Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Animals Run Amok!: Alligator (1980)

So, the first episode of the fourth season of "24" wasn't really doing it for me and I took a break from my marathon to watch the movie that Netflix sent me. The amusing urban legend of an alligator loose in a city's sewer system gets the official movie treatment in this little gem from 1980 simply called Alligator.

Amok-y plot: In 1968, a little girl's pet alligator named Ramone is unceremoniously flushed down the toilet in Chicago. Feeding on the bodies of genetically altered pets disposed in the sewer for twelve years, the alligator has grown gigantic and the dead body parts it leaves behind leads cop David Madison (the lovely Robert Forster) to investigate what's going on.

First of all, I giggled at the "Welcome to Missouri" sign at the beginning. Oh, Missouri, my lovely home state, which nobody who doesn't or hasn't lived here knows nothing about. But it's nice to see you get some screen time in a movie for once, albeit only 2 seconds.

Alligator was interesting to start off with, with the scenes of the family at the alligator farm, but after that there are several disjointed scenes and the movie actually moves a little too fast for me. There is almost no room for any kind of suspense. But I guess suspense isn't really the name of the game here, because the scenes with the alligator are suh-weet. When Madison and Kelly first go down into the sewer, there's a great little scare moment when their flashlight shines behind them and you just see a shot of the alligator's jaws.

It is not until Ramone makes perhaps the greatest entrance in cinematic history that the fun stuff really starts. He busts his way out of the street through the manhole (although we'll have to excuse the fact that he could not have fit in the manhole, let alone close enough to the top to break through). Anyway. Soon after this, he bites off a cop's leg and spends the next hour or so thwarting everybody in the city from catching and/or killing him.

The film culminates with Ramone the gator crashing a wedding at the home of the head of the pharmaceutical company responsible for his enormous size and insatiable appetite. Much like Jaws, Ramone seemed to have something against one certain person and deliberately sought this dude out to smash the shit out of his car, crushing him inside. The rich muckety-mucks always seem to get it the worst - some sort of message, I'm thinking? After this, Ramone is given another rather unceremonious send-off when he's blown up by Forster back in the sewer. I was hoping for something a little more exciting than this, but I guess it'll have to do.

With movies like this, we always gotta talk about the creature effects. Honestly, I was expecting some hokey CG and lots of close-ups to disguise the badly built mechanical gator, but I was pleasantly surprised. The gator perhaps doesn't move as fast as a real one could, but he looks real and the effects of him chomping away at various people (in some instances, actually swallowing them whole - is that possible?) are very fun and mostly realistic looking. The bright red blood reminiscent of Italian horror is perhaps not the greatest looking, however.

Michael V. Gazzo, better known as Frank Pentangeli from The Godfather: Part II (love you, man), wonderfully plays the chief of police next to Forster's disgruntled cop Madison, a loner who suffers from a case of bad hair plugs. The big game hunter brought in to kill the gator is some smarmy-acting dude that I don't really care for, and the hot herpetologist lady with the whacko mother is likable enough.

There are some obvious references to the film's predecessor Jaws, especially the part where the police are chasing the gator in the canal. We get a true Jaws point-of-view shot coming up beneath the frantic swimmers, with some music that oddly resembles the Jaws theme. Hm. The whole movie is a tongue-in-cheek... well, not exactly rip-off of Jaws, more like a gory homage to the genre of animals run amok that Jaws helped create. They even include the "Oh my gosh, they killed a kid!!!" scene when a couple of children are playing "walk the plank" in the family swimming pool and the gator is waiting below. How you don't see a 30-foot alligator in a lighted pool is beyond me. I'm thinking the shadow would be rather large.

All in all, not a bad Animals Run Amok for its time and age. There's some great actors, funny moments, and although there's seems to be a lot going on at the same time, Alligator is a quick and fun look at what happens when there's a fight of Man Vs. Beast.


  1. Being a resident of Florida, I have a special place in my heart for this movie.

    I'm hoping that I can get a copy of "Grizzly" (1976) on DVD so that I can give myself nightmares from watching a "double feature" of that and "Alligator" one of these nights.

    But my all - time favorite "animals run amok" movie is "Willard", especially the remake with Crispin Glover.

  2. With regards to "Grizzly", its a shame that William Girdler was killed in that helicopter crash at the age of only 30 because he could`ve easily been another Joe Dante.

  3. yay, one of the best croc-horror-movies out there. love the scene when it breaks through the concrete!

    btw: avoid the sequel at all costs!

  4. I always have fun with this one, and the special effects for the budget are pretty impressive. Still havent seen the sequel!

  5. I've never seen this, but that picture of Ramone bursting out of the concrete has convinced me that I have to see it. He looks like he's saying, "I'm gonna get chu!"

  6. Like I said, that scene of him busting out of the concrete is the greatest entrance by a villain in cinema! Very entertaining little film, I hope you see it and like it.