By Ray Schwetz
Director Lewis Teague has an extremely interesting filmography. Quite a few are very underrated films. He directed "Romancing the Stone" sequel "Jewel of the Nile." He also helmed the film adaptions of Stephen King's "Cujo" and "Cat's Eye." In addition, he is also responsible for "Navy SEALS," the largely unseen "Justice League of America" TV pilot, and the 1997 "Dukes of Hazard" reunion movie.
While there are enjoyable elements to all of the above listed projects, Alligator is Teague's best film. Armed with a smart script by John Sayles (who also penned Joe Dante's "Piranha" before becoming an accomplished filmmaker in his own right), Teague presents the viewer with the perfect monster movie. There are no pretensions here. "Alligator" has the three elements that make a good monster movie.
Element number one: a down and out hero the audience can root for. Robert Forster is to "Alligator" what Roy Schieder's hydrophobic Sherriff Brody was to "Jaws." Forster plays a city cop with a haunted past and a receding hairline. It's his second best role. He only topped it recently in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown."
Element number two: social commentary. From the original "Godzilla" to the recent "Deep Blue Sea," all good monster movies have a comment about our social, political, or ecological climate. With "Piranha," for example, we were taught that the military are bad and that we shouldn?ess with mother nature. With "Alligator," we're taught that flushing a live baby alligator down the toilet is a bad idea. We're also taught that we should be mindful of how and where we dispose of chemicals. What we may come back to haunt us.
Element number three: the monster. This may sound elementary, fellow videohounds, but some monster movies don't follow this important rule. A good monster movie simply must have a good monster. Look at the big budget franchise flop "Alien: Resurrection." The monster alien-child of Ripley just plain sucked. It ruined, what was until that point, a decent genre film. The alligator, in classic low budget horror movie fashion, is only partly seen in the murky depths of the sewer until an explosive attack on a mafia linked wedding party! And what a monster it is!
Up until recently, this film has been difficult to find. It is available domestically on VHS through the now defunct Live label (now Artisan). This DVD is a region 2 release.
The video presentation is mediocre. There are a lot of pixels, the colors are washed out, and there is little definition. It's not much better than the old TV print I taped about fifteen years ago. It's watchable, but certainly not up to par with current DVD technology. The audio is passable digital mono. Dialogue is muffled in spots. Again, not much better than the old TV print.
This DVD can be recommended for fans of the film only. Hopefully, Anchor Bay will snatch up the rights for this underrated gem.
Editor's Note: To view this disc it's necessary to have a multi-region player with a PAL-NTSC converter.
This PAL title can be ordered from Blackstar.