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Sergio Martino
Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer
Ernesto Gastaldi, Luigi Montefiori, Maria Chianetta, Sergio Martino

Tourists on a tropical island anger an island god, who turns himself into a giant alligator and stalks them.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Italian DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 5/28/24

• “Down By the River” Featurette
• “Minou” Featurette
• “Beware of the Gator” Featurette
• “Later Alligator” Featurette
• “Underwater” Featurette
• “3 Friends and an Alligator” Featurette
• “Paradise House” Featurette
• “Alligator Land” Featurette
• Trailer


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The Great Alligator [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2024)

Just as 1973’s Exorcist inspired knockoffs like 1977’s Cathy's Curse, the same “me too” genre emerged after 1975’s mega-smash Jaws. For another in this domain of “killer animal” flicks, we go to 1979’s The Great Alligator.

Mogul Joshua (Mel Ferrer) opens a tourist resort in an African jungle. Along the way, his employees casually destroy a lot of the natural habitat to allow for a hotel and other facilities.

Inevitably, this sparks a backlash, here due to a voracious human-devouring reptile that may or may not exist as the embodiment of a vengeful god. Add to that a rebellion from the locals who believe in this legend and plenty of violence results.

Should I take it as a bad sign that a movie entitled The Great Alligator takes place in a land where crocodiles act as that form of toothy critter? Sure, the movie attempts to rationalize this, but this makes little sense in the bigger picture.

As such, the title just feels sloppy and careless. It seems like foreshadowing that we’ll find a sloppy and careless movie.

Not that any sane person would enter a low-budget Italian genre wannabe flick like Alligator with high expectations. At most, one can hope to find some cheap “killer monster” thrills.

Good luck with that. Alligator lives up to the “cheap” side of that but it never provides actual thrills.

A lot of this stems from the aforementioned low budget. Without much money to throw at the project, the filmmakers lacked much ability to create a violent creature to cause effective mayhem.

Still, as Spielberg proved with Jaws, a movie like this doesn’t need to boast amazing effects to create tension and fright. Unfortunately, director Sergio Martino was no Spielberg.

This means we get a movie with lots of potential intrigue but virtually no actual drama. Everything feels thin and ridiculous, so we never buy into the title creature’s threat.

It becomes virtually impossible to ignore the movie’s thematic connections to Jaws. In both, a lone man warns of danger while a greedy local leader attempts to quash these concepts due to the tourist trade.

That said, Alligator clearly goes off into other directions unseen in Jaws, mostly related to the African natives and those complications. In theory, these could give the film a distinctive flavor that would allow it to rise above its Jaws-emulating origins.

Unfortunately, the basic lack of purpose or development harpoons any of these possibilities. Whatever room for thrills Alligator boasts, it fails to fulfill any of them.

At times, the basic cheesiness of Alligator means it threatens to enter into “so bad it’s good territory”, but the movie can’t even fulfill that role. Cheap and silly as it may be, it never quite degenerates to the basic level of cinematic absurdity that would allow it to enter the camp classic realm.

Instead, Alligator commits arguably the worst sin I can imagine from a killer critter thriller: it becomes a bore. Slow, meandering and without any bite, this turns into a dull dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

The Great Alligator appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a competent but somewhat erratic presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked fine. Some softness crept in at times, and the movie didn’t often seem particularly precise, but overall the flick displayed adequate to good delineation.

I saw no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain seemed natural, but occasional specks, marks and lines materialized. Though not pervasive, they created sporadic distractions.

Colors tended toward a natural palette that seemed reasonably effective. Although the hues didn’t stand out as impressive, they appeared pretty accurate.

Blacks showed positive darkness and most shadows worked fine, though some “day for night” shots came with the usual thickness. This wound up as a watchable image but not one that impressed, mainly due to too many source defects.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural audio, it felt perfectly adequate given the age of the material. Like so many Italian films, this one featured entirely dubbed dialogue.

The disc boasts both English and Italian soundtracks, and normally I would opt for the latter given the nature of the crew. However, because it became clear most – if not all – of the actors spoke English on the set, I opted for that one.

Don’t expect to hear those actors’ actual voices, of course. Even though we got “names” like Barbara Bach and Mel Ferrer, voice performers looped their lines.

Which meant inevitably that speech never sounded natural or well-integrated. The performances weren’t very good either, though I’ve heard worse English dubs.

Whatever the case, quality felt acceptable. Speech was a bit reedy but remained intelligible and lacked edginess.

Effects occasionally betrayed some distortion, particularly when it came to high-end material. They usually seemed acceptably accurate within the limited parameters of the original recording, though.

Music showed adequate range and failed to demonstrate notable flaws. The score wasn’t impressive but it wasn’t poor. That sentiment covered pretty much all of the soundtrack, as it worked okay for an older movie but fared no better than that.

When we move to extras, we get a slew of featurettes. These open with Down By the River, a 10-minute, 42-second interview with director Sergio Martino.

“Down” covers the era’s low-budget Italian knockoffs of Hollywood hits as well as Martino’s experiences during the production of Alligator. This becomes a brief but enjoyable piece.

Minou spans 16 minutes, 34 seconds. Here we find info from actor Silvia Collatina.

We learn about her life as a child actor and her memories of the shoot. Collatina offers a pleasant series of impressions that offer more intrigue than usual due to her youthful POV.

Next comes Beware of the Gator. It fills 16 minutes, 28 seconds with notes from camera operator Claudio Morabito.

“Beware” looks at the movie’s photography and his work on the flick along with thoughts about cast and crew. Though we don’t get a ton of insight, Morabito boasts enough fun anecdotes to make the discussion worth a look.

With Later Alligator, we get a program that fills 16 minutes, 48 seconds. It includes material with production designer Antonello Geleng.

We hear about Geleng’s work on the movie and related topics. We get another satisfying overview.

Underwater features a chat with underwater camera operator Gianlorenzo Battaglia. The show spans seven minutes, 16 seconds.

We get notes related to the aquatic photography along with other memories. As Battaglia relates, the movie doesn’t include a lot of underwater shots so he doesn’t give us a ton of insights, but he provides a decent array of notes.

After this we go to 3 Friends and an Alligator. The 16-minute, 32-second reel involves cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando, production designer Antonello Geleng and special effects supervisor Paolo Ricci.

Accompanied by the only surviving reptile puppet from the shoot, all three chat together about Alligator and other films. This late 90s piece offers some engaging memories, and I like the way in which the guys interact.

A video essay called Paradise House occupies 18 minutes, 50 seconds. It brings us thoughts from film historian Lee Gambin.

This discussion examines the movie’s themes and undercurrents. While he makes some good points, I think Gambin stretches, as I suspect he finds interpretation never really considered by the filmmakers. Sometimes a cigar’s just a cigar and all that.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with Alligator Land. In this six-minute, 12-second compilation, Geleng gives us a look at production art.

We see six of Geleng’s paintings as he discusses them. This winds up as an enjoyable reel.

As a basic ripoff of Jaws, The Great Alligator fails to find a groove. Dull and dreary, the movie doesn’t provide even the most basic charms. The Blu-ray comes with adequate picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. Despite a few “name” actors, nothing about this clunker works.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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