Alligator (1980)

There are moments in horror movies where even the most jaded of us can be upset at a visual or idea. In Alligator, there’s plenty to be disgusted by, but for me, the dead dogs being floated down a sewer were the closest I’ve come to being grossed out by a film in some time!

Somewhere in Florida, a young girl watches as an alligator nearly devours a man at a tourist trap. So of course, she asks to have an alligator of her own. Ramon the alligator and the young girl live happily together, as he becomes her best friend. But her drunk father comes home and flushes him down the toilet. It’s these kinds of beginnings that lead to animal massacres like we’ve about to watch. Fathers, don’t flush your daughter’s animals down the commode, I implore you!

Years later, a lab is working on a growth formula intended to make livestock bigger. So puppies are, of course, needed for the experiments. The discarded puppies end up in the sewer and Ramon is there, having survived for over a decade. Now, those dead puppies have turned Ramon into a 36-foot long monster who can’t stop eating.

David Madison (Robert Forster, The Black Hole) is on the case, along with his gravel throated boss Chief Clark (Michael V. Gazzo, who wrote A Hatful of Rain and almost won a Best Supporting Oscar for his acting in The Godfather Part 2) and reptile expert Marisa Kendall. Coincidentally, Marisa turns out to be Ramon’s childhood owner! What are the odds, you may ask? What are the odds indeed.

Turns out that nearly all of David’s partners die, a fact that comes true when Kelly (Perry Lang, The Hearse) gets torn apart while they’re in the sewers. No one believes David that there’s an alligator. And Slade (Dean Jagger, who was in King Creole with Elvis, a film written by the above mentioned Gazzo) is going to make sure that it stays that way, because his company is working on the hormones that have made Ramon into a monster.

That all changes when tabloid reporter Thomas Kemp takes photos of Ramon eating him, Yep, he makes the front page at the cost of his own life. Everyone is hunting the monster, even if David can’t catch him and gets suspended. But Ramon is on the prowl and soon kills a cop and then a young boy at a party. Even big game hunter Colonel Brock (Henry Silva, MegaforceEscape from the Bronx) can’t handle the gator and dies. The cops screw up again and Ramon goes wild at a wedding at the mayor’s (Jack Carter, The Glove and Catskil in Heartbeeps, because he was a Catskills comedian) house. The mayor, Slade and the groom, who was the lab guy conducting the experiments, all become apertifs for Ramon, who is wedding crashing like a champ. Chomp? Champ.

Finally, Marisa and David remember how Jaws ended and blow Ramon up real good, just in time for another baby alligator to get flushed down the toilet.

Lewis Teague (Cat’s EyeCujo) directed this from a script by John Sayles (PiranhaBattle Beyond the StarsThe Howling) that is filled with strange humor, like the first victim, a sewer worker, being named Ed Norton. Quentin Tarantino was inspired by this movie and Robert Forester is in Jackie Brown because of that fact.

This is a film that isn’t afraid to show you plenty of chewed up body parts. Or dead dogs. Nope, it’s going to go for your throat like it’s titular beast.

Some claim that this Ideal Toy game was based on the movie, but I’ve seen no evidence. It does line up well with the Jaws tie-n game that they made. Which would make sense, because Alligator also recycled Jaws‘ theme music along the way!

5 thoughts on “Alligator (1980)”

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