The Big Alligator River (AKA The Great Alligator) (1979)

Although this surprisingly dull (though not surprisingly corny) Italian contribution to the post-Jaws giant animal movies takes place in Southeast Asia, a good portion of the “natives” look like regular ol’ black folk to me. I guess any pigment is enough to warrant slapping a headdress and grass skirt on you.

In Jaws-esque fashion, we have a resort catering to tourists who finds itself at the mercy of a giant sea creature (with the requisite slimy capitalist who wants to go on with business as usual), although The Big Alligator River throws in the added complication of natives, the Kuma, who worship the beast as the god Kruna. I think we’re supposed to sympathize with the plight of the so-called “magnificent primitive savages” whose land is being dynamited for the sake of expanding the resort, but on the other hand, our heroes Alice and Daniel (Barbara Bach and Claudio Cassinelli) don’t seem to care much when the black people — including their co-workers, played by Geneve Hutton and Bobby Rhodes of Demons fame — die. And the whole “let’s kill all of the white people as a sacrifice to our giant alligator god” thing doesn’t exactly endear the Kuma to the viewing public either.

From a horror perspective, though, at least they’re scarier than the carved log that the filmmakers try to pass off as a gator. I can just imagine the production assistants standing waist-deep in the water, then giving the wooden animal a nudge and diving out of the shot after the director yells, “Action!” Steve Irwin died for your sins! Sergio Martino, who directed the terrifying Torso with style, can only do so much with this rickety production. He (wisely) spends more time showing people’s reactions to the animal attacks than the actual attacks themselves.

There might’ve been some explanation of how an alligator got into Southeast Asia and why it’s so darn big (calcium supplements?) — not to mention why its legs never move — but my eyes were too busy rolling to pay attention. Like Hell of the Living Dead, any message about civilization encroaching on nature is lost in a torrent of cheesy action, clichés, and stereotypes. And really, after the surviving tourists get back to their respective Western homelands, are we to believe that their governments won’t bomb the holy hell out of this land and its murdering natives?

“Yeah, baby, it’s like that.”
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Richard made extra money choreographing jail yard poses.


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