It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It's 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds... And it's about to break out!
Year of Release: 1980
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Lewis Teague
Robert Forster ... David
Robin Riker ... Marisa
Michael V. Gazzo ... Chief Clark
Dean Jagger ... Slade
Sydney Lassick ... Gutchel
Jack Carter ... Mayor
Perry Lang ... Kelly
Henry Silva ... Brock
Bart Braverman ... Kemp
John Lisbon Wood ... Mad Bomber
Micole Mercurio ... Joey's Mother
Sue Lyon ... ABC Newswoman
John F. Goff ... Ashe
Kane Hodder ... Alligator (uncredited)
Twelve years ago two incidents occurred which bore no similarity until now. After returning from their Florida vacation, the Kendal family decided their pet baby alligator was too much of a nuisance and flushed him down the toilet. At the same time, Slade Laboratories was conducting secret hormonal experiments with dogs and the dead dogs were disposed of in the city sewer. The baby alligator fed on the dead dogs... and after twelve years its body chemistry took on grotesque mutations. When several brutal murders are discovered, David Madison is put on the case to find the so-called Jack-the-Ripper killer. But this is no human psychopath - it is a ravaging animal-turned-monster bent on destroying everything in its wake.
Alligator, the movie that reminds us that if you shit on something long enough, it's eventually going to rebel. Sewer workers love this movie. Time an time again the higher ups in the sewer and drainage companies tell us not to flush anything but waste. Time and again, we don't listen. Old food, condoms, and of course, dead pets. We flush them all without the slightest bit of concern. After all, they're never gonna know where it came from. But they certainly got the last laugh when the little gator that got flushed chowed down on some growth hormone infested animal corpses, Hulked out, an made like the 1977 version of Elvis trapped in a Hostess cupcake warehouse. Toilet karma. It exists. And it saw what you did. So anyway, as the best representative of the giant gator sub-genre, there's bound to be some hitherto undiscovered cinematic ideals that bear closer scrutiny, an I'm the guy to flush 'em out. First, a 36' long gator has no problem maneuvering through 6' wide circular passageways, or hiding beneath water that's only waist deep on an average sized person. Second, the law will issue citations all day long to people for not wearing life jackets while boating. But they won't even wear 'em while standing in a boat going 50 mph as they hunt a giant man eating monster that's just below the surface. An third, with the exception of Burt Gummer in the Tremors series, the expert just never seems to be prepared. But I think the biggest lesson we should all take away from this one is to be detail oriented. This big time pharmaceutical company has enough political clout to get Robert Forster's character kicked off the force just for asking questions, but they wouldn't even need to do that if they hadn't hired such a bungler in the first place. Granted, you can't very well put an ad in the paper to find a guy to kidnap pets for your research, but there needs to be some sort of screening process for this kinda thing. Not only is the guy a bungler, but throwing the test subjects in the sewer? I'm sure the treatment facility a few miles downstream won't detect any of the chemicals you've been injecting into the animals, after all. An that's why they need all that political clout, to stamp out the guys that discover the poor decisions they've made that were easily avoidable in the first place. These big powerhouse companies could learn a lot from the Mafia. They deal with these mooks when they're still just little problems that're easily dealt with. Bottom line, there are no small details, only big screw ups that feed them growth hormone until they get out of hand.
The movie begins with a little girl watching Bayou Billy try to Steve Irwin an alligator into submission. Only he's about as sure-footed as Gerald Ford an pretty quick he's on his back an the gator puts the bite on him an starts givin' him shaken handler syndrome. So naturally, the little girl has to have one. Mom buys her a baby so she can take it home an sell it to Neville Brand when it gets too big to take over her knee anymore, only Dad flips his shit an flushes it down the crapper an before long it achieves splash down in the sewer. Then a giant rat shows up an starts teaching it martial arts so it can kung fu Dad for being an inconsiderate prick. No, that's no good. Forget that. 12 years later, a cop on the local police force is buying a puppy from a pet store owner that's about as nervous as a turkey on the morning before Thanksgiving. But just before the shop owner can break down and confess everything he's ever done since he stole a candy bar in the 3rd grade, the cop (Madison) gets a call from the chief an the chief tells 'em to come check out this really cool crime scene down at the water treatment plant. So when Madison shows up, the technicians show him a severed arm an then the chief shows 'em a dog that's been missing for a few weeks. Only the dog's owner comes down to identify the body an it's about five times bigger than it used to be. My guess is it committed suicide after she made it wear the shirt she uses to demonstrate its previous size. But we'll let Judge Wapner handle it from here. Elsewhere, the shop owner (Gutchel) is rounding up dogs without so much as a trapper's license an selling them to a pharmaceutical laboratory so they can butcher 'em an try to discover Viagra. The scientist working in the lab tells 'em to bring him more puppies an that he'd better not try dressing up cats as dogs again cause that only fooled him a couple times and it really made people question his credentials. So Gutchel takes the leftovers out to the sewer in a shopping cart, wearing the loudest shirt he can possibly find an starts tossing 'em down into the sewage for the CHUDs. Only one of 'em doesn't make it to the water an he has to climb down an get it, cause while this may be a terrible plan, he's at least not gonna half ass it. Then the Jaws theme starts creeping up on him an he's mauled by Leatherhead.
Not too long afterwards, his leg is discovered at the water treatment facility an they figure that if they can just get a few more pieces they can play Twister without all the effort of playing Twister. But this time, they detected cat litter. And there's only one man in town that could possibly have cat litter embedded in the bottom of his shoe. So Madison goes up to the research lab an asks the Bane of Puppies if he knows anything about Gutchel, but he pretends not to know anything, which isn't much of a stretch, an Madison has to leave for a press conference. Like most press conferences, virtually no questions get answered, an one of the journalists brings up the nasty topic of Madison's last partner. He was shot with Madison's gun, an the journalist is the tin foil hat type. Then Madison wants to go down into the sewer an after half the station claims they've all gotta wash their hair so they won't have to go, he ends up going with the rookie. But before they can even get out the door, Alice Cooper's wino younger brother shows up an claims he committed the murders an that he's got a bomb. But he's pretty easily distracted an they're able to detain him long enough to find out that the bomb is just a radio with a timer attached. Realistically, given the time period, the idea that "Whip It" by Devo might have come on was a real possibility, an I'd consider that a ticking time bomb ready to blow. Crisis averted. So after Madison an the rookie (Kelly) finally make it to the sewer, they wander around, unclear what they're looking for or where they're going, an pretty quick Kelly vanishes like piss in a pool an Madison has to slosh around lookin' for 'em until he pops up for a false jolt an scares the bejezus outta Madison. But the appeal of squashing around in feces begins to wear thin pretty quickly an they decide to head out, only Leatherhead pops up an they have to high step it outta there before he can get ahold of their bacon. Unfortunately, the man hole is wedged down real good an Madison can't get it off until the gator scarfs Kelly, which sends his terror strength through the roof. Some time later, Madison wakes up in the hospital, where the nurse tells him he busted out of a manhole an started screaming about how a gator ate his rookie. The chief thinks Madison should rest, but Madison's already got a real bad track record with partners an he wants to get back down there before the coincidences stop seeming like coincidences.
But instead, the chief takes Madison to see the local gator specialist to keep 'em from goin' after Leatherhead. Meanwhile, the jerkass journalist from the press conference hears about Leatherhead from the nurse an goes down into the sewer lookin' for it, or Kelly's corpse. Either way, the parasite eats well tonight. Only the parasite becomes the host when he discovers the flash of his camera doesn't holdup well against a wall of teeth. But they get the pictures developed a lot quicker than they did when they used this plot device in Jaws 2 an pretty quick the chief an Madison have the SWAT team down in the sewer beating pots an pans like a kitchen staff that just went on strike trying to force the gator out. While they wait, Madison an the gator specialist (Marisa, who happens to be the little girl from the opening sequence) make small talk about how she at least believes it's a gator, but that he's exaggerating the size. She's used to guys exaggerating about size. Only it turns out Madison really exaggerated the size, cause the SWAT team finds nothing at all an he an the chief have to sneak out before the press starts laughing at them like Howler monkeys. As they bail, they pass some kids playing baseball in the street. Once the kids clear a path and resume their game, the ground starts shaking like Godzilla's nearby doin' the Tokyo Stomp an Leatherhead bursts through the street an the kids experience a severe game delay. The first cop on the scene plows into the first car he can find an blows it up, giving himself a mild concussion in the process an stumbles out of his police cruiser just in time to be OMNOMNOMed by Leatherhead. But Leatherhead's getting tired from eating all these hapless dorks an plops down into the lake to catch a nap. The next day, the mayor brings in Wayne Newton's smug younger brother to eliminate the gator problem, which of course means Madison, Marisa an the chief are off the case cause little Wayne's got a really big gun he wants to fire off. But orders never stopped Madison before, an he's not about to ruin a perfect record for disobeying them, so he convinces Marisa they've gotta stick with it cause little Wayne's way too obnoxious to have any real chance of surviving the movie. So Madison an Marisa go back to the research lab to ask Chairman Meow the Puppy Destroyer some more questions, only this time the head of the company (Slade) puts in a call to the mayor an gets Madison thrown off the force for threatening the company's profits.
But before he leaves the station, Madison grabs some gator-busting equipment an he an Marisa head back into the sewer with the aid of a hitherto unseen guide an they slosh around for an extremely minimal amount of time, find nothing, and as one might expect, all this sewer searching gets Marisa an Madison all hot an bothered an they have to go back to his place to put a headboard shaped dent in the wall. That's the way you make a run-on sentence, folks. Relentless commas. So anyway, after Madison unloads, he unloads his baggage regarding his murdered partner on Marisa. An women say guys only wanna sleep afterwards. Meanwhile, out on the mean streets of wherever the Hell they are, little Wayne's acquired the services of some local guys in exchange for beer money, an well, like anything else, you get what you pay for, because within a very short period of time little Wayne finds his quarry and, who knew? Alligators have this rough scaly skin surrounding them that's even thicker when the thing's 36' long an after Leatherhead is able to stop laughing at the attempt on his life, little Wayne Danke Schoens his way down Leatherhead's gullet. This is the way he deathrolls. Then Madison an Marisa head out to a greasy spoon diner where some of the guys from the force come in an tell 'em that the hunter became the hunted an little Wayne's gone to the big Vegas stage in the sky. Then Madison gets pissy at Marisa cause she's sorry that he's bummed an he runs her off so he can stare blankly at his french toast platter for awhile. The next morning, he goes an apologizes for being a big dickface so she'll keep helping him with all the thinking he needs done. Back in the interesting part of the movie, the cops have tracked Leatherhead to the river, an they're riding around in their speed boat trying to see how many times they have to shoot at it before a bullet ricochets off an puts someone's eye out. But Leatherhead submerges for awhile, completely baffling the pursuers, then reemerges just in front of the boat an they get sick hang-time as they sail over the living ramp. Unfortunately, both the cops fall out of the boat when this happens an Leatherhead eats one of 'em an makes the other one look a lot like Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump. After that rousing success, Madison an Marisa figure the next stop on Leatherhead's path of destruction is the party that's about to take place over at Slade's place, an for some reason they still wanna prevent him from chowing down on the snooty sophistos, so it's off to Slade's pad for the gripping conclusion to Alligator.
This one's a lot of fun. In the recent past, we've gotten a lot of the killer gator/crocodile movies, but you probably noticed the term, "recent" past. So you can probably surmise that they're not any good. The first Lake Placid wasn't completely atrocious, as they did use a decent amount of practical special effects, but most of these that're coming out now are produced by, or modeled after, Sci Fi original features. Xtinction: Predator X, Primeval, Lake Placid 2 - 3, Crocodile, Crocodile 2: Death Swamp, Croc, Krocodylus, an a few of the ultra God awful "vs" style creature movies. I haven't seen most of these an I fear the day when I've nothing left to watch and must do so. But to get back to the point, giant gator movies are tough to do with conventional effects. Real tough. But, you know what else they are? A metric ton more watchable. There's really not a great deal to mention about it before the end paragraph where the specifics are broken down and rated, but I just wanted to point that out. The gator flicks with conventional effects are not nearly as numerous as the ones created by CG effects, and unfortunately, as difficult as the effects are to produce convincingly, a lot of them aren't much better than the newer CG versions. But this one is an exception.
So, on the breakdown, lets start with the plot. Standard mutant monster plot. Completely plausible (by horror movie standards), well thought out, well executed, but a bit lacking in the originality department. Not a problem. The special effects, for the most part, I find pretty good. They don't hold the shot on the gator too long, and for the most part, they look pretty good. There are a couple scenes that don't hold up all that well, particularly shots where the mouth is open particularly wide. And as you'd expect, there's a few shots of real gators with miniatures nearby, just so that you're not looking at a rubber creation every time the gator's on screen. These shots really aren't too bad. You can certainly tell, but when can't you tell that a miniature is a miniature? The one shot with the gator that I thought was extremely well done was the scene in which Henry Silva's character is being eaten in the alleyway. It's dark, and somewhat short, but it's extremely well executed. Probably the best scene in the movie. Overall, decent special effects. The acting isn't bad, Robert Forster is entertaining as the cynical David "like I give a damn" Madison. Michael Gazzo an Dean Jagger are also both entertaining as the over the top police chief, and evil drug company president, respectively. As is Sydney Lassick (Carrie, Ratboy) as the "so nervous you couldn't get a pin in his ass with a jackhammer" pet shop owner. So I thought the acting performances were all at least decent, if not good. The shooting locations were great, the sewer, even though it's not possible for a gator that large to really exist down there, is fantastic. Additionally, the city streets all look like real city streets. Particularly the area where the kids were playing baseball and the alleyway scenes with Henry Silva's character. They add a certain degree of realism that's important for movies with run amok giant monsters created by science stuff. The soundtrack isn't too bad, there's a lot of use of the public domain music that was popularized by the original Twilight Zone series, which is both amusing and effective if used properly. I didn't see any problem with it's usage here, the tracks seemed to be used at appropriate times and helped to provide a little suspense and intensity. In the end, this one's pretty enjoyable. Not a "good" movie, but a Hell of a lot of fun. Highly recommended for fans of the monster sub-genre. Oh... and just ignore the terrible DVD cover art, nothing in the movie looks like that.