Peter’s Retro Reviews: Alligator (1980)

January 13, 2014

Alligator Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

We haven’t done a giant-animal-on-a-rampage-creature-feature type of flick for a while, have we, so I guess it’s about time we visit that particular genre again. There have been plenty of bad ones made over the years and I’m sure we’ll get to some of those later on down the line, but this week I thought we’d take a look at one that’s actually pretty decent. Story-wise it’s pretty simple and let’s be honest here… most of these types of movies usually are, but does that also automatically mean they’re bad? No, it doesn’t, because this genre normally tend to be fairly entertaining and Alligator from 1980 is no exception.

It starts out on an alligator farm where Marisa and her parents are visiting. They watch a show and then buy a baby alligator for Marisa to take home as a pet. Now, I would argue that having an alligator for a pet is probably not the best idea in the world, but this being the type of movie that it is… logic is basically thrown out the window from the get-go! She names the alligator Ramon, which I, for one, find highly amusing, but the joy doesn’t last long though. One day Marisa’s father gets angry with her and flushes poor Ramon down the toilet and he ends up in the sewers.

Chief Clark, Marisa and David discuss their options

Chief Clark, Marisa and David discuss their options.

12 years later, sewer workers start to disappear only leaving a limb or two behind as evidence that something horrible has happened to them. Police officer David Madison, played by Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Delta Force) is assigned to the case and ventures down into the sewers accompanied by a young police officer named Kelly. He’s played by Perry Lang (Eight Men Out, Jennifer 8) who’s also a director with lots of TV credits to his name. During their search there’s one scene that’s particularly creepy and that is when the two men are checking the map to see where they are… keep an eye on what goes on behind them!

Unfortunately it doesn’t end well for Kelly… he gets eaten by Ramon who has now grown to gigantic proportions. David narrowly escapes, but when he explains what happened, no-one believes him. Not surprisingly though, because who would believe that a 36 feet long alligator lives beneath the city?

Breaking out...

Breaking out…

The reason behind Ramon’s size is because of the particular diet he’s been eating over the years. A nearby laboratory has been doing tests with an experimental growth formula, injected into lab animals supplied by a pet-store owner, Gutchel, played by Sydney Lassick (Lady in White). He’s a bit of a sleaze and is also responsible for discarding the carcasses of said lab animals. I guess you can all see where I’m going with this, huh? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these animals are what Ramon’s been feeding on, as Gutchel has systematically been dumping them down into the sewers for many years.

Big-game hunter Brock, hot on the trail...

Big-game hunter Brock, hot on the trail…

David’s attempts to prove what’s going on leads him to a herpetologist (reptile expert) named Marisa Kendall, whom he later strikes up a romance with. Oh, and by the way? She’s the same Marisa who bought the alligator at the start of the movie, remember? She’s portrayed by the beautiful Robin Riker who’s done a lot of TV work including shows like Brothers or Get a Life, for instance.

What finally convinces the police to send a SWAT team down into the sewers is the death of a nosy reporter who managed to take photos of the alligator and of his own demise. Of course, we all know that their initial plan won’t work… it only makes the alligator emerge to wreak even more havoc aboveground. The scene where it breaks up through the sidewalk looks pretty cool and later, when Ramon crashes a wedding-reception, we really get to see some gory giant gator mayhem! He goes rampant and starts chowing down on wedding-guests left and right. Chaotic, might be a good word to describe this scene! And bloody!

The wedding buffet is open.

The wedding buffet is open.

I actually like this movie! Very much so, even! It’s got a good solid cast and apart from the great Robert Forster, whom I’ve already mentioned, we also get to see the awesome Henry Silva (Sharky’s Machine, Code of Silence, La Mala Ordina) as Brock. He’s a big-game hunter who’s called in to track Ramon down when things start to get “slightly” out of control. He’s hilarious and actually made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Other recognizable faces are Michael V. Gazzo (Black Sunday, The Godfather: Part II) as Chief Clark and Dean Jagger (Vanishing Point) as the tycoon who’s been sponsoring the growth-hormone experiments. There’s also Jack Carter (The Glove) as the mayor and as Kemp, the nosy reporter, we see Bart Braverman (Vega$).

Alligator was directed by Lewis Teague and I’m almost positive that you’ve seen at least one or two of his other endeavors. He’s responsible for Cujo, The Jewel of the Nile, Wedlock and Cat’s Eye among others.

And yes… I know it’s clearly a rip-off of the movie Jaws, but don’t let that discourage you. If you like giant monster mayhem and thrills with a little comedy thrown in, I urge you to seek this one out. Oh, and for you cinephiles out there… Be sure to look for the quick references to The Third Man (1949) and The Honeymooners (1955-1956)!

Until next time, my friends… Why not tell me your thoughts on this movie? That is, of course, if you’ve seen it. If not… go watch it and THEN come back and tell me what you thought!

And remember… be careful what you flush down the toilet! You never know? It might come back to bite you in the a**

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