The Popcornomicon

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Alligator (1980)

Alligator (1980)

Back of the box...

“It lurks beneath the street where you live! A prehistoric behemoth unchanged by evolution for millions of years! 36 feet of lethal lizard! 2000 pounds of pulsating power! Ravaging rows of razor-sharp fangs glistening in the fiercest set of giant jaws ever evolved!
It begins when a 10-inch baby gator from a Florida gift shop is flushed down the toilet! Lost in a twisted laybyrinth of pipes and passageways the ravenous reptile eats the dead corpses of test animals used in hormonal experiments and grows to prehistoric proportions! When the massive monster emerges from the secrecy of the sewers it is the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it!
Alligator! A devil-driven death machine dealing destruction in a dinorsauric demolition derby! Have you seen your children lately?”

Director: Lewis Teague
Starring: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo

Watch the Trailer

You know the old wives tale, flush a baby alligator down the toilet and it’ll grow into a giant monster, rampaging through the streets, leaving a trail of bloody carnage behind it. Like Bram Stoker before him, director Lewis Teague took an urban legend, or folkloric belief, and condensed it down into a single narrative. Don’t like that comparison? Too bad.

This urban legend supposedly originated in New York City, where snowbirds and vacationing families would return from Florida, bringing with them cute little baby alligators as terrible souvenirs. Once they grew big enough to eat the family hamster and started showing some real teeth however, they’d get flushed right down the toilet. Some think it started with the report of an eight-foot alligator that was found in a Harlem manhole in 1935, but it wasn’t until the legend appeared in written form in 1959 that it really gained traction. “The World Beneath the City,” written by Robert Daley, included an account by a retired sewer official claiming he found colonies of alligators living underground in the city’s vast sewer system. Some believe that the alligator colonies are albino, but those people might be getting their legends confused. In addition to flushing baby alligators down the toilet, New Yorkers were also flushing massive amounts of weed during drug busts. This supposedly led to the growth of an incredibly potent albino strain of marijuana, known as “New York White”, that can only be found deep in the sewers. You might want to think twice about trying to score some though as this alleged all-white marijuana that grows out of the city’s shit is also guarded by the colonies of albino alligators who have been waiting patiently for some dumb stoner to wander down in search of that illusive high.

Now that you’re enthralled by the idea of picturing gangs of albino alligators getting stoned in the sewer, let us burst your bubble and remind you that there’s a reason why alligators only live in parts of the world that are warm year-round. If an alligator were to wind up in NYC’s sewer system, it would definitely freeze to death during winter. Sure, they might be able to hangout and get ripped on albino weed during the summer, but that’s probably not enough time to create a sustainable colony.

Alligator starts the same way the urban legend does: a family visiting Florida buys a baby alligator, name it Ramón, return home only to have lame dad flush it down the toilet. We then cut to 12 years later, although the film doesn’t really tell us that that’s what we’re doing, and we find ourselves at a research lab conducting hormone experiments on dogs and then illegally dumping the dead test animals into the sewer. Meanwhile, police officer David Madison (Robert Forster) is investigating a series of dismembered body parts found washed up in a filtration tank at the water treatment plant. Is it Ramón, all pumped up on dead dog hormones, eating people? Or is it, as the local newspaper speculates, the “Sewer Psycho?” Well the movie’s called Alligator so....duh, it’s Ramón.

For a concept that has since been done to death countless times by Syfy Channel’s original movies, Alligator holds up as a surprisingly entertaining film. The characters are likable and while some have their questionable moments, the acting is passable. Robert Forster, who you might recognize from Jackie Brown, is great as the film’s lead, even when he’s doing his recurring gag about his receding hairline. After Ramón escapes the sewer, Forster teams up with Herpetologist and leading authority on reptile and amphibian life,  Dr. Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker), to track that reptile down. Maybe a romance develops, maybe she has a connection to a certain giant alligator named Ramón, we don’t wanna spoil too much.

You might be thinking, isn’t this just another Jaws rip-off? Well yeah, but it’s super awesome! Compared to The Last Shark (1981’s Italian Jaws rip-off), Alligator is a cinematic masterpiece! For a man-eating animal creature-feature, the story goes above and beyond what’s expected, or necessary. If you’ve ever managed to sit through a The Asylum presents Mega (insert animal) Vs. Giant (insert animal), Alligator will leave you pleasantly surprised. And when you’re done you can track down the boardgame!

Watch the Full Movie

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