was scripted by John Sayles, now better known for politically-minded pictures (Matewan, Men With Guns, Silver City) with almost no giant alligator attack scenes in them...
Hey, my birthday is this month; does anybody want to buy me the awesome Spanish-language poster?
Robert Forster (Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominee for Jackie Brown, 1997) plays David Madison, a cop who teams up with herpetologist hottie Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker) to track down the beast they suspect is responsible for a series of unexplained dismemberings in their unnamed Missouri metropolis. Madison’s seen it! But no one believes him. Ain’t it always the way?
As it turns out, Dr. Kendall was that very same little girl whose pet gator got flushed all those years ago! The monster terrorizing the city is her Ramon! But if I remember right, she never learns this. (Her parents didn’t tell her they disposed of him via toilet.)
All the supporting characters are delightful, notably Colonel Brock (Henry Silva), an insufferable, condescending big game hunter who arrives on the scene in a khaki safari jacket, vows to slay the beast, and performs some alligator mating calls for a pretty TV reporter for one of the most off-putting come-ons you’ve ever seen before he is inevitably eaten alive.
Hey, did you know you can book Forster for speaking engagements? He gives positive-message talks on such topics as “delivering excellence, finding what’s true, respect, parenting, and the satisfaction derived from raising any job to the level of an art form.” Something tells me our next quarterly review meeting is going to be a lot more engaging. All this time we’ve just been having our bosses do the talking at those! What suckers we’ve been.
Alligator brings its 36-foot-long title character to life through a variety of old-school, analog special effects. In some scenes, it’s a giant puppet. In others, it’s a real alligator crawling around on a miniature set. It all works better than you might be picturing, and has a real inventive charm that Hollywood has all but traded away in exchange for more “realistic” looking CGI effects. Oh, well. That’s the price of progress, I guess.
This movie wastes no time getting to the gruesome stuff. In the very first sequence, a young Marisa and her family are on hand for feeding time at a Florida tourist trap alligator farm, and an employee gets mauled. As you can see for yourself, this happens literally less than a minute into the movie. I love the announcer’s reassurances, even as the attack is in progress. “He’s OK, folks!”
The ‘80s were a different time. As this kid walks the plank into a swimming pool, unaware that a monster gator waits below, modern audiences might take some comfort knowing there’s no way the filmmakers would let a poor, innocent child get et! But modern audiences would be horribly, horribly wrong.
We reach the climax of this bloody, two-hour alligat-orgy when the titular critter marauds its way through a wedding party, splashing gore every which way, and visiting grisly justice on the one-percenters in attendance, including the head of the crooked biotech lab where the gator-enlargement hormones were designed. It just goes to show that money can’t protect you from everything.
Alligator is a clever send-up of monster movie tropes and cop movie clichés that takes itself exactly seriously enough. It’s frightening, it’s fun, and if you haven’t seen it already, you’ve got a fabulous Friday night in your near future. I give Alligator four and one half deep, resonant gator grunts out of a possible five.
If you liked this post—well, you have our sympathies, because it’s just another way in which you are almost completely alone in this world. But you might also enjoy:
01. The Crocophile watches Rogue (2007)
02. The Crocophile watches Primeval (2007)