4K UHD Review: Alligator

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During the mid-20th Century people used to have baby alligators as pets. Kids would order them from the back of comic books. For a while having the cute reptile in the house was fun while they were still tiny like a pet lizard. But eventually they’d get a little bit bigger like the size of a guinea pig and parents would question if they needed a full-size alligator in their house. Instead of setting them loose in the wild like an unwanted cat, dog or budgie, the parents would flush the alligator down the toilet. Stories quickly grew of these gators roaming the sewer systems in major cities. After the tremendous success of Jaws, the gator lurking in the sewer system seemed ripe for attacking the drive-in screens across America.

Alligator could have easily been a paint by numbers rip-off of Jaws except director Lewis Teague called in John Sayles to create the script. We associate Sayle was art house hits such as Return of the Secaucus 7, Brother From Another Planet, Matewan and Eight Man Out. But Sayles got his start working for Roger Corman’s New World. He wrote the scripts for Joe Dante’s Pirahna and The Howling. Sayles was the master of creatures popping out of the darkness and eating the cast.

Sayles’ script for Alligator brings quite a bit of depth to the characters dealing with the giant gator stalking the city from below. Robert Forster’s Detective David Madison deals with his hair loss as well as partner loss. Sayles plays with our fears such as a kid being pushed into a pool at night and into the mouth of a giant gator. Sayles is able to feed an audience eager for the big creature action of Jaws without merely delivering a halfhearted Jaws clone. You can enjoy the human interactions between giant creature attacks without it being because the acting, special effects and dialogue is so inept. Madison’s relationship with reptile expert Marisa Kendall (Get A Life‘s Robin Riker) seems realistic even if they’re looking for a massive gator in the sewer. We do get the touches of over-the-top characters necessary for a creature film in Henry Silva’s hunter who tracks the gator in the urban jungle. Michael Gazzo is perfectly cast as the gruff voiced chief of police.

Alligator is a joy to behold as it delivers the urban myth. When the film ran a few years back as part of the Cinema Overdrive series in Raleigh, the audience was laughing and screaming in delight. People were laughing and gasping in the right places which is always important. They appreciated the work of Forster as he tracks down the giant reptile. The film is a masterpiece of the “nature attacks” genre. Alligator still has teeth which is why it’s so worth upgrading to 4K UHD.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 4K UHD transfer beings out the shadows of the sewers and the scales on the giant gator. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono on all three versions of the film. You’ll hear bones crunching. The subtitles are in English.

Blu-ray with both the theatrical cut (91 minutes) and the TV Cut (98 minutes). They have upgraded the TV extra footage so it looks great. You might want to first watch the TV cut after the 4K UHD of the theatrical release.

Gator Guts, The Great River, and Bob (22:17) is an interview with Bryan Cranston. Why is he interviewed without being one of the stars? Turns out that before Breaking Bad, Cranston landed a gig as a production assistant on Alligator. He talks about how he worked originally in the office running paperwork to the set. One day an assistant from the special effects department needed a PA. Cranston quickly volunteered. He was part of the team that put blood and guts inside the alligator for the big scene. He talks with glee about making gator guts. He talks about sharing the ride with Robert Forester to the set and their reunion on the set of Breaking Bad. They found Cranston’s Arrow shirt ad from 1979. Besides getting to see the movie in 4K UHD, this bonus feature is the reason to upgrade.Audio Commentary With Director Lewis Teague And Actor Robert Forster

Everybody In The Pool (7:33) is an interview with actress Robin Riker. She talks about getting to play a herpetologist. She remembers her time in the storm drains. She has praise for Robert Forster kissing talent. She does her impersonation of Michael Gazzo’s voice.

Wild In The Streets (24:32) catches up with Director Lewis Teague. He still loves the film. He talks about hooking up with John Sayles. He hated the original script and only took the gig if Sayles could rewrite the script. He used to joke about gators in the sewer while at film school in New York City so the project was close to home for Teague. He worked with Robert Forester on Roger Corman’s Avalanche as a second unit.

It Walks Among Us (9:35) is a recent interview with Screenwriter John Sayles. He points out that Branden Chase’s production company was small so he wasn’t going beyond his time at Roger Corman’s New World. He grew up watching Godzilla and other monster films. He talks about Thomas Pynchon’s V. having alligators in the sewers. He was happy to get a scene where we see giant monster poop. We found out the name of the alligator.

Luck Of The Gator (12:28) meets up with Special Makeup Effects Artist Robert Short. His job was creating realistic detached limbs and wounds on actors. He didn’t have to deal with the gator. He does talk about what they did to make the gator stalk the city.

Audio Commentary features Director Lewis Teague and Actor Robert Forster. The two enjoy being able to discuss tales from making the film. Forester passed away in 2019. It’s so nice to hear him discuss people getting baby alligators in the mail. The commentary is on the 4K and the Blu-ray of the theatrical.

Alligator Author (17:19) is an older interview with Screenwriter John Sayles. The legend of indie films discuss that Alligator is a Monster movie and not a horror movie. He talks about how he worked with Lewis Teague on The Lady In Red and came on board for this project to rewrite the project. The original script had the alligator in the sewers of Milwaukee that grew big from drinking beer. He was told that he had to keep the title and the creature. He could change everything else.

Additional Scenes From The TV Version (8:01) will give you a sense of what was added to the longer cut. This includes the little girl in the backyard, the telephone booth scene, the convertible in the rain, pirates in the pool, more Henry Silva, tracking the gator and bedroom action with Robert Forster.

Teaser Trailer (1:12) promises us a monster that lives 50 feet below the streets. It’s all sewer action in the tease.

Theatrical Trailer (2:35) opens like the teaser and gives us more clips from the film.

Trailers From Hell (1:24) Filmmaker Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) On ALLIGATOR. She talks about how John Sayles transformed the horror film. She worked with Sayles as his assistant at one point.

TV Spots (1:56) is how they scared us while watching late night TV. One of the ad features moviegoers who swear it’s scarier than Jaws. There’s 4 spots.

ALLIGATOR Game Television Commercial (0:31) is real! Kids try to put stuff in the gator’s mouth before it snaps. It’s like the previous Jaws game. This is tucked in with the TV Spots.

Newspaper Ad Still Gallery (3:19) is a montage of the print ads. These were collected by Drive-In Asylum. You might see the ad for a theater that was once near you. The best are the double feature choices at a few drive-ins. There are also TV station ads. I miss newspaper ads for movies almost as much as I miss thick daily newspapers.

Still Gallery (22:38) includes Movie Stills, Movie Posters, Lobby Cards, And Behind-The-Scenes Photos.

Scream Factory presents Alligator. Directed by Lewis Teague. Screenplay by John Sayle. Starring Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Sydney Lassick, Jack Carter, Perry Lang, Henry Silva and Bart Braverman. Running time: 91 minutes. Boxset contents: 1 4K UHD disc and 2 Blu-ray discs. Rated: Rated R. Release Date: February 22, 2022.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.