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Monday 3 June 2013

Burl reviews Alligator! (1980)

Hi, well, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to do a review for you, finally – a review of a massive alligator movie called, naturally, Alligator! Ha ha, it’s kind of surprising that it took someone five long years to cross-pollinate Jaws with the age-old myth of alligators in the sewers, but they finally did it with this picture, and I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait!

Ha ha, like Piranha and The Howling, this is a genre picture with a script from John Sayles, an excellent writer and director with many indie-type movies to his credit! I’ve always liked Matewan, and Lone Star was pretty good, and so was The Secret of Roan Inish, and his early picture The Return of the Secaucus Seven is something I remember enjoying quite a little bit, and it was also inspiring to me, a budding maker of independent motion pictures myself!

Anyway, the story Sayles concocted is pretty simple, and like Piranha it hits many of the bases we all remember from the hijinks on Amity Island! We meet a little girl who gets a pet alligator and names him Ramón, and then later the girl’s dad finds his shoes all chewed up or something, and he flushes the little reptile right down the basin! But against all odds Ramón survives, and he starts munching on dead dogs that have been injected with growth steroids and dumped into the sewer system by an unscrupulous chemical company! Ha ha, great set up!

Flash forward to quite a few years later, and sewer workers, including one called Ed Norton, ha ha, start disappearing! Robert Forster plays the investigating cop, and by garr, no one will believe his tale that a giant alligator is putting a biting on the hapless citizens of this no-name Midwestern town that certainly isn’t St. Louis! Finally Ramón busts out and begins prowling the streets, and only then do the city fathers hire on Henry Silva, playing a big game hunter and the closest thing the movie has to a Robert Shaw surrogate!

Of course Forster is the Roy Scheider clone – the two fellows even kind of look and act the same, ha ha – and the Richard Dreyfuss of this film is the little girl from the beginning of the picture, who has grown up and become a scientific expert on reptiles! She also becomes Forster’s ladyfriend, something Dreyfuss never managed in Jaws, and they work together to rid this town of its reptile problem! 

Alligator is a highly enjoyable little monster movie, and I’ll tell you why! The cast is simply marvelous, for starters: you get Forster, who’s always good; Silva, having lots of fun as the pompous hunter; growly Michael V. Gazzo as the chief; Sidney “Silent Madness” Lassick as the creepy chemical company dogsbody, ha ha; Dean "X the Unknown" Jagger as the head of that same company; Perry Lang, from Spring Break and Teen Lust, as a doomed rookie; and big Mike Mazurki in probably one of the tiniest roles of his career! Robin Riker is pretty good as the lizard doctor too, and Sue "Lolita" Lyon even shows up, strangely enough! Ha ha! The picture has some top-flight trick effects in it also, better than those in Jaws I would venture! And Sayles’s anti-corporate sensibilities really come to the fore in this movie, and I certainly liked that, big old leftie that I am!

It’s a solid johnson all around, a fast-paced and superb popcorn picture with plenty of munching on screen as well as off! The limitations of the budget show themselves now and again of course, and there are points where you want a little more suspense or horror than the film seems able to muster, but overall it’s a fine production! I give it three slaptail-destroyed limos!

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