Saturday, 19 December 2009

Alligator (1980)



When I was about 10 years old I rented Alligator from the local VHS store and I think I only watched it once, not being overly enthused with it. I never remembered much about it to be fair, but when I sat down with the film 12 years later I enjoyed it quite a lot. Released in 1980 and directed by Lewis Teague, Alligator went on to receive a positive critical reception and today basks in its “cult classic” status.

The plot is that a young girl (Marisa) is bought a baby alligator when visiting some Floridian tourist trap with her parents - They witness bad moustaches, Hawaiian shirts and a clumsy dude get his leg savaged by a short tempered gator. When she gets home with her new pet, she names him Ramon - and after Razor Ramon and Ramon Diaz, he’s the most famous Ramon I can really think of. Still, not the butchest name for a soon to be man eater is it? Anyway, Marisa’s father comes home one day, angry over who knows what and decides that flushing the baby gator down the crapper will make his random rage subside, not giving a shit about his daughter’s feelings – Now that’s parenting! Once he’s travelled down all the poo pipes Ramon arrives in his new home – the sewer, where he happens to feast upon the remains of lab animals, which cause him to grow rapidly in size. 12 years later, a series of mysterious killings have been taking place below the city of Chicago and Officer David Madison (played by Robert Forster) is on the case investigating whether or not they can be attributed to a suspected psycho. Madison dresses like it’s the 90s and he’s stumbled back in time to the 80s whilst only suffering from the side-effect of a receding hairline! He also manages to magically change from a snazzy pair of blue Adidas sneakers to galoshes each time he ventures into the sewer system! Wait, did the world miss the second coming or something? Apparently Lewis Teague didn’t when he cast Robert “the messiah” Forster in the lead role….


So quite a few chompings take place and Madison decides to check out the sewer, reluctantly taking along a rookie cop, Officer Kelly (played by Perry Lang) who is the only guy with the nose to volunteer.
I instantly recognized Perry Lang playing Kelly from his later role as Skip in the “Trust Fund Pirates” episode of Miami Vice. He’s a fucking annoying prick as both characters let me tell you. Sadly for the young cop, he gets munched by Ramon while Madison is helpless to act, unable to hang onto the kid whilst trying to force open a manhole cover to escape. Madison then wakes up in the hospital, with his chief and a cocksucking reporter named Kemp (played by Bart Braverman) wanting answers. The police chief seems to have a yellow moustache!? And what’s wrong with his voice? All he ever does is bark “no comment” to the press like a fucking dog. He doesn’t believe Madison’s claims that there’s a large alligator living in the sewer. Kemp seems interested in these claims and goes into the sewer system to have a look around eventually walking straight into a lurking Ramon and his death.

How does a supposedly 36ft, 2000lbs alligator hide in a foot of sewer water?? Kemp’s just walking along, not wading, when Ramon attacks him after surfacing from the same damn stretch of sewer!? It’s the same when Madison and Kelly go down to shitsville to check for a psycho, they walk along the same, previously viewed waterways that the gator magically submerged himself under! I mean, they did a great job with the large mechanical reptile they built (though it did malfunction), and made good use of an actual gator amidst sets that continuously skewered the perception of scale, but massive errors in realism were made. I know it’s a movie and anything goes usually, but I still like my far fetched films to retain some sort of realism within the confines of their fictional worlds – if that makes any sense!? Why does Ramon like attacking people mostly when they’re bent over a shopping cart full of dead dogs too? Does he have some sort of weird fetish, and if so, will I probably be able to find Internet porn of it in existence!? Hmmm…..

Luckily, Kemp’s camera catches everything on a repeated flash, which is then enough to make everyone believe Madison’s wild story they call for the S.W.A.T. team, who think banging pots and pans will scare Ramon and flush the gator out.
It doesn’t…..Fucking idiots. They also call on the “help” of a big-game hunter, hilariously sent up by the great Henry Silva. There’s a strange scene where he buys some ghetto gang beers from the store, and them offers then $10 a day to work with him! Right there, that tells me he isn’t any big-game hunter, more of a big game bull-shitter!


Meanwhile, Madison has become romantically linked with a doctor and author who happens to specialize in gators, by the name of Marisa (yes, the same girl who lost her pet alligator 12 years previously!), played by Robin Riker. I must say, Robin Riker is fucking gorgeous! She has possibly the most gorgeous pair of eyeballs I may have ever seen. I want to keep them in a jar and maybe suck on them at special occasions…
But anyway, she gets together with Madison and they try to help track down Ramon as he takes to the city streets, murdering cops and kids. There’s one particularly great scene I enjoyed with sickening glee, and that is when a young boy is pushed into a swimming pool at a party – a swimming pool occupied by our 36ft reptile antagonist! He gets eaten, there’s blood and it’s brilliant!



By this point, I realised that the film had been really slow to start and I don’t think I remember making it all the way through to the credits when I was younger. I can understand why some viewers may not like this film, it is low budget, but it doesn’t come across half-assed.
If you do get bored half-way through then there’s always a fun game to keep your attention focused on the screen……”Let’s play spot the inside gator joke”! I.E. the “Ramon” poster on David Madison’s apartment wall, the gator shaped sticker on the locker in the police station etc, etc….And if you get bored of that, then there’s spot the amputee. Yes, those heroic men and women that shamelessly exploited their unfortunate stumps in order to convey the brutality of Ramon’s attacks.
Toward the end there’s explosions, bullets flying around, people flying around – total chaos. But, Madison and Marisa have a plan. The plan involves methane gas (farts to the uneducated) and the finale does actually build some decent tension even though you can see the outcome of the movie a mile off.

Clearly this film rips-off Jaws (even going as far as using suspiciously similar music at one point!) and many other killer animal flicks from around that time, but it even goes so far as to prophesize a future entry into the Jaws film franchise, that film being Jaws: The Revenge. Here, big scaly Ramon seems to track down the pharmaceutical companies head-honcho (at his daughter’s wedding!), somehow knowing that they were responsible for dumping the chemical loaded pet corpses into the sewer, thus mutating him beyond normal gator proportions. It’s also similar to Jaws: The Revenge in the way in which Ramon meets his “Bruce-like” fate.

Alligator is a decent flick all round, great if you love creature features and killer animal movies. The acting is almost too good at times considering the low budget and subject matter, the effects are good and there are decent amounts of blood to keep most gore hounds happy. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s easy to see why it has many fans after all these years – definitely worth “snapping” up.

RATING:

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