Big Alligator River, The (1979)

The Big Alligator River (1979)

A remote tourist resort in Africa finds itself at the mercy of a huge man-eating crocodile, which is the incarnation of a native god, angered by the intrusion of the tourists on it’s nesting ground. After a few natives are killed, they blame the tourists and launch an attack on the resort. With blood-thirsty natives slaughtering them on the land and a giant crocodile eating them in the river, what hope is there for the survivors?

 

Good ol’ Italian rip-offs. You can’t beat them can you? The late 70s and early 80s saw our pizza-loving neighbours in Europe put their own spin on numerous American classics like Dawn of the Dead, Jaws and Alien. Not just one or two, though – a whole sub-genre has been formed of low-budget Italian rip-offs. The worst thing is that you always expect a few rip-offs to come out after a film has made it big but these tend to diminish within a year or two. But the Italians go into overkill with them and keep making them for countless years later. Here Spielberg’s classic gets the treatment only this time it’s a giant crocodile (quite where they get the ‘alligator’ in the title is unknown). Is it any good? Like most of this genre, you’re going to love it or hate it.

Jaws is the prototype for the monster-on-the-loose film and since then, the formula has changed little. It’s my favourite formula of all time because in the 20+ years since Jaws was released, filmmakers haven’t messed around with it in the slightest. You know that there’s some monster lurking around a small town. You know that the authority figure is worried about a loss of business and ignores the pleas to sort the problem out. You know that there’s one scene where the monster finally shows itself to the public and all hell breaks loose. It’s exactly the same here. And so on. The businessman thinks the story about the crocodile is just nonsense from the natives who want to scare the tourists away. We obviously know better because there wouldn’t be a film if there wasn’t a crocodile. It’s a bit sketchy as to where the film is based. Early moments tend to signal somewhere in South America but then later the tribes look more African and when the credits roll, it was filmed in Sri Lanka! But that’s a pretty mute point in a film like this. Everyone who watches this will watch it for the big beastie of the title munching on people in the river.

The crocodile looks terrible. In the underwater scenes or shots of it swimming, it’s clearly just a blow-up pool toy. It’s got absolutely no movement at all in its head, tail, neck or legs. It just glides in a straight line, sometimes looking like it’s been having a swift whiskey before it started shooting. A few of the bigger head models used for rising out of the water and attacking people look a little more convincing. The attacks are plentiful and there’s a big body count although you don’t really get to see anything nasty, just a bit of bloody water on occasion. The crocodile also has a habit of swimming up and down the river quickly – in one moment it is menacing the tourists at the resort and a few seconds later, it turns up down river to terrorise the two leads. Maybe it is a god after all, capable of appearing in more than one place simultaneously. Sensibly, Martino and his editors do a good job of keeping it off-screen for as much as the story will allow but this does mean that plenty of the film lags as characters constantly argue with each other and dance to horrible music.

Speaking of the leads, again it’s a pretty mute point to talk about them in a film like this as the cast is dubbed so you’re not hearing their original delivery. Barbara Bach does little except look pretty and Claudio Cassinelli becomes the generic rugged-looking hero of the piece. Everyone involved looks pretty bored. There are two exceptions though, one being the inclusion of Bobby Rhodes. Rhodes will forever be remembered as the overly aggressive pimp in the classic Demons film. And Enzo Fisichella plays an extremely seedy gentleman who has no bones about copping off with a young mother and making his intentions clear right in front of her daughter.

 

It’s one of the worst of the cheap efforts from Italy that I think I’ve had the misfortune of watching. Maybe you’ll get some kicks out of it and there is a certain amount of charm to the film. But I want a little more, well creativity, from my rip-offs. I don’t just want a bad rehash of the same elements. I want more monster action, sillier and more absurd moments to laugh at, more gore and more nudity. It’s not a lot to ask for – it’s just that The Big Alligator River doesn’t deliver on any of them.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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