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  Great Alligator Actually A Rubbish Alligator
Year: 1979
Director: Sergio Martino
Stars: Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer, Richard Johnson, Romano Puppo, Geneve Hutton, Fabrizia Castagnoli, Enzo Fisichella, Lory Del Santo, Anny Papa, Bobby Rhodes, Clara Colosimo, Peter Boom, Giulia D'Angelo, Marco Mastantuono, Piero Jossa
Genre: Horror, Trash, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Joshua (Mel Ferrer) is an entrepreneur who is very proud of his latest tourist attraction out in the jungles of Africa where he has benevolently assisted the natives by bringing visitors - and their money - to the region thanks to the holiday complex he has constructed there. As he lands at the resort in a helicopter with photographer Daniel Nessel (Claudio Cassinelli) and a supermodel, Sheena (Geneve Hutton), to capture some glossy snaps for a magazine article, they are greeted by anthropologist Alice Brandt (Barbara Bach), a handy person to have around when the natives employ their own customs which include a belief in their alligator god Kroona. Let's just hope he isn't awakened to visit his wrath upon everyone!

Or maybe we do hope that happens since it would make for a more eventful movie, the third of an unofficial jungle horror trilogy from Italian trash director Sergio Martino. If the jungle in question was looking more Asian than African, that was down to the locations being in Sri Lanka, complete with local extras who looked even less African, in spite of being decked out in stereotypical grass skirts and face paint in an attempt to preserve the illusion. So there was one reason Great Alligator was rather daft, but the chief one was in that titular reptile which took its own sweet time in showing up, its initial appearance a false alarm as a big thing in the lake turns out to be a large tree log floating in the water. Ah, Signor Martino, you are toying with us, no?

Well, yes, especially once you clapped your eyes on what was intended to be the terrifying, vengeful monster god and it turned out to be a small rubber replica, noticeably about as agile and manoeuvrable as the camper van that plunges into the river in the latter stages, since that too was a toy. The budget was patently not huge, but Jaws, which this does its darnedest to emulate, did not have the most convincing of creatures either yet Steven Spielberg worked around the issue and the film was better for it. In this case, it was more a "that'll do" attitude prevailing even when the opposite was plainly true. But before the scaly terror appeared, there was a lot of padding to sit through, among those scenes a dance where the natives put on a show for the tourists.

One which features a heavy tom-tom element, which at least sounds African, though whether the electric bass guitar was a traditional instrument was very much up for debate, even an invisible one as used here, and some of the local ladies had been coaxed out of their clothes to perform as well in a real cliché of supposed tribal authenticity in the movies. As all this was going on, the director (working from a script contributed to by George Eastman himself) seemed to think that was enough of those false starts and it was time to commence the alligator attacks, so to anger Kroona he had Sheena wander off for a quickie with a local not involved with the dancing. Quite why this should unleash the fury of the beast is not adequately explained, but when you were relying on Richard Johnson as a crazed hermit for exposition, no wonder.

Johnson didn't appear for long, which gave us more space to appreciate the charms of Barbara Bach as her character was romanced by Claudio Cassinelli's, she was never going to be the most accomplished actress in the roles she was given, but she was decorative enough to build a fan following who would suffer through not exactly great material like this just to enjoy her presence. But that only went so far, therefore eventually we had to reach the massacre when the alligator met the tourists, an utterly ludicrous sequence where the monster chomped his way through a whole raft of extras - literally, they were on a raft - as the tribe shoot flaming arrows at them. After ten minutes of the same damn thing happening over and over, basically a closeup of a screaming face, the immobile puppet lunging, and a pint of red dye in the water to indicate bloody death, you would either be worn down by the hilarity or checking your watch to see how much further this had to go. Not as enjoyable as it sounds in synopsis, Great Alligator was drawn out to the point of exasperation. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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