Alligator (1980)

R | 94 mins | Horror | 14 November 1980

Director:

Lewis Teague

Writer:

John Sayles

Producer:

Brandon Chase

Cinematographer:

Joseph Mangine

Production Designer:

Michael Erler

Production Company:

Group 1 Films
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HISTORY

The following acknowledgments appear at the end of the film: “Grateful Appreciation to: Glastron Carlson Boat Company; Mazda Motors of America; Leslie Morson; Tom Hicks; Mike Brenner; Schlitz Brewing Company.”
       According to a press release found in the AMPAS library, it took three years of preparation before principal photography began. The script drew its inspiration from true stories of reptiles living in the sewers of major cities. A 10 Jan 1977 LAT article stated that producer Brandon Chase acknowledged the story was based on true accounts of New York City sewer workers finding alligators in the sewer system, but the film’s locale was changed to Wisconsin when it was decided that New Yorkers would be too jaded to react to a giant alligator terrorizing city streets.
       A 17 May 1976 Box article stated that, in its early stages, the screenplay attributed the alligator’s great size and appetite to feeding on a malt-like substance, i.e. dextrorotatory sugar, at a local brewery that shared the sewer where the alligator lived.
       A trade ad May 1980 announced that principal photography began 30 Apr and the 10 Jan 1977 LAT article reported the film would “cost $1.8 million.” However, a 18 May 1978 HR article stated that the film’s budget was $2 million. A 6 Feb 1980 DV news item reported that filming would include locations in California and the Midwest. A 9 Jul 1980 HR news item stated it was the film’s last day of principal photography.
       The 17 May Box article announced that Group I Films would use a nineteen-foot alligator, whose home ... More Less

The following acknowledgments appear at the end of the film: “Grateful Appreciation to: Glastron Carlson Boat Company; Mazda Motors of America; Leslie Morson; Tom Hicks; Mike Brenner; Schlitz Brewing Company.”
       According to a press release found in the AMPAS library, it took three years of preparation before principal photography began. The script drew its inspiration from true stories of reptiles living in the sewers of major cities. A 10 Jan 1977 LAT article stated that producer Brandon Chase acknowledged the story was based on true accounts of New York City sewer workers finding alligators in the sewer system, but the film’s locale was changed to Wisconsin when it was decided that New Yorkers would be too jaded to react to a giant alligator terrorizing city streets.
       A 17 May 1976 Box article stated that, in its early stages, the screenplay attributed the alligator’s great size and appetite to feeding on a malt-like substance, i.e. dextrorotatory sugar, at a local brewery that shared the sewer where the alligator lived.
       A trade ad May 1980 announced that principal photography began 30 Apr and the 10 Jan 1977 LAT article reported the film would “cost $1.8 million.” However, a 18 May 1978 HR article stated that the film’s budget was $2 million. A 6 Feb 1980 DV news item reported that filming would include locations in California and the Midwest. A 9 Jul 1980 HR news item stated it was the film’s last day of principal photography.
       The 17 May Box article announced that Group I Films would use a nineteen-foot alligator, whose home was at a “Louisiana wildlife preserve,” during filming. The reptile, named “Big Al” by his handlers, was transported to Los Angeles by truck, carefully wrapped in burlap that was constantly kept wet, and tranquilized for the long journey. The plan was for Group I to mix footage of the live reptile with “a free-moving, remote-controlled 30-foot-long model.”
       According to the 19 Jun 1978 HR, the Stansbury Company's alligator model needed two men inside its 150-pound frame to operate it. The model’s sixteen-pound rattan frame was covered in latex and hand painted.
       On 18 Sep 1980 HR announced that the film was given the International Association of Herpetologists’ “Award of Merit.”
       According to an Academy Awards application found in the AMPAS Library, the film opened on 14 Nov 1980 in Los Angeles.
       Critics generally praised screenwriter John Sayles for the film’s humor, and for injecting class into a tired exploitation genre.
       On 20 Nov 1981, DV reported that two screenwriters filed a lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court seeking damages for “breach of implied contract” for the use of their ideas in Alligator. The screenwriters, David Weinstein and Wahid Bocter, sought damages in the amount of $700,000, based on ideas taken from their scripts titled Jaws Three – Networks Two , and See You Later, Alligator. The writers wanted $100,000 compensation for their screenplay ideas, $300,000 compensation for the final film made “in a tasteless and inappropriate manner,” and $300,000 compensation for not receiving a screen credit on the film. The outcome of the lawsuit has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jan 1977.
---
New York Times
5 Jun 1981
p. 12.
Variety
19 Nov 1980
p. 18, 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Brandon Chase & Robert S. Bremson Present
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit prod mgr
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
From a story by
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Underwater photog
Still cam
Elec
Elec
Elec
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Ward supv
1st asst ward
2d asst ward
MUSIC
Orig mus comp
SOUND
Prod sd
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Gator op
Gator op
Spec eff opticals
Miniatures
Orig alligator created by
MAKEUP
Makeup/Hair
Spec eff makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Scr supv
Prod coord
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service
Casting
Casting
Animals, Gentle Jungle
Yachts and marine coord
Extras
Extras
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 November 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 November 1980
New York opening: 5 June 1981
Production Date:
began 30 June 1980
ended 9 July 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Alligator Associates
Copyright Date:
15 January 1981
Copyright Number:
PA155262
Physical Properties:
Color
Color by Deluxe
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26155
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Young Marisa Kendall purchases a live baby alligator, which she names Ramon. One day, her father, in a fit of anger, flushes the pet baby alligator down the toilet. Twelve years later, detective David Madison investigates a severed arm and a bloated dead Lhasa Apso dog found at the city sewage works. The dog’s owner, Mrs. Ross, recognizes the dog’s markings although the dog carcass is five times larger than her pet. Lou Gutshel, a pet shop owner, steals pets and sells them to Slade Research Laboratory. Gutshel tells Arthur Hill, a Slade researcher, he is scared because a cop came to his store asking a lot of questions. He wants to temporarily stop supplying animals, but Hill insists Gutshel continue because his research depends on it. Gutshel disposes of the dead test animals in the sewer and is attacked and killed by a giant alligator. David returns to the sewage works to examine Gutshel’s severed leg and then visits Slade. Hill assures him that they only buy animals from the city pound or breed them on the premises. If there is a shortage of animals, research is suspended and, after the dogs die, they are sent to the pound for cremation. When David asks if dogs ever escape and end up in the sewer, Hill says no. Later, when Hill alerts Mr. Slade of David’s visit, Hill is instructed to carry on his research and not talk to reporters. At a press conference, David shares little information about the killings and offers no motive to reporters. Soon, David and Officer Jim Kelly search the sewer where Jim just misses walking into the open mouth ... +


Young Marisa Kendall purchases a live baby alligator, which she names Ramon. One day, her father, in a fit of anger, flushes the pet baby alligator down the toilet. Twelve years later, detective David Madison investigates a severed arm and a bloated dead Lhasa Apso dog found at the city sewage works. The dog’s owner, Mrs. Ross, recognizes the dog’s markings although the dog carcass is five times larger than her pet. Lou Gutshel, a pet shop owner, steals pets and sells them to Slade Research Laboratory. Gutshel tells Arthur Hill, a Slade researcher, he is scared because a cop came to his store asking a lot of questions. He wants to temporarily stop supplying animals, but Hill insists Gutshel continue because his research depends on it. Gutshel disposes of the dead test animals in the sewer and is attacked and killed by a giant alligator. David returns to the sewage works to examine Gutshel’s severed leg and then visits Slade. Hill assures him that they only buy animals from the city pound or breed them on the premises. If there is a shortage of animals, research is suspended and, after the dogs die, they are sent to the pound for cremation. When David asks if dogs ever escape and end up in the sewer, Hill says no. Later, when Hill alerts Mr. Slade of David’s visit, Hill is instructed to carry on his research and not talk to reporters. At a press conference, David shares little information about the killings and offers no motive to reporters. Soon, David and Officer Jim Kelly search the sewer where Jim just misses walking into the open mouth of a giant alligator. The men run away with the alligator in pursuit. Trapped in a tunnel with a stuck sewer cover, the alligator attacks Jim and drags him away. Later, David wakes up in a hospital bed where he was taken after panicking and yelling “Alligator!” up and down city streets. While David dresses, Police Chief Clark recommends that he stay at the hospital, but David is determined to find Jim. Soon, David and Clark consult with Dr. Marisa Kendall, a herpetologist, who tells David that alligators larger than fifteen feet don’t exist in nature. Also, the toxic conditions in the sewer would prevent an alligator from growing so large. David returns to the sewers with a squad of men. Meanwhile, Thomas Kemp, a reporter, searches the sewers to check out the alligator rumor. He snaps pictures of the creature as it attacks him. Later, Kemp’s camera floats into one of the sewer filtration tanks and several of his photos reveal a reptilian mouth with gigantic, razor-like teeth. Soon, a police SWAT team descends into the sewer. Marisa, a consultant to the operation, tells David that she had a pet alligator named Ramon when she was a child. On a city street, the giant alligator crashes through the sidewalk. As a group of stickball players run for safety, a patrol car swerves to avoid the kids and crashes. With his car door jammed, the officer climbs out the window. ƒThe reptile rips off the officer’s leg and heads down the street. Marisa tells David that the alligator will seek out water next. When troops surround the lake, the mayor tells the officers he has put Col. Brock, a big game hunter, in charge of the operation. David quits. At Marisa’s laboratory, David looks at a slide of the Lhasa Apso and discovers it was pumped full of growth hormone. He reasons that if the alligator in the sewer ate the test animals, it would explain its size. Soon, Marisa investigates Slade Laboratory where Hill reveals that although his company discovered how to make synthetic testosterone, they never marketed it because it gave animals an insatiable appetite. When David returns to the police station, Chief Clark asks for his resignation. David steals dynamite from the evidence room and tells Marisa he has been kicked off the force. Soon, Col. Brock recruits local hoods to find the alligator. When the alligator attacks Brock, the hoods run away when they hear his screams. Meanwhile, cops pursue the alligator in the canal, where several officers are killed or maimed when they fall in the water. During Hill’s wedding reception at a private home, the alligator attacks. In the mayhem, guests panic, the mayor is killed and the alligator destroys a limousine with Slade inside. David and Marisa follow the alligator’s path back to the sewer. David snaps on a gas mask and activates a timed dynamite bomb. When he tries to escape through a manhole cover, a car stopped on the street above the manhole prevents him. Marisa grabs the steering wheel from the driver and moves the car with just enough time for David to escape the series of explosions from the dynamite. Afterward, the alligator is blown to pieces. Later, another baby alligator, flushed down a drain, falls from a pipe into the sewer and examines its surroundings. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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