Thursday, October 04, 2007

DVD: Alligator (1980)

Here’s one for the Bill Crider video collection. A movie that probably had too much influence on me finally gets the DVD it deserves.

Alligator was a huge favorite of mine when I was a kid. A perfect blend of genuine shocks and tongue-in-cheek laughs, it somehow made the idea of a giant mutated reptile living in the sewers under Chicago plausible.

At some point I noticed that this movie and another cable TV staple, Piranha, were written by John Sayles. And that Sayles was also responsible for more ... grown-up fare. But he applied the same attention to detail, no matter what kind of movie he was making. From Sayles, I learned that craft counted regardless of genre.

The new DVD was a chance to watch Alligator for the first time in ages. Not only does the movie hold up, it’s better than I remembered. I appreciate the casting a lot more now. Comedian Jack Carter as the obsequious mayor, Henry Silva as a great white hunter brought in to get the gator. Robin Riker, playing the Midwest’s most fetching herpetologist, looks enough like Lindsay Lohan to give the proceedings some contemporary resonance. And Robert Forster is the man as the troubled cop who first realizes what lurks below.

The disc features an interview with Sayles, who explains how he folded a sociological critique into a monster movie (not a horror film), as well as a commentary track with Forster and director Lewis Teague that makes it plain everyone involved with this movie knew exactly what they were doing.

Miscellaneous: Overhead Conversation of the Day

Concerned Citizen #1: The government, they tell you they’re sending all that money to Iraq, but you know these guys are just lining their pockets with it.

Concerned Citizen #2: Yeah! They’re getting rich. Like Hal Burton. Dick Cheney’s buddy. Burton’s getting it all!

Miscellaneous: Link

I’m enough of a philistine to admit that I don’t think building a secret studio apartment in a shopping mall is art. I will say it’s pretty cool. Via The Obscure Store.