Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger warns herpetologists to stay far, far away from this picture, particularly those with heart conditions and a sense of professional dignity.
No es un animal, es un demonio!
Big Alligator River is going to appeal to some of you. It's the kind of film where ninety percent of the world rates it zero stars while the other ten gives it perfect marks. So, before I begin bashing the hell out of this awful, awful flick, let's spare a few kind words for NoShame's DVD treatment. The anamorphic, digitally remastered, uncut transfer capably shows off Big Alligator River's bland-yet-gaudy palette of ruddy straw huts and ketchup in the water with clarity. Black levels are deep—particularly the impenetrable black levels created by filming in daylight with an indigo gel over the camera lens. The high detail allows you to see every wrinkle in the foam rubber "alligator" hide. The mono soundtrack suffers from very poor editing and questionable taste, but is technically sound. NoShame has also rounded up several extras, including prodigious liner notes, a director/production designer interview (in which director Sergio Martino prefers to talk of something, anything, but Big Alligator River), trailer, and photo gallery. Efforts like this sometimes cause me to question the whimsy of Fate.
If I told you that a movie wherein…
Big Alligator River, also known as The Great Alligator, mustered a mighty 3.0 out of 10 at the IMDb; its lofty cohorts are features like Aces: Iron Eagle III and Mistress of the Apes. Pretend that Jurassic Park had but one velociraptor, no budget, and a bad synth disco soundtrack. Suppose it starred one of the least emotive Bond Girls of all time. Imagine that it took itself a little bit seriously, thought it was drumming up more tension than Jaws has in its pectoral fin. Finally, imagine that some discarded grass huts from a Tiki bar were used to provide an ominous whiff of eau de Apocalypse Now. This, dear friends, is Big Alligator River.
The far-flung sins are so numerous and the plot so wayward that dissecting Big Alligator River becomes an exercise in tedium. It drums up tension by occasionally placing a camera half in and half out of water, showing the actors from below. It does this not in an escalating ebb and flow of logical tension, but at random times. It says to us, "hey, don't forget that there's something in the water!"
This something is Kruna, which (if you believe the tribe of transplanted aborigines known as the Kuma) is a recently awakened water demon. If you believe Alice Brandt (Bach), anthropologist and hotel clerk extraordinaire, Kruna is actually a big alligator (which somehow has a South American crocodile snout and a bad case of arthritis). This is puzzling, because there are only two types of alligator: American and Chinese. Chinese alligators only grow to 6 feet or so, which sets Big Alligator River somewhere in South Florida. I suppose that the gaudy Tiki huts would fit, but last time I checked the black people in South Florida weren't painting their bodies yellow and shooting flaming arrows from primitive bows—not even in the '70s.
Fortunately, you don't have to come down on one side or the other, because whatever Kruna is, it follows no discernible pattern. I'm thinking "God" because Kruna instantaneously travels from one side of the river to the other, attacking separate watercraft with time-space warping speed. Kruna is angry—though with the tribesmen or Whitey is hard to say. Yet Kruna passes up ample opportunity to gobble up people who are scant feet away from its powerful rubber jaws, choosing instead to wait until photojournalist Daniel Nessel (Claudio Cassinelli) is armed with waterproof bricks of plastique (and surprising expertise in the underwater demolitions milieu).
If the underwater shots of an unmoving rubber crocodile toy jabbing its snout into tinfoil models fail to ignite your interest, Sergio Martino crams Big Alligator River full of subthemes. Rail against the decadence of the West, which encourages overweight tourists to don leisure suits and goose each other on the dance floor! Explore the plight of Rich White Man–Poor Black Tribesman relations! Decide for yourself whether polyester really is the wonder fabric! Whatever you do, don't attempt to bond with any of the characters in Big Alligator River; they won't respond to your efforts to get to know them, and you'll just feel cheap.
The occasional shot in Big Alligator River has visual flair, and lighting (particularly the fiery villages) is sometimes handled with grace. Claudio Cassinelli musters a limited measure of silent man charm. Whether you like or dislike Barbara Bach, this film won't sway you much either way—she just is. If you have a rowdy gang of schlock appreciators and a case of beer handy, Big Alligator River offers copious opportunity for even the least witty to get in a good zinger. Otherwise, Big Alligator River is a disjointed, plodding, tacky foray into pop herpetology.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: NoShame Films
• "In the Croc's Nest": Interviews with Director Sergio Martino and Production Designer Antonello Geleng
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