Sergio Martino directed some of my favorite films of all time, such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark, 2019: After the Fall of New York, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key as well other completely out there films like Hands of Steel, Torso, American Tiger, The Mountain of the Cannibal God and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. Throw in a script co-written by one of my favorite Italian scuzzfest actors and directors — George Eastman — and you have the recipe for a movie that should blow my mind.
The Great Alligator should be, well, great. And there are moments where it feels like it’s going to be, as it attempts to be a mash-up of Jaws and Cannibal Holocaust, which again, seems like a great idea. Throw in the gorgeous Barbara Bach before she married Ringo Starr, Claudio Cassinelli (Murder Rock) and Mel Ferrer — who went from the A-list and marrying Audrey Hepburn to appearing in some of the most crazed films, like The Visitor, Nightmare City and Eaten Alive! to name but three — and you have a cast ready to make it happen. And the central theme of the movie — tourists anger the god of a resort island who then becomes a giant alligator and eats them all — is great, too.
Turns out that Kuma, that river god, doesn’t like how Mel Ferrer runs Paradise House and wants none of his native people to work with the whites any longer. The natives then wipe out anyone that works there, no matter where they come from and Cassinelli and Bach must climb the waterfall that Stacy Keach fell off of in The Mountain of the Cannibal God to find the only person who may be able to save them, Prophet Jameson (Dr. Menard from Zombi 2).
That said, once the face painted natives and a giant alligator attack everyone, burning down Paradise House and menacing screaming tourists, who survives and what will be left of them is up for grabs. Look for appearances by Bobby Rhodes (the pimp from Demons), Romano Puppo (Trash’s father from Escape from the Bronx) and Sylvia Collatina (Mae Freudenstein, the ghost girl of The House by the Cemetery)!
The huge body count, numerous alligator attacks and attempts at being something more than a Spielberg clone — outside of the way the attacks are filmed and that Ferrer keeps everything a secret so tourists keep coming — make this a movie that I enjoyed on some level. But much like Martino’s post-giallo efforts, I keep wishing for him to go from simply good to flat out amazing. The ideas are there. The execution, however, is not.