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DVD Review: Lewis Teague’s Alligator on Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Flush it down the toilet.



As the presence of John Sayles would seem to indicate, Alligator is meant to be a brainy, sardonic take on the rampaging animal subgenre, though its satirical aims are hardly more refined than those found in Joe Dante’s cheeky Piranha, and a great deal more. The story is as dumb as one could possibly hope for on the surface: A pet alligator, flushed down the toilet, comes across a pile of dead dogs on which the city’s genetic lab has been performing growth hormone experiments. Flash forward some years later, and the reptile has grown almost rapidly enough to pace rampant civic corruption and back-scratching politics above ground. It isn’t long before the creature tastes the blood of hard-working cops, enterprising pet shop owners, and middle-class children and wants more. Meanwhile, a police officer with a troubled past (Robert Forster) seizes the alligator attacks as an opportunity to erase the stink of shame left when he allowed a fellow officer to be killed in the line of duty. At the very least, he assumes his heroics will satiate the ravenous tabloid journalists (portrayed so broadly, you’d have to assume they were all on beat for The Daily Planet). All that stands in his way are the sexy biologist whose interest in the beast is near-familial, the gruff police chief, the overzealous reporter, the rest of the police force, City Hall, the genetic lab that’s bribing City Hall, two tons of snap-jawed wild animal, and an egotistic hunter. All that and a nonstop string of cracks about his receding hairline. Sayles’s overachieving work here suggests a script doctor who took it upon himself to play God to assist what he felt was an otherwise terminal patient. And as a director of sorts, Lewis Teague is only too willing to hand over the entire project to Sayles’s hunger for allegorical subplots. Maybe I’ve eaten too many steroid-jacked dog corpses myself, but I prefer my dumb satires of dumb movies (i.e. Wet Hot American Summer, Scary Movie, again Piranha) to revel in being dumb.


It’s in the correct aspect ratio, but that’s about all I can say in the way of recommending this disc. The rest is basically bad news. Weak, milky colors are complemented by a lack of sharpness. Black levels in the sewer are frequently gray, and flesh tones (interestingly) often read as jaundiced green. The sound is hollow. The 5.1 surround mix only adds to the echo chamber feel.


Lewis Teague contributes a commentary track, and as per usual he’s a little too naïve for my taste. It’s a fairly good thing he was paired with Robert Forster. The teaming provides a commentary that’s at least more worth listening to than Teague’s solo track on Cujo. The meatiest feature, though, has to be the featurette interview with John Sayles, who predictably gets all writers’ workshop on us.


Flush it down the toilet.

Cast: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael Gazzo, Jack Carter, Dean Jagger, Henry Silva, Sidney Lassick, Perry Lang, Sue Lyon Director: Lewis Teague Screenwriter: John Sayles Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment Running Time: 90 min Rating: R Year: 1980 Release Date: September 25, 2007 Buy: Video

“Tell the truth but tell it slant”
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