Alligator (film)

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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
Alligator, Inc
Distributed by Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.
Release dates
  • July 2, 1980 (1980-07-02)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,750,000 (estimated)
Box office $6,459,000

Alligator is a 1980 American horror film, directed by Lewis Teague with a screenplay by John Sayles. It stars Robert Forster, Robin Riker, and Michael V. Gazzo. It also includes an appearance by actress Sue Lyon in her last screen role to date.

Set in Chicago, the film follows a police officer and a reptile expert to track a giant murderous alligator, flushed down into the sewers years earlier that is attacking residents after escaping from the sewers.

The film received praise from critics for its intentional satirizing. An apparent sequel was released in 1991, 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 later, 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. During the years, the baby alligator accumulated concentrated amounts of this formula from feeding on these carcasses, causing it to mutate, growing into a 36 foot (11 m) alligator, as well as having 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, 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 doesn't 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, suddenly having the alligator escaping from the sewers and comes to the surface, by first killing another police officer and later a young boy, who resides in the boy's pool before getting tossed into the swimming pool during a party.

The ensuing hunt continues, 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 the sewers, before setting off explosives on the alligator, killing Ramón. As the film ends with David and Marisa walking away after the explosion, a drain in the sewer spits out another baby alligator, having a repeating cycle 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 gave the film 1/4, 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]


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. ^ Mcgue, Kevin (April 23, 2010). "Alligator Film Review". A Life at the Movies. 
  5. ^ Vincent Canby review at [1]
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1980-11-26). "Alligator". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 

External links[edit]