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Alligators and Crocodiles in Movies
Alligator (1980)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is a monster movie in the style of Jaws - nature runs amok and all that, except that in this case the animal is an alligator that has grown to giant size due to chemical pollution. The alligator even has his own musical theme, just like the shark in Jaws. There also are social and ecological subtexts to the renegade monster plot that involve unethical chemical testing on animals, the sale of animals for the pet trade and its part in the spread of harmful alien species, and the corruption of politicians and the police by the rich. There's also a romance between two people, the likes of which have rarely been seen in a movie - an honest cop and a beautiful woman herpetologist. The giant mutant alligator is more believable than those two.

On a family vaction in Florida in 1968, a little girl named Marisa watches an alligator wrestler in Florida get bitten by an alligator, but she convinces her parents to buy her a baby alligator anyway. She takes it home to Chicago and puts it into an aquarium and names it Ramon. Her father gets angry and flushes Ramon down the toilet. He ends up in the sewer system where he survives on rats and used up laboratory animals that are dumped into the sewer. 12 years later the little girl has grown up to be an alligator expert (Robin Riker) who wrote a book about crocodilians, and works as a herpetologist for the city. (Because Chicago needs a full-time herpetologist?) Men like to call her the Snake Lady or the Lizard Lady.

Meanwhile, an evil corporation, Slade Pharmaceuticals, has been experimenting with growth hormones on dogs they buy from a sleazy pet store owner who kidnaps pet dogs from the street. When the scientist who cuts open the dogs is finished with them, he gives them to the pet store guy. He dumps them into the sewer, where Ramone finds them eats them. For many years, Ramon has been ingesting the growth hormones in the dead dogs and guess what? Ramone grows really, really, really big. After he starts eating people who wander into the sewer/drainage system, including the awful pet store dog-napping guy, the chase begins.

The cops find human body parts in the sewer and think there's a psycho murderer loose, until the hero of the movie, a cop named David (Robert Forster) sees Ramon eat his partner. Nobody believes David that there's a gigantic alligator living in the sewer. The other cops leave a rubber alligator in his locker to taunt him. So David goes to talk to Marisa the herpetologist and alligator expert (Robin Riker.) When we first see her, she is milking a rattlesnake of its venom (because that's what all city herpetologists do every day, right?) I discuss the snake scene here.) She doesn't believe David either, telling him that it's impossible for an alligator to grow so large. But after Ramon eats a sleazy journalist who managed to get some pictures of the gator before he became lunch, everybody sees that the monster alligator is for real. Marisa accompanies David as he searches for Ramon and eventually we see them in bed together. (They probably don't live happily after, though, because movie cops are incapable of any kind of fidelity except to their job and their neighborhood bartender.)

The entire city goes alligator crazy, naming the monster and selling alligator souvenirs. The police try to flush Ramon out of the sewers and kill him. Failing to do that they hire Brock, a sleazy big game hunter to kill the giant gator. But Ramon eats Brock first. I can't say that I was sorry to see him go. There are even more nasty sleazeballs still alive for Ramon to kill, and they just all happen to all be at a wedding - the Slade Pharmaceuticals boss and his soon-to-be son-in-law, the guy who cut up and killed pet dogs, and the Mayor. Ramon is upset that he didn't get an invitation, so he crashes the wedding and kills the three sleazeballs along with a bunch of other innocent guests and cops who get in his way. If it wasn't for all the innocent dead people, I'd say Ramon has been doing a good job of draining the swamp.

But Ramon really is a monster, so he gets blown to bits at the end. Then we see another baby alligator flushed into the sewer, and we know that this gator will carry on Ramon's reign of terror. (The 1991 sequel to this - Alligator II: The Mutation, features another baby sewer alligator that eats experimental animals, grows gigantic, and goes on a murderous rampage. I haven't seen it, but it sounds like the same movie.)

All this sewer alligator stuff made me do a little research on the urban myths/folktales about alligators surviving in sewers. The stories have been around since at least the 1920s. I learned that it's possible that some abandoned pet alligators did survive by living in sewers and storm drains, however, it's doubtful any of them lived long enough to grow to adult size.

We see a few real live alligators at the beginning of the movie in Florida, including the baby alligators, but Ramon is mostly a giant animatronic alligator, or parts of one. Usually we just see his head, with open mouth and giant teeth, or his tail, but there are a couple of full-body shots that show they did make a complete fake alligator.

It took me many years before I could finally watch this movie after it was recommended to me. It just wasn't available on DVD or streaming sites. Fortunately, someone saw this site and emailed me to recommend that I put the movie on my list, pointing me to a version on YouTube. So watch it before it's removed.