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Great Alligator - aka Il fiume del grande caimano, The
Sergio Martino's 1979 man versus nature film, The Great Alligator (previously released on DVD by No Shame Films under the alternate title of The Big Alligator River), is pretty much Jaws in the jungle with an alligator instead of a shark. Martino's film can't even try to deny the influence that the world's most famous shark film had on their film, there's simply no way around it. This film is pretty much a rip off of Spielberg's classic. That doesn't stop this goofy, low budget shlock fest from being a whole lot of fun, however, and while it isn't going to win any award for originality or for what many would consider to be ‘good' special effects, it's entertaining in its own semi-stupid way.
The premise on this one is simple enough: a resort developer named Joshua (Umberto Lenzi favorite Mel Ferrar of Eaten Alive and Nightmare City) is opening a brand new deluxe resort named Paradise House. What he doesn't take into account is that his resort is being built on a piece of land that the local natives consider to be sacred to their god, a giant alligator named Kroona. That should be a red flag right there, but he goes on with his business.
Business goes on as usual and Joshua brings on a commercial photographer named Daniel (Claudio Cassinelli, who had worked with Martino before, most notably on his gut munching tribute to dining on human flesh, Mountain Of The Cannibal God) to record the grand opening and gets lots of beautiful shots of beautiful people doing beautiful things in his beautiful resort to use in advertisements in travel magazines. Soon, one of the models, who was been hired to pose in some of Daniel's photographs, disappears. The only trace of her existence is an abandoned canoe with strange markings on it which washed ashore on the side of the river. Joshua doesn't want that to stop things for his customers however, and soon the resort is packed. The only one who sides with Daniel and doesn't consider him to be a royal pain in the ass is Joshua's lovely assistant, Alice (former Bond girl Barbara Bach who also appeared in Sergio Martino's Island Of The Fishmen). She agrees that they need to look into the model's disappearance and that something isn't right in the waters that surround them.
When a large group of tourists shows up to make the most of their vacation time, you'd think that they'd be in for the trip of a lifetime. But…! The natives warn Daniel that the resort has angered their alligator god and that he is out for vengeance. The bodies that soon start piling up along the shore at Paradise House back this claim up…
Ferrar, Cassinelli and Bach make for a fun cast in this goofy killer alligator film. Cassinelli is dashing enough, Ferrar greedy enough, and Bach pretty enough to make everything work, on a b-movie level at least. Silvia Collatina, best known for her mind numbing performance in Lucio Fulci's The House By The Cemetery, also shows up in the film, playing a young girl named Minou. Richard Johnson of Fulci's Zombie also has a small role as a deranged preacher. Eurocult fans can't quibble about the cast in this film.
Martino paces his picture almost as a mystery at first, with Cassinelli and friends trying to figure out what exactly it is that's going on around here, but the title gives it all away. We know that there's a great alligator in the river long before the characters do, making the mystery aspect of the film kind of redundant. That doesn't mean that the last half of the film isn't packed with kooky monster-critter chomping action, however! Throw in some natives running around, a lot of stock footage inserts of various jungle animals running around, a few deadly poisonous snakes and some gratuitous nudity here and there and I smell a recipe for success! The effects are absolutely awful, the ending completely ripped off from Jaws, and the storyline quite predictable but Martino infuses the film with enough kinetic energy that you're in for a good hokey time, no matter how apparent the shortcomings are in this movie.
Code Red brings The Great Alligator to Blu-ray on a 25GB disc framed at 2.35.1 taken from a ‘2016 HD master with exclusive color correction done in the U.S.' and it generally looks quite nice. Some mild compression artifacts show up here and there (the feature gets 18.5Gbs of space on the disc) but otherwise, there isn't much to complain about here. Colors look very good and both detail and depth are strong throughout. The picture always looks nice and film-like, and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement to gripe about.Sound:
Audio is handled by way of an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono option. The audio is usually pretty clean and nicely balanced, with the score having a bit more range than you might expect it to. There are, of course, where this sounds like the older, low budget, dubbed picture that it is but you can't fault the disc for that. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here.
The main extra feature on this release comes in the form of a thirty-five-minute documentary on the film entitled In The Crocodile's Nest, which features plenty of brand new interview footage with Sergio Martino who is joined by Antonello Geleng. Martino discusses the obvious influence that Jaws had on the film and how he wanted to recreate some of the same sense of realism that the earlier film handled so well. He also discusses some of the cast members and what it was like to work with them and goes into a bit of interesting detail about how a few of the effects were created and about shooting on location in Sri Lanka. Geleng discusses some of the monster effects and what it was like to work with Martino. Both interviewees prove to be quite interesting subjects, making this a very worthwhile supplement.
3 Friends And An Alligator is a sixteen-minute piece that feature effects guy Paolo Ricci, cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando and set dresser Antonello Geleng where the three participants speak, somewhat sheepishly, about their respective jobs on the film and how they about the finished product (it isn't always kind). Cameraman Claudio Morabito spends twenty-minutes in front of the camera in Alligator Rock to share some amusing stories from the trenches, speaking none too kindly about the monster effects used in the movie, what it was like on set and working with Martino. In the seven-minute Shooting Underwater, underwater photographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia speaks about working on the film, discussing the type of gear that was used on the shoot and other films that he's worked on over the years.
Rounding out the extra features for this release are a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.
Sergio Martino has definitely made better films in his career, but The Great Alligator is big dumb fun from start to finish. Code Red's Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice, and it's got a decent selection of extra feature son it as well. Fans of Italian trash films or nature run amok films should dig this one to no end! Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.