AUGUST 13, 2008
I guess it’s just an odd coincidence that Blockbuster shipped Alligator the same day I rented Rogue. I never look at my queue; with an occasional exception, most of the movies I get were queued up ages ago. Part of the fun is not knowing what I’m gonna get! But even stranger, Alligator had a scene in which a snake is forced to shoot its venom in order for someone to study it, a scene that also occurred in yesterday’s Stanley. Take that, Quint!
Alligator is a shitload of fun, too. It’s great to see Robert Forster in a lead role. I know he was pretty big in the 70s (hence why Tarantino gave him a good role in Jackie Brown) but most of the time I see him he's just in small roles in garbage like Dragon Wars and Rise: Blood Hunter. He’s kind of a big ol’ softy in the film; he buys a puppy, yells at a dude for exploiting animals, and gets butthurt whenever someone points out that he’s going bald. Even when he gets the standard “You’re off the force!” scene, he puts up very little resistance. He doesn’t even pound his fist into his locker or whatever; he just takes his stuff out quietly and even removes his name off the door, which I’m sure his replacement will appreciate. Since John Sayles wrote the movie, you get some better character development and dialogue than you’d usually find in a monster movie like this, and Forster gets the best stuff.
There’s actually a lot of stuff you don’t often get in a movie, if ever. The ‘gator kills a kid quite bloodily; it makes Alex Kinter’s death look downright bloodless. The animal also carries out a Jaws: The Revenge style vendetta against the evil lab who inadvertently created him, as it skips across half the city to take out the scientists at a wedding. Also, a nosy reporter, who you expect to dog our hero throughout the film, gets it early on, and his camera not only gets photos of the creature, but it’s pretty much believed by everyone who sees them. Usually you get a skeptical asshole who will say the photos are faked or whatever, but not here.
Also, an early scene where a mad bomber threatens the police station contains what HAS to be a first. In any countdown/bomb sequence, those of you counting along will notice that the clock runs pretty goddamn slow. The one in Armageddon when they disable the nuke is my all time favorite – they have like 45 seconds left, and Willis sits down and delivers a teary speech, THEN they disarm the bomb, and each closeup of the clock reveals it’s only down a second at most from the shot before (at one point they cut in two shots of a fraction of one second!), despite several seconds, and clock BEEPS, in between. Anyway, in Alligator, we can tell from the dialogue that there aren’t any jump cuts in time, but the clock goes down like 20 seconds in about 5. I guess it’s sort of making up for all the other movies.
Like Rogue, this movie is not for dog lovers. Forster’s pooch is thankfully spared, but the evil lab makes it a point to test only on puppies (“How about a stray cat?” the animal supplier asks. “No. PUPPIES,” Doctor Evil Jerkass replies). Nothing onscreen, but we get a horrible shot of the supplier putting garbage bags with dead pups in a pile. Then we see the supplier dump them into the sewer. Terrible. The supplier is played by that one nebbish-y guy from Cuckoo’s Nest (“Piss on your fucking rules!”), so it’s good to see his ass get chomped. I looked him up on IMDb, and he’s dead now, so that’s sad. He’s a fun presence.
I also love the captain in the movie, played by Godfather II's (and several other mob movies') Michael Gazzo. I never caught his name, so I just called him Captain Growl Face. This is because he delivers all his lines in a hoarse shout, like Uncle Paulie in one of his more drunken moments. He never actually DOES anything in the movie, but I like that he backs up Forster for most of the film, even if he despises Forster’s lack of shaving skills and such. He’s dead now too.
Blockbuster’s DVD kept freezing and skipping, so don’t rent it from their online service if you live in LA (I can’t imagine they have more than one copy). But the DVD is from Lionsgate for some reason, so I cannot condone purchasing it either (don’t give those fucking bastards a single cent!). So if you find it used, or trust your rental service, definitely check it out!
What say you?