Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My friends, here goes a movie that’s near and dear to my heart. ‘Alligator’ has the distinction of being the first R-rated movie I was able to get into without external assistance. I was around thirteen when this movie was released and what thirteen year old boy wouldn’t want to see a movie about a big-ass alligator eating people? Alas, nobody would take me so I gambled and decided to see if I could get in and not get embarrassingly booted by the ticket clerk. With sweaty palms I gave this clerk my $1.50… yes, one dollar and fifty cents… he looked at me suspiciously but then took my money and ushered me into the theater. It was a tense moment and I almost collapsed in fear, realizing that drug smuggling would not be a vocation that I was emotionally designed for, and settled in to watch my first ever R-rated movie all by myself like a big boy. Of course at the time my young, unencumbered brain declared ‘Alligator’ one of best movies ever made, which it wasn’t, but with the on-screen mayhem being pretty high, Robin Riker fueling many a adolescent boys dreams and the constant fear that somebody could walk down the aisle at any time and forcibly remove me from the theater, that was a glorious day at the show. Thirty years later we have revisited ‘Alligator’ for the first time in a long time and it is still an enjoyable time with an angry reptile, just not the best movie ever made.

So little Marissa likes reptiles and her mum thought a baby alligator would make a good pet. Now I’m not sure why by Marissa’s old man is going ape-shit in the background but he decides to flush Ramon, the name Marissa gave this alligator, down the toilet. Poor Ramon.

A dozen years later both Marissa and Ramon have grown up to near cartoonish proportions, Marissa becoming overdeveloped herpetologist Dr. Kendall with Ramon turning into a fifty foot gator prowling the sewer system of Los Angeles pretending to be some city in Missouri. Genetics and casting was responsible for Marissa but Ramon is the result of some evil corporation, probably Monsanto since this takes place in Missouri, dumping experimental hormone infested dead dogs in the sewer system, and Ramon is eating people like it’s nobody’s business.

Investigating the case of the Missing Sewer Workers is hardcore balding cop David Madison (Robert Forrester) who is slightly damaged due to the death of his partner some years ago. It wasn’t his fault that his partner got shot that day, that is until he told the story to his eventual love interest Dr. Kendall, at which point we were able to surmise that it was all his fault. Worst partner ever. If you don’t believe me then ask young officer Kelly (Perry Lang) who was assisting Madison in a sewage investigation. Madison might not look all that athletic but put a fifty foot alligator on his ass and observe as the younger, seemingly more fit officer Kelly gets left in the dust and devoured for his trouble.

At first nobody believes the babbling officer Madison, but soon they will all believe. You would think finding a fifty foot gator wouldn’t be all that difficult, particularly when they bring the Great White Hunter Mr. Brock on the scene, played by the amazing Henry Silva, but stealth is one of this gator’s main attributes. Eventually Madison and Kendall figure out the lowdown on the getdown, that evil Corp is responsible for this nonsense, a discovery that gets Madison fired from his gig. But by this time Madison has turned into Ahab and the gator has become his Moby Dick. The National Guard can’t do jack but the ex-cop, his hot sidekick, an alarm clock, a touch of methane and few sticks of random dynamite will be able to do wonders.

At its heart ‘Alligator’ is honestly just a cheesy ‘Nature Gone Wild’ monster movie, just one with an awful lot really good character actors in front of the camera and some notable talent behind the camera. Since we watch way too many Sci-Fi Channel original movies we know all to well what happens to ‘Nature Gone Wild’ monster movie with none of those attributes, so this is appreciated even thirty years after the fact. Robert Forester still plays a grumpy old man about as well as anybody, even though he was in his thirties when this movie was made, old-timers Michael Gazzo, Jack Carter, Henry Silva and Dean Jagger made the most out of their limited roles, Robin Riker was fun to watch in motion and director Lewis Teague used all his skill to hide the shortcomings of his animatronic alligator. Even thirty years ago noted liberal John Sayles, who wrote this script, found a way to give our gator a social conscious as the creatures death-dealing was light on the poor people in the ghetto but rained hell on those upper crust snobs who were responsible for his existence.

The gore level was surprisingly high and probably would still rate this movie an R-rating today, and I must’ve blocked it out when that poor little kid brought it in the swimming pool because I don’t remember seeing that.

So even though ‘Alligator’ is a semi-standard wild animal gone nuts monster movie, it is still among the best of the genre, noting that this is a genre that includes ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Birds’ so that is lofty company. Sorry ‘Mega Piranha’ and ‘DinoShark’.

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