The Great Alligator (1979)

Director Sergio Martino is an old hand at these types of movies (Italian trash), having been behind 2019: After The Fall Of New York and Mountain Of The Cannibal God as well as forays into the giallo, spaghetti western, and Eurocrime arenas. And having worked extensively with the likes of Daniel Greene in flicks like After the Condor and Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood, if anyone could take a plastic alligator named Kruna and make an entertaining film out of it, it would be Sergio.

Claudio Cassinelli (killed while shooting Hands of Steel with Martino) is Daniel, a photographer contracted by the resort that Mel Ferrer stupidly built in Kruna’s back yard, to shoot some publicity photos. Daniel arrives at Paradise House with his supermodel pal, Sheena.

Sheena is an emaciated black woman who has “gator bait” tattooed across her scrawny ass as soon as you see her vainly attempt to vamp it up as Daniel shoots photos of her all the while winking at hotel manager/anthropologist Barbara Bach. Bach doesn’t serve any purpose in the movie other than to translate whatever the natives are babbling about and to get taken prisoner in the last third of the movie for the expected human sacrifice aspect of things.

Obviously, these giant-aquatic-creatures-terrorizing-tourist films all follow the same premise: there’s a guy in charge of whatever tourist business is threatened and he refuses to take seriously any of our heroes’ pleas to shut things down and contact the authorities because it would be bad for business.

This business plan always involves a large gathering of tourists at some kind of party or grand opening just when megamonster really gets all amped up to rampage, resorting in the kind of hysterical stampede of ugly extras you’re paying your money to see. It’s especially satisfying if irritating characters you’ve been loathing for the past seventy minutes get ground up in the humongous maw of the beast.

By now, you’re probably thinking that Paradise House is some type of late seventies Jurassic Park or Disney World in the jungle. Well, Mel did mention that he wasn’t about to let the three million dollars that were invested in it go down the crapper just because some reptile had its panties in a bunch about progress encroaching on his stomping grounds.

Three million dollars? Just what sort of swank set up do we have here? Um, there’s a hotel, a rickety bridge called “Crocodile Bridge” and a boat with a thatched roof on it called “Tarzan’s Raft.” Oh, and all the natives they employ wear these nasty white T-shirts with the Paradise House logo on it. You have to think that old Kruna was doing Mel a favor when he tore it all to piss allowing a tidy insurance settlement for Mel’s heirs.

The first inkling anyone has that trouble is a brewing in the muddy waters of the river is that Sheena hasn’t materialized after a night out with one of the natives. Daniel starts running his mouth to Mel about finding Sheena and that Kruna must have eaten her.

He and Barbara go and investigate and discover that the local tribe worships the big gator and that they are under the impression that Kruna is throwing a fit because the tribe cooperated with Paradise House. This leads to an entirely pointless field trip to visit the crazy old missionary who lives in a cave with a big statue of a gator.

After what seems like an eternity of build up everything starts to break loose! The natives turn against Paradise House and start pulling college-level pranks like pushing the resort helicopter into the river and shooting flaming arrows into the guests. They also decide to abduct Barbara and storm the resort massacring everyone they can find.

For his part, Kruna is a very busy gator, swimming back and forth across the river to alternately harass the folks on Tarzan’s Raft and Daniel who is trying to rescue Barbara. This is finally the part of the movie where Sergio comes through with those action sequences that are so bad, they’re funny to us and humiliating to the guys who made the film.

I wasn’t sure if I laughed harder when Daniel told Barbara to go hide under a hut or dock or wherever while he tried to distract the natives by driving a VW bus through the jungle (that was pretty distracting) or when the VW bus was driving across Crocodile Bridge and then plunged into the water after a native chopped the bridge down with a machete.

The laughter only intensified as we then had to watch the plastic gator nudge a Hot Wheels VW bus as Daniel frantically got the explosives together that the workman thoughtfully left in the VW bus along with some scuba gear and oxygen tanks so that he could blow up poor Kruna!

Not nearly enough happens in the first two-thirds of the movie good or bad to advise you to waste your money on it. The gator appears infrequently and just sort of drifts in the water (immobile plastic models have a way of doing that) except for the few scenes where we get a close up of its mouth and it actually appears that it might have opened.

Sergio also pads the movie out with characters that aren’t necessary such as the previously mentioned crazy priest as well as an annoying little girl who sadly escapes Kruna’s wrath. It’s good to see that Sergio was willing to tackle any genre at any time, but it wasn’t so good that I had to see that he was so willing. Sergio’s big gator movie turns out to be a big crock.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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