Also known as The Big Alligator River and, simply, Alligator (even though our beast in question is actually a crocodile), this 1979 film from Sergio Martino has had the dubious distinction of being dubbed one of the ‘50 worst movies ever made’, yours truly thinks that some critics have come down a little too hard on this otherwise fun popcorn film.
Sure, The Great Alligator wholesale heists ninety-nine percent of its plot from such aquatic animal disaster films as Jaws and Piranha, but that isn’t what we’re debating here, because LOTS of films, foreign and domestic, plied the same trade during the 1970s and 80s, whether it be Orca (whales), Grizzly (bears), The Pack (dogs) or the American Alligator, starring Quentin Tarantino fave Robert Forster.
No, what we’re really getting down to is the quality of Paolo Richi and Carlos de Marchis’ special effects, and how they compare to our other fine oceanic friends. Yes, the ‘alligator’ looks incredibly fake…but so did ‘Flaws,” er, I mean Jaws. And sure, Sergio Marino makes great use of unconvincing tiny models for many of the action scenes. Big deal. The Great Alligator is still a hoot for disaster fans eager to see a bunch of annoying Euro-tourists get caught between a spear-throwing native rock and a crocodile hard place.
In this sense, Martino’s film probably has more aesthetically in common with the over-the-top, lighthearted tone of Joe Dante’s Piranha than of Steven Spielberg’s killer shark classic, which admittedly scares the pants off us in a way with which The Great Alligator cannot hope to compete. Martino doesn’t try to, however, instead relishing in the carnage of Alligator’s last third with a glee reserved only for the finest Italian exploitation filmmakers.
While The Great Alligator is a far cry from the respected director’s work on such classic gialli as Torso and All the Colors of the Dark, this film-though slowly paced at first-winds up providing more than enough (unintentional?) laughs along the way. Add to the mix Stelvio Cipriani’s tropical soundtrack and Bond girl Barbara Bach’s captivating on screen beauty, and you have a fine slice of drive in sleaze to please the hungry animal lurking within all of us.