Alligator (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alligator poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Teague
Produced by Brandon Chase
Written by John Sayles
Frank Ray Perilli
Starring Robert Forster
Robin Riker
Michael Gazzo
Dean Jagger
Sydney Lassick
Music by Craig Hundley
Cinematography Joseph Mangine
Edited by Larry Brock
Ron Medico
Distributed by BLC Services Inc
Release dates
  • July 2, 1980 (1980-07-02)
Running time
90 mins
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,750,000 (estimated)
Box office $6,459,000

Alligator is a 1980 American monster movie, directed by Lewis Teague with a screenplay by John Sayles. It stars Robert Forster, Robin Riker, and Michael V. Gazzo. It follows the attempts of a police officer named David Madison and a reptile expert named Marisa Kendall to stop a deadly giant alligator that is killing humans in the sewers of Chicago.

The film received praise from critics for its intentional satirizing and, in 1991, an apparent sequel was released, titled Alligator II: The Mutation. Despite the title, this film shared no characters or actors with the original, and the plot was essentially a retread of the first film.[1] A board game based on the movie was distributed by the Ideal Toy Company in 1980.[2][3]


A teenage girl purchases a baby American alligator while on vacation with her family at a tourist trap in Florida. After the family returns home to Chicago, the alligator, named Ramón by the girl, is promptly flushed down the family's toilet by her surly, animal-phobic father and ends up in the city's sewers.

Twelve years go by, during which the alligator survives by feeding on covertly discarded pet carcasses. These animals had been used as test subjects for an experimental growth formula intended to increase agricultural livestock meat production. However the project was abandoned due to the formula's side effect of massively increasing the animal's metabolism, which caused it to have an insatiable appetite. This meant too much money had to be spent feeding an animal treated with this formula, making it economically unviable. For 12 years, the baby alligator accumulated concentrated amounts of this formula from feeding on these carcasses. This caused it to mutate, growing far larger than even the largest saltwater crocodile: a 36-foot (11 m) behemoth, with the same insatiable appetite of the animal test subjects, as well as an almost impenetrable hide.

The alligator begins ambushing and devouring sewer workers it encounters in the sewer, and the resulting flow of body parts draws in world-weary police officer David Madison (Robert Forster) who, after a horribly botched case in St. Louis, has gained a reputation for being lethally unlucky for his assigned partners. As David works on this new case, his boss Chief Clark (Michael Gazzo) brings him into contact with reptile expert Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker), the girl who bought the alligator years earlier. The two of them edge into a prickly romantic relationship, and during a visit to Marisa's house, David bonds with her motormouthed mother.

David's reputation as a partner-killer is "confirmed" when the gator snags a young cop Kelly (Perry Lang) who accompanies David into the sewer searching for clues. No one believes David's story, partly due to a lack of a body, and partly because of Slade (Dean Jagger), the influential local tycoon who sponsored the illegal growth experiments and therefore does not want the truth to come out. This changes when obnoxious tabloid reporter Thomas Kemp (Bart Braverman) (ironically, one of the banes of David's existence) goes snooping in the sewers and supplies graphic and indisputable photographic evidence of the beast at the cost of his own life. The story quickly garners public attention, and a city-wide hunt for the monster is called for. An attempt by the police to flush out Ramón comes up empty and David is put on suspension, but then the gator literally smashes his own way out of the sewers and comes to the surface, first killing another police officer, then a young boy who gets tossed into a swimming pool during a party.

The ensuing hunt turns into a media circus, including the hiring of pompous big-game hunter Colonel Brock (Henry Silva) to track the animal. Once again, the effort fails: Brock is killed, the police trip over each other in confusion and Ramón goes on a rampage through a high-society wedding party; among his victims are Slade and the mayor. With only Marisa to help him, David finally lures the alligator into a trap back in the sewers and destroys the beast with a massive charge of explosives, barely escaping with his own life. As the film ends with David and Marisa walking away after the explosion, a drain in the sewer spits out another baby alligator, carrying the promise that the cycle will be repeated all over again...



Filming took place in and around Los Angeles. Although commentary on the Lions Gate Entertainment DVD gives the location as Chicago, the police vehicles in the film appear to have Missouri license plates. When the young Marisa returns home with her family from their vacation in Florida, they pass a sign that reads "Welcome to Missouri." Later, the voice of a newscaster identifies Marisa as "a native of our city," implying the location is a city in Missouri other than St. Louis.[4]


Vincent Canby of the New York Times praised the film, saying, "The film's suspense is frequently as genuine as its wit and its fond awareness of the clichés it's using."[5]

Film critic Roger Ebert was not a fan of the movie, suggesting that it would be best to "flush this movie down the toilet to see if it also grows into something big and fearsome."[6]

The film is rated M in New Zealand and it contains violence and offensive language.


A sequel to Alligator was released in 1991, titled Alligator II: The Mutation. The film was heavily panned by critics due to its less impressive special effects as well as its plot being essentially a retread of the original first film. Unlike the original film that was rated R, the sequel was rated PG-13.

Video releases[edit]

On September 18, 2007, Lions Gate Entertainment released the film on DVD for the first time in the USA. The disc features a new 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer in the original 1.78:1 ratio and a new Dolby Digital 5.1-channel sound mix in addition to the original mono mix. The included extras are a commentary track with director Lewis Teague and star Robert Forster, a featurette titled Alligator Author in which screenwriter John Sayles discusses the differences between his original story and the final screenplay, and the original theatrical trailer. The film had previously been available on DVD in other territories, including a version released in the UK in February 2003 by Anchor Bay Entertainment (now Starz). This release features an optional DTS sound mix, includes the 1991 sequel Alligator II: The Mutation on a second disc, and includes the same Teague-Forster commentary found on the recent Lions Gate US release.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wingrove, David (1985). Science Fiction Film Source Book. Harlow: Longman. ISBN 0-582-89310-0. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Alligator Film Review". A Life at the Movies. April 23, 2010. 
  5. ^ Vincent Canby review at [1]
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1980-11-26). "Alligator". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 

External links[edit]