US, 1980, 87 minutes, Colour.
Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Dean Jagger, Michael V. Gazzo, Sidney Lassick, Perry Lang, Henry Silva.
Directed by Lewis Teague.
Yes this is animal menace again, and alligators (giant or not) are frightening and this one does his best; yes, it is a variation on the Jaws plot (policeman hero, hunter, expert, exploitive mayor, plus attack on chemical company tycoons and cruel animal experiments; yes, Jaws music and subjective shots; yes, gory deaths and final suspense and destruction, man defying nature and nature revenging itself against man. But also yes, it is above average of its kind ? B-style, unsubtle (or straightforward) and neatly written, made plausible enough with touches of humour. Robert Forster is persuasive as the intense but likable hero. One of the better thrillers of this genre.
1 The popularity of the disaster animal menace films of the '70s? Their particular appeal? Audience thrills and shocks? The range of animals treated during the period? The quality of the film?
2. The appeal of horror, shocks and scares? Suspense? Horror, nightmares and dreams? The reality of horror and monsters? The authentic background of the stories? The themes of retribution for human villains opposing nature? The heroics of those who conquer the monsters? This film in this vein?
3. The picture of nature: nature as potentially friendly, as material for study? The reaction of thoughtless and callous humans? Exploitive humans with projects, anti-conservation, chemicals and poison? Greed? Nature turning against man and the innocent victims? The arrogance of hunters, exploiters? The need for a confrontation between man and nature?
4. The B-budget style of this film? The directness of the screenplay, portrayal of characters, situations and crises? Conventions used and taken for granted? The unsubtle and direct approach? The pace of the film?
5. Audience response to alligators? The link with prehistoric monsters, savagery, size, irrationality, violence and cruelty? Power of destroying human beings?
6. The impact of the prologue: the alligator's eye, his cruelty to the man, the people watching? The heroine as a young girl and the repercussions?
7. The alligator flushed down the toilet, the subjective shot as it went down into the sewers? The focus on the eye, the bulk? The destruction of the dogs? The men and their severed limbs? The chemicals in the sewer? The pet man and his deals? His death? The police investigation and Kelly's death? The photographer and the photos? The gradual revelation of the alligator? Madison seeing it, Marissa being sceptical?
8. The emergence of the alligator into the city: coming up through the street and footpath? The destruction of the police car and the policeman, hiding in the pool and the young child being killed, Brock and his hunting the alligator and his death, the boats in the canal and the destruction, the arrival at the party and the havoc wreaked? The death of the mayor, the tycoon?
9. The attacks on the alligator: the police methods and the flushing out of the alligator, the power struggles with the chemical industries, the mayor, the sacking of Madison, Brock as the hunter, the final destruction by dynamite?
10. The ordinary people of the city, Missouri, ordinary business, the town and its politics, the Police Department, the chemical experiments? Dr. Kendall and her work? The heroism required for saving the town from the alligator?
11. David Madison as hero: in the pet shop, his work as a policeman, the severed limb, the press conference and the reporter probing about David's past, the antagonism of the policeman, Kelly and his volunteering, death, David's nightmares, his skill in investigation, scepticism with Marissa, the growing friendship and intimacy, his apology, being able to talk with her (and the comedy with her mother), his apartment, television-watching, his being dismissed.. the continuing of the investigations, especially with the chemicals, the chase of the alligator, the party., the setting up of the explosion and the tension with the woman parked on the exit? How sympathetic a character, ordinary policeman, ordinary heroism? His achievement?
12. The police background of the story, the department and its workings, the chief, the power struggles, giving David the sack, flushing out the alligator, the chaos at the end and his reinstatement?
13. The quick sketch of Dr. Brock as hunter, his vanity, television interview, the sounds of the alligator, his antagonism towards Madison, the hiring of the negro boy ? and the humorous parody of the 'great white hunter'? The ugliness of his death?
14. The mayor and his selfishness, the deals with the tycoon. his pressure on the police chief? His presence at the wedding? His being refused entry into the car, his death?
15. The tycoon, his power, son-in-law, the experiments? His being killed in the car?
16. Marissa and her background with animals, her scepticism,, the television interview., apologies to David, friendship and intimacy, their working together at the end?
17. The visual presentation of the violence, the deaths? Action sequences? Suspense? The techniques and music from Jaws? The irony of the ending with the young alligator?
18. An atmosphere of authenticity? The special effects? The humorous touches throughout?
19. This kind of monster animal menace story as a fable? Human beings confronted by monsters and coping?