Who: screenwriting superhero John Sayles, who'd already done Piranha, and would also deliver Battle Beyond the Stars and The Howling before graduating to "grown-up" status (and lots of awards); director Lewis Teague, who would soon go on to Cujo and Cat's Eye; lovable movie stars like Robert Forster, Henry Silva, Dean Jagger, Robin Riker, and Michael V. Gazzo.

What: A baby alligator flushed down the toilet becomes a mutated mega-beast after eating dead lab animals that have been injected with growth hormones. Yep!

When: Early July of 1980, which put it in with the likes of Airplane!, My Bodyguard, andthe smash hit Oh! Heavenly Dog.

Where: It's meant to be Chicago but it could have been shot anywhere.

Why: Because the Jaws retread cycle was still in full swing even in 1980. Hell, Sayles himself had already done one of these (Piranha), which is probably why Alligator feels so amiably tongue-in-cheek. It's never an out-and-out comedy (thank the lord), but there's certainly a bounce in the flick's step and it seems to be having fun poking at the cliches and conventions laid down in Jaws.

The Good:
Forster as the hero; Silva as the rather bombastic alligator hunter; the infamous "diving board" sequence; some nifty-chintzy effects work; some halfway creepy sewer sequences; and even a little gore tossed in for flavor.

The Bad: Well, Roger Ebert sure didn't like it. Perhaps we could ask him to give the flick a revisit?

The Ugly: The big finale is as gruesome as it is silly.

The Verdict: If the producers want "a Jaws knock-off," then it's up to the writer and director to squeeze a little something fresh out of the process. As such, I'd call Alligator one of the very best of the Jaws-inspired "when animals attack!" horror movies -- and I'm pretty sure I've seen them all.
categories Reviews, Horror