Friends, I have mentioned this on the site as well as on the Saturday Frights podcast and Facebook page – but one my favorite subgenre of horror films is animal horror. This is in no small part thanks to catching the likes of 1976’s The Food of the Gods, Day of the Animals, and Empire of the Ants on television in my youth – the last two films were prime time special events as a matter of fact. Well, it was 40 years ago today that Alligator was released to theaters – a cult classic in the animal horror film subgenre – ranking right up there with Them!, Willard, and Piranha. However, while this managed to be shown at the local Drive-In theater of my youth the following year – I first caught Alligator on March 7th of 1982 as the ABC Sunday Night Movie!
One of the reasons I remember seeing Alligator for the first time – besides the fact it is an awesome movie – is that I had just received a tape cassette player and recorder for my birthday. That Sunday evening I ended up recording the entire audio for the 1980 film – using both sides of one of my two blank cassette tapes that I had also received for my birthday. Somehow I was able to convince my Father to let me take the player to school the following day – and on the nearly 40 minute bus ride to and back from school we were entertained by 1980’s Alligator.
The quick synopsis for Alligator is that a young girl purchases a baby alligator on vacation in Florida, upon returning back to Chicago, her Father flushes it down the toilet. Fast forward 12 years later and sewer workers are starting to get picked off – which draws the attention of police officer David Madison, played by the late and great Robert Forster (The Black Hole, Jackie Brown). While investigating the sewers, David watches in horror as his partner is attacked and dragged off by the rather large alligator – although no one will believe Madison’s story. Which leads him to being introduced to Marissa Kendall, played by Robin Riker (Brothers), who happens to be a zoologist whose study is of reptiles. It will be up to David and Marissa to try to warn the city that an alligator who has grown to 36 feet long thanks to feeding on growth hormones – a byproduct of a crooked pharmaceutical company – is about to emerge from the city sewers with a newly acquired taste for human beings.
Alligator was written by John Sayles (Battle Beyond the Stars, The Howling) and directed by Lewis Teague – who would go on to helm such horror films as Cujo and Cat’s Eye. In addition to Robert Forster and Robin Riker, the film benefits from industry veterans Sydney Lassick (Carrie), Henry Silva (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), and Dean Jagger (Game of Death) to name a few.
If you have a yearning to celebrate 40 years of Alligator I am sad to say that obtaining Alligator on DVD or Blu-ray is going to set you back quite a bit of money – although if you look around the internet you just might find it uploaded here and there in it’s entirety.