Director: Lewis Teague
Lions Gate

While giant mutated critters were nothing new by 1980, (monster films had been rampaging through theaters for several decades by this point), ALLIGATOR can easily be argued as the dawning of the urban-legend-horror film (aside from several blaxploitation flicks, that is).

ALLIGATOR begins with a mid-West family watching a live presentation wherein a guy gets his leg chomped on (insert tasteless Steve Irwin joke here). Undaunted, the little girl of the family decides to buy a baby alligator. Not too long after that, dear ol’ dad flushes the new pet down the toilet because he found alligator feces behind the clothes hamper!

Fast-forward to twelve years later (1980)…a cop who may be on the verge of mental instability (Robert Forster) investigates the possible-murders of several people (including a sewer worker named Edward Norton!), one of whom is a slimy, unscrupulous pet store owner who is secretly selling all of the dogs he can find to Slade Laboratories…a shady chemical company that’s apparently trying to make Pomeranians and other small, rat-like canines into normal sized dogs so old ladies will quit stepping on them (I guess…hell, I dunno…what would anyone want with a big-ass dog? Stick to cats, people! They at least have personalities!).

After a Harry Dean Stanton wanna-be that has listened to way too much AM radio threatens to blow up the police station (hey, disc jockey’s can make a person wanna do that!), Forster takes a rookie cop that would’ve fit right in behind Captain Kirk in a red shirt (if you know what I mean) down into the sewers where he makes the “oh, shit” discovery of the year: a giant, mutated alligator is living in the sewers of Chicago! Unfortunately, no one believes him…until the alligator decides to dine out for the evening.

A cult classic, ALLIGATOR was co-written by the great John Sayles and includes his usual brand of in-joke humor. The low-budget film is directed quite efficiently by Lewis Teague and the supporting cast includes Dean Jagger as the evil Mr. Slade, Robin Riker, the loud, groggy-voiced Michael V. Gazzo, the hammy Henry Silva as the great white hunter, Perry Lang as Officer Gatorbait, and Angel Tompkins (THE TEACHER) as a reporter. Oh, and Schlitz…lots and lots of Schlitz (all Italian films feature J&B Scotch, we endorse Schlitz…well, at least it’s not Coors for once!).

Unavailable for years on home video (a South Korean import was available in 2002, but was a less-than-adequate full frame transfer), ALLIGATOR has been brought back to glorious life with an impressive, remastered print that looks very clear, crisp and clean. The picture is presented in an anamorphic widescreen presentation (1.78:1 aspect ratio), the colors seem about as vibrant as they can be (given that fashion was still a work in progress when this movie was made) and makes Jagger’s atrocious clothing look even tackier than ever.

The DVD features an English 5.1 Dolby Surround track as well as the original English monaural (English and Spanish Subtitles are included). Special Features include a new 17-minute interview with John Sayles and an audio commentary with director Teague, actor Forster and moderator Del Howison. The Lions Gate DVD also features some trailers for some modern (read = crappy looking) shot-on-video flicks in the same vein as ALLIGATOR (big critters and what-not).

ALLIGATOR is good, low-budget fun (a lot of the crew is from the Roger Corman school of filmmaking), the acting is above-average for this type of flick (Robert Forster is always good…it’s a pity he doesn’t get more work) and the special effects (while somewhat cheesy by today’s standards) are wonderful (gimme puppets and miniatures as opposed to CGI any day!). The $14.99 SRP is more than reasonable and the joy of having the film on video again and available in widescreen for the first time is worth the price alone! (Adam Becvar)