- Movie Rating -

Alligator (1980)

| November 14, 1980

I could easily get myself in trouble with the Grand High Counsel of Film Critics for this, but I am kind of alone in liking Alligator.  Here is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, does what it intends to do and does it with a degree of efficiency.  You get what you pay for and that’s all you can really ask.  This is the best movie ever made about a potential urban myth.

Screenwriter John Sayles knows that he has a potential dud on his hands here, I mean, he’s dealing with a series of murders committed by a rogue alligator that has escaped from the sewers.  To combat the requirements of such a plot, he gives it a sciencey spin: it traces the life cycle of a baby alligator that is flushed down into the sewers were it spends its life eating the bodies of dead animals that were illegally dumped into the river by workers in a laboratory that was doing genetic tests on animals.

What crawls out of the sewer is something akin to a reptilian Jaws, it’s 37-feet-long, has a disturbingly short temper and has a hide so tough that it is virtually impenetrable to bullets.  Taking a note from Jaws again, we get a hero who is a police officer, this one named David Madison (Robert Forster).  And just like in Jaws he tries to report the news to his superiors only to be shut down for exaggerating the situation. 

Aaaand just like Brody in Jaws, David finds an expert in the field to help combat the menace, in this case Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker). 

Aaaand just to add a bit of unbelievable irony to the mix, it turns out that Kendall owned this particular alligator when she was a child, thus having a hard backstory with this particular animal similar to the problem that Hooper had in Jaws

AAAAND since we’re still on the Jaws wagon, Madison goes out to find a grizzled old hunter named Brock (the great Henry Silva) to help kill the beast.

Sayles and Bond director Lewis Teague know what they have here and they do all that they can to make it work.  They know they have a low budget.  They know that their film is utterly ridiculous.  They know that the plot is nothing but dead air.  But they give their film a sense of style and energy and fun.  It’s not great.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend spending money on it, but its better than it needs to be and I for that I liked it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized