Robert Forster plays a cop named David who does not have the best of luck in partners, usually them coming to a premature end through no fault of his own. When he gets a case that needs him to head down into the sewers to check things out, most refuse but there is one that ultimately agrees which will eventually cement David’s reputation as one of the unluckiest guys on the force. Said case involves mutilated body parts that have been making there way into the public eye and what David soon finds and to whom he loses his latest partner to, is a giant alligator. With the help of expert Marisa as played by Robin Riker, they manage to track the gator down, but not before the monster has surfaced and decided to go on a rampage.
The best creature features are the ones that take themselves completely serious and as a result, usually end up being the ones which are the most enjoyable for the audience. Alligator released in 1980 is just such a film, one that sports an overgrown reptile and a strong cast in the aforementioned Forster and Riker and which further includes Henry Silva, Dean Jagger and Michael Gazzo. As with many movies such as this, it begins with the ignorance of man who thinks that exotic animals can be made pets of and when they decide that they cannot keep such an animal, down the drain it goes. The best parts of course is when the animal in question goes berserk or even just doing what comes naturally to it, all to the consternation of the hero of the picture who is usually helpless before it. There are of course, many who fall before the alligator, most of them unaware of what they are walking into with only a few knowing just what it is that they are facing. As a viewer, one has to feel bad for a few of the people, but rooting for the creature cannot be helped as it never asked for what was done to it and it holds true in this picture.
Forster is fantastic as the gruff cop who can seem to do no right, at least as far as those he works with are concerned and it is a lot of fun seeing him trying to do his job against a very unconventional foe. Silva is as good as always and while he does not play a villain in this particular movie, he still has that tough guy look and attitude which is part and parcel of the characters he always plays. So it is that man finds himself up against nature, Forster and company up against an anomaly that should not exist, yet does and by the end of it all, only one of them can come out on top. It is quite easy to guess as to who will win this battle, clichéd and preordained and seen in dozens of other movies of the same ilk, but it is nice to hope that it will somehow turn out different despite history and conventions telling the audience otherwise.
Alligator is definitely one of the better films to feature a giant monster, one filled with action, excitement and even some character development which is usually a rarity when it comes to movies such as this. While it ends on somewhat of a question mark, there was eventually a sequel though it would not see the light of day for another eleven years and obviously, not be as good as the original. For those that like a little science-fiction with their horror, Alligator hits all the right spots.
3.5 out of 5