EXPLOITATION ALLEY: ALLIGATOR!

alligator-1980-posterLast week I decided to write about a more recent film, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, just to switch things up. This week, for E.A. #10, I thought it’d be cool to go back a while to 1980 and write about a movie that I grew up loving: the laughable but highly entertaining ALLIGATOR. So, get ready to flush your pet gators down the toilet and hope that they don’t end up mutated in the sewers, it’s EXPLOITATION ALLEY time.
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Other than creating the summer blockbuster event and terrifying audiences worldwide, one of the things that Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic JAWS brought us was an endless barrage of clones. Whether it be 1977’s ORCA, Joe Dante’s 1978 film PIRANHA, or in this case, ALLIGATOR, JAWS definitely brought us killer fish, reptiles, and everything in between. Written by John Sayles (who also wrote PIRANHA and THE HOWLING and went on to direct films himself, including one of my all-time favorite films, LONE STAR) and directed by Lewis Teague (CUJO, CAT’S EYE), ALLIGATOR begins with a young girl being enthralled by reptiles and getting a pet baby alligator. Her mean dad decides, while she’s at school, to flush the baby gator down the toilet, eventually leading to the sewers. Skipping ahead a decent amount of years later, homicide detective David Madison (Robert Forster from JACKIE BROWN, THE DESCENDANTS) is investigating a series of deaths in the sewers and animals that seem to be larger than they should be. We find out that a local pet store owner has been nabbing local animals and selling them to a company that is doing illegal growth experiments on animals and discarding the remains into the sewers…what a jerk.
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It doesn’t take long as a viewer to piece everything together, it isn’t a movie were you really need to think much at all, and that works for this one. Eventually David is sent to a reptile expert, Marisa, who ends up being the girl from the beginning grown up (what are the chances? Haha), and Marisa begins to help David figure out what’s going on. We also get a subplot of sorts about how David has bad luck with partners, after a past operation ended up with his partner being killed. Naturally, nobody in his police force wants to ride with him, except for a young rookie who agrees to search the sewers with David, eventually getting eaten to death by guess what…A GIANT ALLIGATOR!!
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Nobody really believes David’s story, until a reporter goes into the sewers and gets some shots of the gator before becoming food himself. This leads to a huge operation where cops, swat teams and pretty much everyone and their mother gets involved. Cops get their guns, clubs, ROCKET LAUNCHERS???(yeah..) and invade the sewers but end up not finding the gator.
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Embarrassed but unshaken, David doesn’t stop investigating and eventually pieces the sketchy company testing animals and the gator together, and with one phone call from the tycoon who owns the company to the mayor, David gets fired, but not before jacking some dynamite and timer from the evidence room. Like anyone who got fired for accusing doctors of illegal animal growth and accidentally causing a massive Alligator would do, David naturally sleeps with Marisa and all is well, UNTIL….The gator explodes out of the sewer and into the streets, ready to eat some people. This leads to the one scene that is downright mean. A couple brat kids dressed like pirates are making another youngster dressed like a cowboy walk the plank into their darkened pool (in which the gator is chilling out for the time being), and just as the lights in the pool pop on and the kid falls into the pool, his eyes see the gator and he falls to his death. It’s a bum out of a scene, but rest assured, we forget about it a few seconds later, when we get a bloody as hell scene in which Mr. Alligator crashes the wedding that the mayor and the head of the company are both attending, and goes on a feeding frenzy, eating folks left and right. Naturally, when you’re getting chased by a gigantic alligator, you do huge acrobatic flips over people and tables so we get quite a few of those, and even the gator destroying a limo with its tail. Nonstop fun here. David and Marisa head into the sewers and after a chase and some almost deaths, David blows that green sucker up and the day is safe again…until we see another baby gator fall into the sewer…yeah.
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Like I said, it’s not a thinking movie, and the chances that A.) Marisa would grow up to be the exact expert who helps find her former alligator or B.) The gator would randomly find the wedding of bad guys who accidentally mutated it,… are very slim. With that being said though, it’s always been easy for me to leave logic at the door with this one, because it’s a fun, silly ride the whole time. It’s obviously made to cash in on the success of JAWS, it even has a variation of the JAWS theme playing during the scenes where someone’s about to get eaten by the alligator, but that’s part of the charm, it’s all fun.


Until next week folks, have a good one!

  • Phil Fasso

    John Sayles had a thing for feeding kids to bad critters in his films, as evidenced here and in PIRANHA.  Just part of his charm, I guess (though no baseball players ate children in EIGHT MEN OUT, if memory serves correct…..)

  • RobertGalluzzo

    I haven’t seen this since I was a kid but I used to love it so, so much. It also scared the crap out of me! You inspired me to re-seek it out, but it’s out of print and pretty pricey on-line! Perhaps I’ll hunt for the import that features 1 & 2 together!

    • http://twitter.com/jerryisawesome SMITH

      I’ve had it on VHS for so long, I had to dust it off and do a write up haha. I wish Scream Factory would do a bluray for it.