I'm excited for a bunch of reasons:
1. IT'S SHOWING IN 35MM
The way a giant-alligator movie was meant to be seen.
2. I'VE ONLY EVER CAUGHT BITS AND PIECES
When Matthew and I did our 2-hour show devoted to SHARK CINEMA we'd researched dozens of nature-gone-wrong movies from the 1970's and 80's. But I never got to see ALLIGATOR in its entirety, only the trailer:
3. IT USES A CLASSIC URBAN LEGEND
Judging by the trailer, ALLIGATOR is using a JAWS checklist to sell the story. But I've since learned something great about the film (SPOILER**) the premise is based in an old urban legend -- someone flushes a baby alligator down the sewer and it grows to gigantic proportions.
Coincidentally, my favorite book when I was a kid was all about a pet alligator that gets flushed down a toilet and lives in the sewers of New York. Peter Lippman's THE GRATE ESCAPE - or THE SEWER STORY was first published in 1973, but I didn't read it until 1980, which is the same year ALLIGATOR came out.
4. IF YOU LIKE THE GAME, YOU'LL LOVE THE MOVIE
Stranger still, there was a children's game tie-in with ALLIGATOR, one of those OPERATION-style challenges where you have to be careful not to set-off the trap. In this case, players needed to try and put stuff in the gator's mouth without getting chomped.
Fittingly, the ALLIGATOR game seems to be knock-off of the JAWS game.
How bizarre that an R-rated movie had kiddie-toy. But then again Kenner made an action figure for ALIEN. It was a different time.
5. MORE STORY THAN EATEN ALIVE
Don't get me wrong, I adore Tobe Hooper's big crocodile picture. Arguably the movie works because there's no real story, but ALLIGATOR has the advantage that the screenplay was written by a real pro: Academy-Award nominated John Sayles.
6. IT'S JOHN SAYLES' SECOND JAWS RIP-OFF
By 1980 John Sayles had already written one JAWS rip-off, Roger Corman's PIRANHA (1978). His script is at once a shameless rip-off AND a parody of the killer-shark epic. By the time he wrote ALLIGATOR he knew the sub-genre inside and out. Sayles used his paycheck to make his indie-breakout film RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS 7. If it weren't for ALLIGATOR, David Strathairn would still be doing regional theater.
7. CAMEO BY LOLITA
Sue Lyon, who made headlines playing the title character in Stanley Kubrick's LOLITA, appears in ALLIGATOR as a TeeVee Reporter. This was her last film (to date.) Maybe it was so horrible Lyon retired form the business. Or it was so great, she knew she'd peaked. Come see the movie and judge for yourself.
8. HISTORICAL CONTEXT
On Monday night, Matthew and I will give an introduction that will include some background about JAWS rip-offs from the Golden Age of Shark Cinema and the second wave of non-shark aquatic monsters. ALLIGATOR belongs to a very specific sub-genre and I love getting to speak about it with an audience.
dir: Lewis Teague. 91 minutes. 1980. 35mm
buy tickets here
screening Monday September 19th @ 8pm
92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson Street, NYC
NOTE: The 92Y Tribeca is showing ALLIGATOR as part of the series, RIP-OFF CINEMA. You can still catch 35mm screenings of 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (an Italian post-Apocalyptic film from 1982, which draws upon The Warriors, Escape from New York and Mad Max) and MAC AND ME (which is commonly referred to as an E.T. rip-off, but I wonder if it's stealing from the alien subplot in MEATBALLS 2) The Mac and Me show will be preceded by a cut-down version of the Turkish E.T. as well as a look at kid-movies' most horrifying creatures that were supposed to be "cute".
** In an episode of my AMC series I argued that the SPOILER statue-of-limitations ends after 10 years. So suck it.