The folks at Scream Factory release a lot of films each month, and their recent move into 4K UHD titles has already gifted fans with strong releases of some John Carpenter classics and more. Their next two 4K releases are a bit lower profile, but I couldn’t be more excited. 1982’s The Sword and the Sorcerer is coming soon, but first up is 1980’s legendary Alligator in 4K UHD!
People are, at their core, irresponsible motherfuckers. When parents give in to their daughter’s whining and buy her a baby alligator it’s not long before they change their mind and flush the little guy down the toilet. It washes into the sewers and survives on whatever it can, but unfortunately for the citizens of Chicago, that includes the discarded carcasses of animals used in growth-hormone research. Soon the gator has grown to enormous size and begins making a meal out of everyone in its path. Of course, no one believe it’s real at first aside from an outcast cop with a receding hairline.
Alligator is the kind of big monster movie that pulls together an incredibly varied talent pool. Director Lewis Teague would go on to deliver a couple more animal-focused genre gems (Cujo, 1983; Cat’s Eye, 1985), while writer John Sayles (Piranha, 1978) would become a two-time Oscar nominee. And sitting at the heart of the film is lead actor Robert Forster, a talent who thrived both as a character actor and a star throughout his career. Add in some smart practical effects, fun bloodletting, and a real sense of humor, and you can see why Alligator has remained a beloved cult-favorite for four decades — and one of the best alligator/crocodile horror flicks ever made.
Like many animal-attack flicks post 1975, Alligator is a very clear riff on Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but while too many are too serious, Teague’s hungry reptile is fueled as much by black comedy as it is by meat. From jokes about Forster’s receding hairline to Henry Silva being delighted by a giant pile of alligator shit, this is an entertaining romp adding a scientist, a renowned hunter, and an angry populace into the mix. The gator even munches on a little kid, and while, sure, it’s sad and all, it’s also the kind of beat more serious fare rarely achieves.
The stars and biggest draws here are most clearly both Forster and the alligator, though, as both bring personality and fun to the proceedings. Forster was always a working class actor doing great work regardless of the prestige, and while it’s right there in his performances, it’s also there in the words of those who knew him. The special features detailed below are filled with other talents sharing warm, amusing memories of the actor, and it’s just endlessly great to hear. The gator itself finds most of its life in the use of baby alligators filmed in slow-motion on miniature sets, and the effect is far more satisfying than you’d expect.
The release includes three discs — Alligator [1:30:50] on 4K UHD, the film and extras on Blu-ray, and the TV cut [1:38:05] on Blu-ray.
- Commentary with director Lewis Teague and actor Robert Forster
- *NEW* Gator Guts, the Great River, and Bob [22:17] – Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) talks about his time as a production assistant on the film, and it’s a terrific listen. He shares recollections of stuffing the prop alligator with bloody bits in preparation for the explosion, but the highlight is his memories of meeting Robert Forster. The two shared a bus ride to the LA River set, and Forster showed a genuine interest in Cranston’s work, and it’s an attitude that the younger man carried forward through his own career. This is a fantastic supplement.
- *NEW* Everybody in the Pool [7:33] – Robin Riker shares her memories of her feature debut including playing the character straight and how it was Robert Forster’s idea to have characters comment on his receding hairline.
- *NEW* Wild in the Streets [24:32] – Director Lewis Teague is no stranger to animal “horror” including Cujo (1983), Cat’s Eye (1985), and of course, Alligator. This was the film that put him on the map, though, and he shares fond memories including how he brought John Sayles on to rewrite the script, how he met Robert Forster on the set of Avalanche (1978), filming baby alligators on miniature sets, and more.
- *NEW* Luck of the Gator [12:28] – Special effects makeup artist Robert Short talks about making detached limbs, spilling blood, and more.
- *NEW* It Walks Among Us [9:35] – Screenwriter John Sayles recalls being called to rewrite the original script which featured alligators in Milwaukee growing big because of the beer being spilled into the sewers… yeah. He also talks about the classic “big monster” movies that inspired his narrative, the conceit of a threat working its way up the social ladder, and his desire to include monster shit.
- Alligator Author [17:19] – An interview featurette from 2007.
- TV cut additional scenes [8:01] – A collection of additional scenes that were added into the televised version.
- Trailers from Hell [1:24] – Karyn Kusama shares the film’s original trailer and talks about having John Sayles as a mentor.
- Trailers, TV spots, newsprint ad gallery, still gallery
Alligator remains a fun creature-feature, and its relegation to shoddy home video releases has finally come to an end. Scream Factory’s new 4K UHD delivers a fantastic picture, grain intact, with sharp colors and deep shadows. It really is a must-own for fans, and yes, I’m even more excited for The Sword and the Sorcerer now.