I Watched Alligator

Long nights crying by the record machine
Dreaming of my Chevy and my old blue jeans


You know the story: girl buys cute baby alligator, dad flushes alligator down the toilet, 12 years later, gigantic alligator is discovered in sewer.

Throw in a sarcastic, embittered cop who blames himself for the death of his partner, a sexy herpetologist (guess who she was 12 years ago!), a corrupt mayor, and an evil research company (they experiment on PUPPIES!), and you’ve got:


(And the fact that the alligator is named Ramon makes him no less terrifying.)

Alligator (1980) was written by John Sayles, whom you may know as the director of such non-alligator movies as City of Hope, Eight Men Out, and Passionfish (wait, was there an alligator in Passionfish? How does that lady end up in the wheelchair?).

Anyway, apropos of nothing, John Sayles is hot and really tall. What could’ve been just another movie-of-the-week is elevated to a campy creature-feature with good writing, deadpan humor, decent special effects, and great acting from Robert Forster and a cast of “wasn’t that guy on Match Game“-type actors.

Our hero, Ramon—measuring 32 feet thanks to growth hormones used in the (PUPPIES!) experiments that get dumped in his underground lair—gets bored eating sewer workers and lost dogs and comes bursting through a manhole cover, much to the awed delight of local street urchins. (One urchin, wearing an “I’m a Pepper T-shirt,” runs home to get a knife, presumably to make his ma a nice alligator purse?)

Police detective Bob Madison, played by Robert Forster (also looking hot, despite some weird male-pattern baldness and an unfortunate cherry-red V-neck), investigates. Somehow he manages to keep a straight face while inquiring after “Edward Norton,” a sewer worker whose chomped-on arm was found floating around a retaining tank.

Madison hooks up with (literally) the sexy herpetologist, and through a combination of his street smarts and her book smarts, they manage to solve the mystery of disappearing animals and mismatched body parts and put an end to the horror.

But not before a lot of people get chomped on. Luckily, there are plenty of evil stereotypes for Ramon to clamp between his jaws of death: the scummy reporter, the unscrupulous pet store owner/dog-snatcher (he’s supplying the PUPPIES!), and the pompous big-game hunter.

But Ramon hits the jackpot by gate-crashing a fancy wedding, where the three main bad guys just happen to be in attendance. Ramon passes on the cheese puffs and pigs-in-blankets to feast on the corrupt mayor, the two evil research guys, plus a hapless waitress dressed in a French maid costume. (A word of advice: if you’re ever at an outdoor wedding and a giant alligator appears, just run. They don’t move very fast, apparently.)

Like all good monster movies, Alligator teaches us a valuable lesson. Don’t keep alligators as pets? Don’t allow experimentation on animals? Stay out of sewers? No, the lesson is: Don’t play “walk the plank” in your backyard swimming pool. It’s not just the bad guys who get chomped (oops, spoiler!).

A Side Note

Possibly the most awesome thing about Alligator on DVD are the previews for similar “nature-gone-horribly-wrong” movies that look so mind-bogglingly . . . awesome, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of them.

We were out here to develop a biocatalyst that would increase plant growth with some elements of animal DNA.”

“But then something went wrong, didn’t it?”

You bet it did:


“When nature takes over . . .one town . . . must face . . . the unimaginable.”


“On an island in the South Pacific . . . a sensational discovery . . . is about to turn deadly.”


How did I miss these movies in the theaters? Oh, yeah, right.

The other awesome thing about the DVD? Interview with John Sayles and his chest hair!

Sayles, you had me at “Ramon.”


Fun Facts about Alligators

  • They are related to dinosaurs!
  • They are not crocodiles!
  • They make lousy pets!
  • They make great handbags! (so I’ve heard; I do not advocate the purchase of reptilian ANYthing)
Learn More About Our Friend, the Alligator

  • Alligator as Urban Legend
  • Alligator as Pet
  • Alligator as Movie Monster
  • Alligator as Handbag (oh, I can’t even bear to put up a link to this. It’s almost as bad as experimenting on PUPPIES!)

* Today’s lyrics are courtesy of this Elton John, not this Elton John (for Jackie).