Here in Australia, especially during summer, life is a never-ending creature feature. Surprisingly our array of creepy-crawlies and large reptiles are rarely subject to cinematic exploitation. By contrast, in the United States, almost every member of the animal kingdom has at one time been a star, like an alligator – a titular monster of the 1980 classic and its inferior sequel, both of which have come to take a bite out of the physical media market with a stacked Limited Edition 4K UHD & Blu-ray set from 101 Films in the UK, available from February 12th.
It’s easy to dismiss Alligator as “Jaws in the Sewer”, but this gritty urbanised monster movie, set in Chicago by way of Los Angeles, has something to say rather than just disturbing the audience with torn-off arms and legs. Our overly large antagonist is the result of man’s carelessness through the illegal disposal of biological experiments and the selling of “miniature alligators” which are just babies, the catalyst of this film, that interestingly almost comes full circle when tragedy is publicly exploited for profit. Behind the shady practices is a callus corporate entity, which speaks to the growing influence of big business on governing bodies during the 1980s.
Robert Forster stars as the rather downtrodden cop, David Madison, who’s on the trail, so to speak, of our reptilian beast. Thankfully his thick midwestern accent helps with the suspension of disbelief regarding the film’s setting. Plot-wise, Alligator follows the usual trajectory of the genre, but the technical side, which brings the creature to life, pulls it out of B-picture territory despite the appearance of Henry Silva as the Quint-esque gator hunter. Our hero’s pairing with herpetologist and love interest Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker) results in an intelligent duo for a change, and an attractive one if I may say so.
Alligator II: The Mutation, a semi-redundant title, considering this ‘croc’ is no more a mutant than the original, but then again, this sequel is a soft remake. Completism is a force sometimes stronger than gravity, so I understand its inclusion in this fine set, but you’ll easily be forgiven if you want to skip it. However, I will say that character actor, Richard Lynch, is “all in” as this film’s resident gator hunter, who comes up from the bayou with Kane Hodder in tow. Lynch’s excitement is awkwardly visible in more ways than one! I’m sure there are some fans of Alligator II, and to its credit, the film is a lot more lively than its predecessor, but it’s severely lacking effort on all fronts.
All the special features for both Alligator films come ported from their respective Region A releases, which will be good news for those who only own Region B players. Interviews include a wide range of individuals who worked in front of and behind the camera for each movie, from background actors to scriptwriters.
Bryan Cranston, who worked as an assistant on Alligator, gives a passionate recollection of his experience which mainly involved making reptile guts. The Breaking Bad actor gets personal when talking about a brief encounter with Robert Forster when the pair shared a van ride to the film set. Director Lewis Teague goes equally as deep when talking about how Alligator helped encourage him to stay clean from drug and alcohol use. Of course, Teague also goes into detail about the film’s production, spanning from the story’s origins to the difficulties of working in the L.A sewers. Actress Robin Riker, on the other hand, keeps her interview light and breezy, divulging a funny anecdote about how she and Forster used to “toke it up” between takes.
While all positive in their reflections, those who worked on Alligator II are a bit more reserved than their counterparts interviewed for the original film. Director John Hess goes into the most detail in his interview, describing his relationship and admiration for each of the actors he worked with on set. Hess’ sit down is one in a line of many that describe the troubles encountered with both real and fake gators due to the film’s small budget. Special Effects Coordinator John Eggett goes into detail regarding problems with the prop reptile, and health and safety hazards which affected both those in front of and behind the camera. Kane Hodder, who appears as a background actor takes a different route with his interview, and instead talks about bonding with co-star Richard Lynch over their burn scars. – Hannah Lynch
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Alligator’s 4K UHD treatment offers a level of detail and picture clarity that fans probably never expected to see from a modest creature feature. The colour is not the most vibrant, but the somewhat muted tones appear very natural. Even the step-down in quality on the Blu-ray counterpart, still manages to look impressive, as does Alligator II. Despite lacking the grain and texture of the original film, the sequel appears very clean, typical of a direct-to-video feature that has since undergone HD remastering. It was a tad difficult to find details on the audio, but a Stereo 2.0 track provides robust sounds with loud dialogue.
101 Films has set the bar pretty high for 2024, with this stacked box set which boasts great display value thanks to unique and newly commissioned artwork that fronts the box and reverse art for each film. – Alligator (1980) & Alligator II: The Mutation (1991) (Limited Edition) (4K UHD & Blu-ray) retails for £39.99 GBP and $66 AUD, which is a bargain if you’re buying from Australia. Pre-order online while stocks last.
ALLIGATOR I & ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION
(1980 & 1991, director: Lewis Teague& John Hess)
alligator II direct blu-ray screen captures