THE FLY was a big hit for 20th Century Fox in 1958, so it was natural that they'd follow it up with more CinemaScope science-fiction, in this case, the low budget and black and white film THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE. Beverly Garland was already a staple in B-grade monster pics, appearing in everything from 1953's THE NEANDERTHAL MAN to Roger Corman's IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), and here, she's perfectly cast as the heroine. The film's other big genre star is Lon Chaney, who by this time in his career was physically disheveled and mostly seen as the cantankerous heavy in supporting parts, as his leading man status was way behind him.
Nurse Jane Marvin (Garland), reveals under hypnosis that her real name is Joyce Webster and tells am incredible story as the film unfold in flashback. On honeymoon with her husband, war veteran Paul Webster (Richard Crane), a telegram is received, casuing him to walk off their train and disappear. She eventually tracks him down to a plantation mansion in the Bayou swamps and is unwelcome by the owner, Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort from RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE), who claims she never heard of Paul Webster. Joyce insists on staying, and soon discovers her hubby looking leathery and scale-faced as he creeps around the mansion and its swamps in a trenchcoat. It seems that Paul was the victim of a nasty plane crash and ended up being burnt with a body full of broken bones. Trying to prompt a full recovery, a scientist experimented on him using a special regenerative formula extracted from alligators, but unfortunately, the results are transforming him into a reptile.
THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE is very slow moving and its basic storyline of a scientist's failed experiment and the man trying to hide the hideous result from his beloved wife was used in the aforementioned THE FLY the previous year. Although the make-ups on the lizard-skinned victims (the early work of the brilliant Dick Smith) are effective, the full-fledged "alligator man" looks ridiculous, especially when wrestling a real gator. The film does have a nice mood to it, as it's set amongst a gothic Americana of Louisiana's dingy swamplands, inhabited by gators and snakes. With his unconvincing hook hand (the result of a gator attack), Lon Chaney is a riot as gator-loathing Manon. Living in a shack and making a hobby out of shooting reptiles, he's constantly drunk and even tries to rape to Joyce--when that doesn't work, he gives her a left hook! Chaney's shouting of "I'll kill you Alligator Man, just like I kill any four-legged gator" has gone down in infamy with fans and is featured in the trailer. Character great George Macready (THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA) also stars as the good-intending scientist responsible for the mess (he's dressed like Colonel Sanders and has a trio of male nurses garbed in matching white t-shirts and slacks!) and former 30s Tarzan Bruce Bennett gets high billing, but is only seen briefly as a doctor analyzing Joyce's hypnosis.
Straying from the nearly unwatchable pan and scan version that many monster movie fans have suffered through over the years, Fox presents THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE in 2.35:1 widescreen with anamorphic enhancement, beautifully preserving the original CinemaScope ratio. There is some minor speckling on the print source, but it is indeed minor. The black and white picture is very sharp with nice detail, and black levels are deep. There is a solid stereo track, as well as the original mono for purists, and even a Spanish language mono track. The only extras are the original trailer, as well as ones for other "Fox Flix" such as THE FLY (both versions), THE OMEN and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. The stunning, colorful cover art is very similar to ones being used for MGM's Midnite Movies line. (George R. Reis)
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