Thursday, October 15, 2009

Film Review: ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by John Sayles. Directed by Lewis Teague (CUJO, CAT'S EYE). Starring Robert Forster (Oscar nominee for JACKIE BROWN), Henry Silva (BULLETPROOF, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE), Michael Gazzo (Pentangeli in THE GODFATHER PART II, Oscar nominee), Dean Jagger (Oscar winner for TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH), Sydney Lassick (Charley Cheswick in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST).
Tag-line: "Beneath Those Manholes, A Man-Eater Is Waiting ..." And check out that sweet ass 80's poster art. They sure don't make 'em like that anymore. See also: CHOPPING MALL, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, etc.
Best one-liner: "Alligators?.... in the sewers?"

You have to be impressed when a filmmaker/novelist like John Sayles (RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, LONE STAR) writes a balls-out, fully committed movie about a giant alligator in the sewers. But it's almost natural for the socially-minded Sayles, because nothing quite brings out the worst in people like a giant alligator. There's puppy-killing medical researchers, know-it-all scientists, frenzied yellow journalists, exploitative memorabilia vendors, and an opportunistic hunter (played by a delightfully psychotic Henry Silva who mimics gator mating calls and hires a band of 'native' homies to serve as auxiliaries on his urban safari).

Henry Silva: playing that same old lunatic that we love so much. To quote him in ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX, "I SAID NO SUGAR IN MY COFFEE HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU NO SUGAR, IT MAKES ME CRAZY!!!"

All of these forces (and the eponymous mutant monster) are basically pitted against good cop and male pattern baldness sufferer (in one of Sayles' recurring jokes) Robert Forster (VIGILANTE, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE) who grounds the film with humor, pathos, and believability.

There are some incredibly memorable scenes: the monster gator crashing through the (cardboard?) sidewalk to get at a mop-topped kid wearing an 'I'm a Pepper' t-shirt, an army of cops playing trash can lid percussion in an attempt to flush out the beast, and the creature crashing a blue-blood wedding reception: eating maids, crushing the well-to-do, and slinging dudes into cakes with its tail.

Now a lot of people like to trash the special effects, but I happen to think they're pretty damned solid, and frequently ingenious. If you're one of those people who'd rather see a shitty CGI alligator, though, get the hell out, now. (You probably don't even deserve to live, much less watch this movie.)

There are assholes out there who would rather see THIS:

than THIS:

Plus, you can't go wrong with a repeated close-up shot of a real-life gator blinking it's creepy fucking reptilian eyelid. A housewife drinks Schlitz, Forster has a cute little dog named 'Snaps,' there's a shit-ton of gator POV, you'll recognize a slew of familiar faces from 70's genre cinema, and it all ends on a freeze frame. Basically, anyone who's remotely interested in a movie called ALLIGATOR is not going to be disappointed. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)

1 comment:

Jason said...

Henry Silva rocks.