Alligator (1980) Retrospective

A teenage girl purchases a baby American alligator while on vacation with her family at a tourist trap in Florida. After the family returns home to Chicago, the alligator, named Ramón by the girl, is promptly flushed down the family’s toilet by her surly, animal-phobic father and ends up in the city’s sewers.

Twelve years later, the alligator survives by feeding on covertly discarded pet carcasses. These animals had been used as test subjects for an experimental growth formula intended to increase agricultural livestock meat production. However, the project was abandoned due to the formula’s side effect of massively increasing the animal’s metabolism, which caused it to have an insatiable appetite. During the years, the baby alligator accumulated concentrated amounts of this formula from feeding on these carcasses, causing it to mutate, growing into a 36 foot (11 m) monster resembling a Deinosuchus or Sarcosuchus, as well as having an almost impenetrable hide.

The alligator begins ambushing and devouring sewer workers it encounters in the sewer, and the resulting flow of body parts draws in world-weary police officer David Madison (Robert Forster) who, after a horribly botched case in St. Louis, has gained a reputation for being lethally unlucky for his assigned partners. As David works on this new case, his boss Chief Clark (Michael Gazzo) brings him into contact with reptiles expert Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker), the girl who bought the alligator years earlier. The two of them edge into a prickly romantic relationship, and during a visit to Marisa’s house, David bonds with her motor mouthed mother.

David’s reputation as a partner-killer is confirmed when the gator snags a young cop, Kelly (Perry Lang), who accompanies David into the sewer searching for clues. No one believes David’s story, due to a lack of a body, and partly because of Slade (Dean Jagger), the influential local tycoon who sponsored the illegal growth experiments and therefore doesn’t want the truth to come out. This changes when obnoxious tabloid reporter Thomas Kemp (Bart Braverman), one of the banes of David’s existence, goes snooping in the sewers and supplies graphic and indisputable photographic evidence of the beast at the cost of his own life. The story quickly garners public attention, and a citywide hunt for the monster is called for.

An attempt by the police to flush out the alligator comes up empty and David is put on suspension. The alligator escapes from the sewers and comes to the surface, first killing a police officer and later a young boy who, during a party, is tossed into a swimming pool in which the alligator is residing.


The ensuing hunt continues, including the hiring of pompous big-game hunter Colonel Brock (Henry Silva) to track the animal. Once again, the effort fails: Brock is killed, the police trip over each other in confusion, and the alligator goes on a rampage through a high-society wedding party hosted at Slade’s mansion; among its victims are Slade himself, the mayor, and Slade’s chief scientist for the hormone experiments and intended son-in-law. Marisa and David finally lure the alligator into the sewers before setting off explosives on the alligator, killing it. As the film ends with David and Marisa walking away after the explosion, a drain in the sewer spits out another baby alligator, repeating the cycle all over again.


Lewis Teague Interview

Did you work closely with John Sayles in creating Lady in Red and Alligator?
Lewis Teague: We collaborated very closely on Alligator but not on Lady in Red because the script was virtually finished on that movie when I was brought in. But when Brandon Chase offered me Alligator he had a completely different script. I loved the idea and thought we could have a lot of fun with it, but I accepted the job on the condition that I could bring in a writer of my choice and rewrite the script from scratch. Brandon Chase was agreeable to that; he was familiar with Sayles’ work and admired it, so, to his credit, he said yes. Sayles and I quickly fleshed out an idea and Sayles wrote the script very, very rapidly.

What were the changes you wanted to make after seeing the first screenplay?
Lewis Teague: The story we came up with is completely different. The only thing that remains from the original idea is the existence of alligators in the sewers. There was virtually nothing in the original script apart from that basic idea that I was interested in doing. What I was interested in doing, and the two big changes we made in the story, was that I wanted to do a film with some humor and I wanted to do a film that would be allegorical in some way. I’m not interested in doing a horror film or a suspense film just for suspense’s sake. There was a concern of mine–and John and I spent a great deal of time talking about this—that the film should be allegorical in the sense that the existence of the alligator should be a manifestation of the hero’s nightmares or fears. So then the discovery, pursuit and eventual vanquishing of the alligator by the Robert Forster character is allegorical to the conquering of the fears and guilt that exist in his soul.

Something I especially liked about Alligator was the way it incorporated humor into the story without defusing the thrills and suspense. When you were directing the picture, what were your ideas about maintaining this balance between humor and horror?
Lewis Teague: I didn’t think of it so much as a balance, because I never felt that the elements were in conflict. I never felt the balance of humor in relation to the suspense was critical. I tried to maximize the suspense as much as possible within the limits of production and story, and maintain a sort of consistent droll attitude toward the material. Although I didn’t think the balance of humor versus suspense was critical, the nature of the humor I felt was important. I never allowed it to drift into camp, in other words, the humor always came out of the comedy of the situation and never made fun of the situation. The characters always had to take the situations seriously. If I ever allowed the characters to not take the situation seriously, the humor would then become camp, and then suddenly the audience would become distanced from the material and that would destroy the suspense.

Robert Forster seemed particularly well suited for the role of the cop-hero in this movie. Were you involved in the casting of this part?
Lewis Teague: Yes, I fought for Bob in the picture. There was some pressure on producer Brandon Chase to go with somebody who might have been a little more commercial and, to Brandon’s credit, he recognized that Bob would be more suitable than some of the other-quote-unquote-more commercial choices and ultimately decided to go along with Bob and make a better picture. I’m a big fan of Forster’s. I directed second unit on a picture called Avalanche and had a chance to work with Forster on that; I was really impressed with his skill. So when I directed Lady in Red, I cast him in a small cameo in the picture. I was enormously appreciative of his help in that movie and I thought his cameo really stood out. I was just waiting for an opportunity to work with him again, and he was perfect for Alligator.


What was involved in the effects for Alligator?
Lewis Teague: Before I became involved in the picture, Brandon had hired an industrial designer to construct a full-sized rubber monster-alligator-I think it was 26 feet long. It never really worked. It looked great as long as it was stationary. We did a test with it to try to get it to walk, and I think that’s what convinced me to do this picture as a comedy. We ended up using a variety of techniques to film the alligator. We had that full-sized rubber alligator, which was only useful for stationary shots; we had a mechanical head that was mounted on a moveable rig that we could use for closeups of the alligator chomping on things; we had a mechanical tail which was very strong and moved on a crane that we used for scenes of it swatting things; and we also used real alligators on miniature sets for a few shots. So we intercut all of those methods, and used a lot of shots from the alligator’s point of view and tried not to show the alligator whenever possible.

You seem to have liked working with Brandon Chase on this picture.
Lewis Teague: Yeah, Brandon was very supportive. He made three critical decisions that I think are largely responsible for the success of the picture. First of all, the decision to go with me (laughs), secondly to let me work with John Sayles, and thirdly to go with Robert Forster.


These two film veterans should know. 1980’s Alligator, which Sayles wrote and Teague directed, surprised both critics and fans by being both intentionally funny and scary, an all-too-rare combination.

“There was a story in the New York Times a couple of years earlier, remembers Chase, “about sewer workers who found baby alligators that had grown up a bit. These were from people who had visited Florida and Louisiana and bought cute little alligators from roadside stands, and they brought ’em home and then–what next? They flushed ’em down the toilet! And I thought, ‘Alligators in the sewer system that’s sensational movie material.’ We embellished it for our purposes, of course, but it’s essentially a true story.”

Chase then commissioned longtime friend Frank Ray Perilli to flesh out the idea. Perilli, a stand up comic turned screenwriter, had hit recently with two heist comedies, The Doberman Gang (dogs robbing banks) and Little Cigars (midgets robbing banks). But according to the director, his draft of Alligator didn’t quite cut it. “I liked the idea, but I didn’t like the script,” Teague says of his initial exposure to the project. “I had just finished The Lady in Red, which John Sayles had written, so I did the film on the condition that John could come in and rewrite it. The original script had a child as a protagonist; it was totally humorless, and it wasn’t scary or funny, so I didn’t see much purpose in doing it.”

“All I remember about it was that it was set in Milwaukee,” says Sayles about the original script, “and that the alligator getting big had something to do with beer running off into the sewers. Which is why people from Milwaukee are so big, I guess. I also remember the finale took place in an old abandoned sawmill, so there were a lot of chainsaws and such.”

At the time, Sayles was a novelist (Union Dues) whose screenwriting skills had recently helped make Battle Beyond the Stars and Piranha far better than the average Roger Corman quickie. Teague hailed from a background in documentaries (including work on Woodstock), and had spent 10 years editing and directing 2nd unit for Corman’s New World Pictures, where the two met.

Writing Alligator at the same time as The Howling, it took Sayles all of two weeks to come up with a first draft, and, after suggestions from Chase and Teague, another two weeks to arrive at the final version. The man who gave horror a much-needed shot of originality in the early ’80s grew up watching Hammer and Godzilla movies, and saw fit to make an unprompted mention of The Manster, an obscure Japanese two-headed man movie (!), while discussing Alligator.

“Because the alligator didn’t tower over buildings like Godzilla,” he explains, “and wasn’t big enough to be a huge, terrifying threat to everybody, what I had to play with was the spookiness of going down into the sewers—the unknownness of it.” Sayles, who witnessed baby alligators being sold through the mail as a child, studied animal behavior in college. Thus Alligator, like Piranha, benefited from scientific accuracy, down to the monster’s mating call.

The script opens in Florida, as a family on vacation buys a pet alligator at a roadside stand for their little girl. Back home, “Ramon” is soon flushed down the toilet by the disgruntled father. Thirteen years later, gunshy cop David Madison begins to notice a rash of corpses showing up in the city sewers. After losing a partner to the mysterious predator, he teams up with herpetologist Marisa Kendall, who remembers having lost her pet alligator oh so many years ago…

Not content to crank out just your basic no-frills monster movie, Teague and Sayles sought to add levels of depth behind the fun and scares. “One of the things I like about horror films is that the monsters can easily be used as parables or metaphors for something,” Teague says. “I thought it would be interesting if the main character was pursued by some demons from his past that the alligator could symbolize. And his only way to exorcise them would be to face his fear and go out and slay the dragon, so to speak. I talked in conceptual terms about that with John, and he ran with it and came up with a backstory about Madison having a partner who was killed and who he felt guilty about, and it was ruining his life.”

“Something I consciously did was have the monster, like all social ills, start in the sewer and slums and eat its way up through the socio-economic classes,” Sayles says. “You’ll notice that only when it starts attacking the upper middle class do people start doing something about it.”

While shooting 2nd unit on 1978’s Avalanche, Teague became friends with that film’s costar Robert Forster, who later offered his services, unpaid and uncredited, as Turk the hit man in Lady in Red. Impressed with the actor’s work in his debut feature, Teague insisted on Forster as Madison over the possibility of other, better-known actors.

Robert Forster10_zps4tiqp98u

“Robert gave the picture so much of its character,” says associate producer Marianne Chase.  “Alligator worked because it was tongue-in-cheek. His performance in the lead stopped it from being another dumb serious horror movie. With him as the hero, you knew it was supposed to be fun.”

“Often when you write a low budget movie, you have no idea who’s going to be in it, and you just cross your fingers that it’s not going to be the second stuntman,” says Sayles. “The gun-shy cop who lost a partner is a standard device in police and military movies, but because Robert Forster is a good actor, all that stuff played out well. He made the guy more interesting than they usually are. If you can make a character three-dimensional in a horror movie, you’ve done a lot. That way the action stuff is more powerful, because you care about whether the guy lives or dies.”

Forster, the star of everything from the classic Medium Cool to Satan’s Princess, also gave the film its most memorable running gag.

Alligator! Oh, boy, that’s a favorite of mine. I was losing my hair at the time, and… I was in Schwab’s Drugstore, one of the great meeting places for actors from 1941 to 1983, when it closed, but everybody, everybody, everybody went there for breakfast, including the governor, Jerry Brown. Actors, directors, writers, publicists, hookers, horseplayers, and hangers-on—you name it, they were all at Schwab’s.  And I was sitting there in a booth, reading my paper, and some guy was standing there waiting for a table, and I looked up. I thought he was reading over my shoulder, and I looked up to make sure he had finished before I turned the page, and he wasn’t looking at the newspaper. He said, “Hey, Bob, I’m a friend of yours.” I said, “Yeah, Lenny.” He said, “I’m gonna tell you something, but… I’m a friend of yours.” I said, “Lenny, what is it?” He said, “Bob, you look better with hair, and you’d better do something about it.” And I thought to myself, “Jesus, the guy’s right.” I had gotten to the point where I was making jokes about hair loss.

 Now, you may remember that, in Alligator, there are a series of little jokes about a guy who’s sensitive about losing his hair. You remember that? I put those jokes into the movie. I wrote ’em, I asked the director if I could put ’em in there. He said, “Yes,” and the very first time we saw a rough cut of the movie, they were all in there, and in the second rough cut, they were all gone. And I figured, “Oh, God, this director didn’t like them,” or something, and I was sorry about it to myself. But then the third time, I said, “You know what? I think those belong in the movie.” And he called me back and said, “I’ve had friends tell me that they miss those hair jokes, so I’m gonna put ’em back in the movie.” And you may remember that when the movie was released, those hair jokes, every single reviewer commented on them. Without knowing how they got there, sure, but they all recognized that it was something human about the character, which gave it a little plus. Because, you know, it was a genre movie. It was a spoof of Jaws, basically. With a guy who was losing his hair. So when Lenny said what he said to me, that’s when I said to myself, “Losing my hair is not good enough to make the next joke. You’d better do something about it.”  – Robert Foster

After coming to Los Angeles with $35 in her pocket a few years earlier, Robin Riker made her screen debut as Dr. Kendall, the young scientist who helps defeat the killer gator. Riker and Forster together create one of the few love affairs in monster movie history that doesn’t seem horribly forced.

“What I liked about the script was that Kendall was a woman of substance,” Riker recalls. “She was a herpetologist, she was strong, she had a sense of humor, she kept up with the boys when the alligator broke out and the action started happening. When people asked me about Alligator when we were making it, I would say, ‘It’s like Jaws and I’m the Richard Dreyfuss character. ”


While Teague had his choice for the leads, Chase suggested they round out the cast with some familiar American character actors for their drawing power with overseas audiences. Michael Gazzo, the gravel-voiced screenwriter turned performer, famous for playing mobsters in films like Fingers and The Godfather, Part II, was cast as police chief Clark. Septuagenarian Dean Jagger, who began his career making monsters (1936’s Revolt of the Zombies), ended it that way too: His role as amoral industrialist Slade, the man responsible for dumping the hormones that created the beast, would be one of his last before dying in 1991 at age 87.

“He was wonderful,” Teague says of the late actor, famous for films like 12 O’Clock High and Vanishing Point. “He was 100 percent alert, had a great sense of humor. We were both fans of Rudyard Kipling, and we had a lot of fun between takes reciting Kipling poems to each other. Charming, erudite, very interesting guy.”


Henry Silva, the unforgettable chiseled-faced villain in films such as The Manchurian Candidate, Thirst and Dick Tracy, landed a rare non-traditional role as Colonel Brock, the big game hunter brought in to tackle the overgrown reptile. In an inspired touch, Brock goes to the South Side ghetto to recruit local “natives” to help him navigate the urban jungle.

“I’m cast so much as the heavy in films, and what people are not aware of is that when I was in New York doing theater, a lot of the plays I did were comedy,” says Silva, who left school at age 14 and became a dishwasher to pay for acting lessons. “I liked Alligator because of the humor in the film. I was killing so many people in all my other pictures, and it was getting a little boring. It was nice to make people smile again for a change.”

Unable to afford to recreate a sewer system on their slim $1- million budget, the filmmakers spent much of the 25-day shooting schedule in the actual Los Angeles sewer drains, the same locale where the classic Them! was filmed. “It was really nightmarish—it was a good thing it was a non-union movie where we could abuse everybody and keep them down there all day,” Teague laughs. “It was odorous and damp, and we were usually standing up to our hips in toxic waste water.”

“One day, when we were shooting the scene where the SWAT team is trying to chase out the alligator, some people saw these actors with fake guns and called the police, recalls Marianne Chase. “By the time we came out of the sewers, there was this fleet of cop cars waiting for us. And the wardrobe man, who was last to come out, saw all these cops and jumped right back down into the tunnels. We all had a good laugh about that.”

A low-budget horror film shot in the sewers doesn’t seem like it would make for pleasant memories, but all involved with Alligator share positive feelings about its lensing. “A lot of that had to do with Lewis,” says Marianne Chase. “He used to be an editor, and so he knows beforehand exactly how he wants things to be shot. There’s no Maybe we’ll do it this way, maybe we’ll do it that way. He’s editing the movie in his mind as he is shooting it. That gives everyone working with him a confidence, and gives the shoot a momentum. Nobody’s hanging around till the director decides what to do.”

“There was only one thing that made me very sad during the film,” says Silva. “Sue Lyon, who played Lolita, had one day’s work on the picture.” Lyon, who set the movie world on fire at age 14 as James Mason’s object of desire in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, and later made headlines by having a brief, unconsummated marriage to an imprisoned murderer, had a single scene as a TV reporter, and has not made a film appearance since. Lyon’s scene with Silva, where he comes on to her by imitating alligator mating sounds, is one of the film’s comic highlights.

Sue Lyon
Sue Lyon

“She was such a warm, beautifully dressed woman-yet I knew she had fallen on hard times,” says Silva, who continues to actively work in films, mostly in Europe and Asia. “That bothered me a great deal. Here’s a girl, taking this bit part, who was once a film star in her own right. She’s a talented person, but the industry had somehow found no more use for her. She was so young! To think that when you’re 21, you’re through-it really shook me up. It says a great deal about the American film industry, and not something positive either.”

The shooting progressed smoothly on the tight schedule, though how the film would end was still up in the air. “We had to go back and forth about the endings quite a bit,” says Sayles. “I had one ending where it was doused with gasoline and set on fire. They weren’t going to do that with a real alligator, and couldn’t see a way to do it to the fake one without destroying it. That meant that it would have to be the last shot of the movie, and also, the advertising value of the giant alligator that they had planned to utilize would be gone. If it was all melted rubber, it wouldn’t be able to make personal appearances at shopping malls. In the final draft of the ending. I wound up writing things like ‘EXCITING CROSS-CUT MONTAGE-YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, LEWIS!’

“I watched a lot of movies with underground locations to get ideas on how to shoot Alligator,” Teague recalls. “Especially The Third Man, where the hero, Harry Lime, dies in the sewers at the end. When we were down there shooting, I got inspired and spray-painted ‘Harry Lime Lives on the tunnel wall, which you can barely see in the last shot.”

For a film of its era and budget, Alligator’s creature FX are surprisingly good. “We tried to farm the job out to various special effects houses to build us a giant mechanized alligator, but the costs were enormous,” Brandon Chase remembers. “We figured we could go with an alligator that we could put two people inside instead.”

To test his theory, Chase commissioned industrial designer and then-mayor of Beverly Hills Ben Stansberry to create a prototype monster suit. “The original 26-footlong gator was cast in rubber on a frame of rattan and wicker with wire hinges, and two guys would wear it,” explains Teague. “I went down to this warehouse where the alligator was in storage, and it looked fantastic, so I was very excited. They cut it down from the ceiling, and it just crumbled into dust. The rubber had gotten totally dried out.

“Brandon then hired Bob Short to make a new alligator from the original mold,” Teague continues. “They were worried about it falling apart again, so they overbuilt it. It had a thick rubber shell, with an aluminum-and-steel armature. It weighed a ton. We had a screen test out in the valley where these guys had their shop, in their parking lot, and a huge crowd had gathered to watch. We hired these two ex-football players to be inside it. Now remember, a real alligator takes long strides; that’s how it moves so fast to kill its prey. The two guys inside it took long strides in human terms, but it looked like the alligator was taking these short mincing steps.

“So the cameras are rolling, and I’m calling a cadence so these guys can walk in sync, and this gigantic monster starts taking these little baby steps. Well, the 200 passers-by that gathered to watch this thing just burst out laughing. At that point I made two decisions that it was gonna be a comedy, and that I would show as little of the alligator moving as possible.”

“It didn’t look real for very long,” Brandon Chase says of the monster suit. “They couldn’t walk for more than a few moments because of the heat inside and the weight of the thing. Lewis sensed that problem beforehand, so we shot all the profile moving shots with a real alligator on miniature sets. Also, when we did tight close-ups of a head or eye or mouth, we’d use the real one. Cutting between the movement of the real gator and our fake one created much greater credibility.”

In describing the cost of making Alligator, Teague revealed, “The budget was a little under one and half million, and we had about a four week shooting schedule. The musician’s strike began shortly after we finished the movie, which was unfortunate, because James Horner was writing the score, and he had just completed the score when the strike began, so he wouldn’t let us have it. I think he recycled that score and used it on a movie called Wolfen. There you go; not a bad picture either.”

Like Teague’s first film, Alligator got excellent critical notices but fared less than spectacularly at the box office. The New York Times’ Vincent Canby (asked personally by the director to review it) raved, stacking it up against mega hits Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman II as one of the best releases of summer 1981. Alas, Alligator never made even half the money those blockbusters did, coming and going from theaters in a flash. “It didn’t do that well in theaters because Brandon booked it into houses that only had one week’s availability, never imagining that it was gonna get the reaction it did,” Forster says in his typically outspoken, from-the-hip style.

“Brandon thought he could make more money releasing it himself, rather than take what the studios had offered him,” says Teague. “They would have done a better job publicizing it, and it would have played in theaters longer, but they would have had complete ownership, and it would have been the last we would ever see of it.”


John Sayles Interview

Sayles had traveled this Jaws-inspired territory earlier in Piranha, which I think is slightly superior to Alligator. But Alligator and Piranha both share the spirit of unpretentious B-movie glee, and both include a little social commentary with their humor and gore. Alligator is at least better in one respect: it stars the great Robert Forster as the unshaven cop hero. Forster’s low-key sincerity gives Alligator a pathos that Piranha lacks, although Piranha has better rhythm, action, and humor. I also think Piranha handles the gore better, as some of the severed arms and legs in Alligator are plainly gross.

Both films employ the old-fashioned monster-movie pattern of depicting a kill early on, showing glimpses of the monster from time to time, having the heroes discover telltale signs of the monster, putting the heroes in conflict with corrupt or ignorant authorities, and finally setting the monster loose at some kind of big festival at the conclusion. Both films, thanks to Sayles, are very good at foreshadowing and at setting amusing patterns in the narrative. An obvious example: the gator’s name is Ramon, and in Madison’s apartment are posters of Ramon Santiago

How did you get involved with Alligator?
John Sayles: I had already worked with its director, Lewis Teague, on Lady in Red, a movie that’s very popular in Europe. That was one of the best scripts I’ve written, though Lewis had only twenty-one days to shoot it, a budget of under a million, and no voice in casting the first four leads. Robert Conrad was Dillinger, a small part. Pamela Sue Martin, recently on Dynasty, was the lead. She’s okay, but she hadn’t done a big part before. Anyway, they had this script for Alligator, but it wasn’t a good script. So Lewis talked the producer, Brandon Chase, into hiring me. They gave me this script that was set in Madison, Wisconsin. The alligator lived in a sewer for the whole movie. It never got above ground.

What turned the alligator into a fantasy monster in the original script?
John Sayles: A brewery had a leak and the alligator was drinking the malt, or something like that. It never made sense why it was a giant alligator. They killed this alligator at an old abandoned sawmill. Someone had left the power on at the old abandoned sawmill. And someone had left a chainsaw lying around the old abandoned sawmill. They plugged the chainsaw in and threw it into the alligator’s mouth. All the alligator’s thrashing around didn’t even pull the plug out, even as the chainsaw cut him to bits. So I rewrote Alligator. All I kept was a giant alligator, and I started from scratch. I wrote the whole first draft on the cross-country flight from L.A. to New York.

Were you following concrete instructions?
John Sayles: No, Lewis just said, “This script needs plot, character, mood.”

What was the alligator like?
John Sayles: They had built an alligator years earlier, and it was sitting on a shelf. When they took it off the shelf, it fell apart. They had to build another alligator. Well, there was a lot of good stuff I wrote that never got shot, whole subplots, because this alligator couldn’t cut it. This alligator couldn’t do the things they said it could. It couldn’t go in the water, for instance. Since there was only one foot of water in the sewer, I decided the alligator should end in the Mississippi River and drown. But that wasn’t filmed. Earlier I’d wanted to burn the alligator, have a guy pour gasoline on it. I liked the idea of the alligator walking around on fire. They said no, because the alligator was booked for a personal appearance in a flatbed truck for publicity. We couldn’t destroy it. We had to cut away from it.

So what did you do?
John Sayles: Finally we blew it up. I wrote the scene over the telephone. Lewis called and said, “Well, it’s time to shoot the end.” I said, “Oh well… let’s have the alligator take dynamite off somebody. We should do some crosscutting at the end. Also, someone should drive a car on top of the manhole cover…”Lewis said, “That sounds fine.” He story-boarded the conclusion and did a great job. I said, “Don’t put any dialogue in except, ‘Move your car! My boyfriend is down there with the alligator!'”

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(Alligator) A tabletop game based on the film was distributed by the Ideal Toy Company in 1980.


Robert Forster as David Madison
Robin Riker as Marisa Kendall
Michael V. Gazzo as Chief Clark (credited as Michael Gazzo)
Dean Jagger as Slade
Sydney Lassick as Luke Gutchel (credited as Sidney Lassick)
Jack Carter as Mayor
Perry Lang as Officer Jim Kelly
Henry Silva as Colonel Brock
Bart Braverman as Thomas Kemp
John Lisbon Wood as mad bomber
James Ingersoll as Arthur Helms
Robert Doyle as Mr. Bill Kendall, Marisa’s father
Patti Jerome as Mrs. Madeline Kendall, Marisa’s mother
Angel Tompkins as newswoman
Sue Lyon as ABC newswoman

3 thoughts on “Alligator (1980) Retrospective

      1. True. Funny how the original, non Sayles script, really does sound like a Sci Fi Channel film.


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