Alligator & Alligator II: The Mutation Box Set
Directed by Lewis Teague/Jon Hess.
Starring Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva, Dee Wallace, Richard Lynch, Joseph Bologna, and Steve Railsback.
Limited edition box set featuring the creature feature double bill of Alligator and its sequel, plus a few extras.
It has taken its time to get here but the UK finally has a sparkling HD release of classic B-movie Alligator, and not only does this box set feature the movie on glorious 4K UHD and Blu-ray, but you also get the sequel as well (not on 4K though). You want more? Oh, there’s more.
But first, the star of the show. Originally released in 1980 amid the post-Jaws boom of nature-run-amok movies, Alligator is the one you’ve at least heard of if you haven’t seen it because this is the one where a baby alligator gets flushed down the toilet by an angry parent not wanting his young daughter to have one for a pet, and the creature grows to become a huge beast thanks to feeding on the carcasses of animals used in experiments for growth hormones. Once the bodies start piling up, cop David Madison (Robert Forster) begins to investigate, but things get worse when the hungry reptile breaks out from the sewers and goes on the rampage.
Unlike most of the other Jaws knock-offs from the time, Alligator doesn’t just go for the kills and instead takes wider inspiration from Spielberg’s masterpiece by giving us characters that we care about, a bit of political corruption as a sub-plot and a story that unfolds at a steady pace and fills the 90-minute running time perfectly. Don’t worry though, as there are still plenty of gruesome kills, a shouty police chief, a love interest and some pretty decent practical effects, all of which could be called clichéd, but things become cliché for a reason, mainly because they work.
And Alligator does work as a fun creature feature thanks to the talent involved, from director Lewis Teague (Cujo/Cat’s Eye) and writer John Sayles (The Howling/Piranha) through to the host of character actors who pop up throughout the movie, including Michael V. Gazzo (The Godfather Part II), Dean Jagger (Game of Death), Henry Silva (Escape From the Bronx) and the aforementioned Robert Forster. The scenes with the alligator – a mixture of an animatronic model and a real creature set against scale models – are not entirely seamless but the editing works to keep things moving so you don’t really notice the joins (and it still looks more impressive than any CGI creation from the last two decades), and the whole thing gets in, entertains and then gets out again just before any lag starts to set in.
The 4K UHD image isn’t the sharpest or most polished you will ever see, but considering the source material it has scrubbed up quite well, and any time there is anything red on the screen – from the glow of cop car lights to the bloody stumps left after the beast has taken a bite out of someone’s legs – it pops out enough to let you know this has had a makeover. Extras come in the form of interviews with the likes of writer John Sayles, director Lewis Teague, actress Robin Riker and special makeup effects artist Robert Short, but as a bonus 101 Films have also included the TV version of the movie on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, which runs longer than the theatrical cut with additional plot scenes but does have some of the more graphic content cut out. As a go-to version the theatrical cut is the better one of the two, but the fact the TV version has been included is a nice touch.
Which brings us onto Alligator II: The Mutation, the belated sequel released eleven years after the first one, and what a difference a decade makes. Essentially, the sequel is more-or-less the same plot as another alligator is found living in the sewers on a diet of whatever chemical-enhanced waste the Future Chemicals Corporation had decided to dump there. Cue this movie’s cop, David Hodges (Joseph Bologna), and a rag-tag group of alligator hunters, led by Richard Lynch and Kane Hodder, to try and capture or kill the beast before it foils the plans of crooked property tycoon Vinnie Brown (Steve Railsback) and his corrupt political partners.
Proof that lightening doesn’t always strike twice, not even the stacked cast of B-movie regulars can save Alligator II: The Mutation from being a disappointment when compared to the first movie; hell, it is even a disappointment when not being compared to the first movie thanks to a lot of extended scenes where not a lot actually happens.
Joseph Bologna is a likeable enough lead and he gives his character enough quirks to makes him interesting, but the script does nothing with him, except have some bizarre dialogue with his wife Christine (Dee Wallace) as they talk about alligators in a very clinical way – Christine is an expert, apparently – but not to each other in the way that a husband and wife would. The lack of chemistry between them aside, Dee Wallace is wasted here as she pops up whenever the script calls for David to learn a new fact about reptiles before he goes off to have a confrontation with another cop who doesn’t like him. Alligator II: The Mutation tries to recreate the (relative) depth of its predecessor, but with nothing new to bring to the table it just comes across as a bland and lifeless re-tread, shot in that flat early ’90s style that feels more like a TV movie. Even the inclusion of the always wonderful Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams) and Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th series) as alligator hunting brothers doesn’t bring as much fun and excitement as the idea of it does. At least the alligator itself still looks good; it just takes too long to get to any action.
As with the first movie, there are several interviews on the disc, including Kane Hodder and director Jon Hess, but, as a movie, Alligator II: The Mutation never lives up to the promise of B-movie goodness that the notable cast and slightly improved practical effects offer.
For collectors, having all the movies of a franchise in one box set is the dream, but the reality is that only the theatrical cut of Alligator is essential viewing for monster movie enthusiasts, and the 4K UHD print is the best this movie is ever likely to look. The TV version is nice to have but it is just an extra, and Alligator II: The Mutation might as well be for the rewatch value it has. The discs come housed in a rigid slipcase featuring excellent new artwork and a collector’s booklet for more thoughts on the movies, but overall, as far as Jaws knock-offs go Alligator is still one of the best and if you are in the UK this set is the best way to watch it. The sequel, however, is not so essential.
Flickering Myth Rating – Alligator – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Flickering Myth Rating – Alligator II: The Mutation – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★