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Scream Factory’s 4K Edition of Alligator Takes a Bite out of the Competition!

Feature Presentations: Episode 85

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Alligator from Scream Factory.

The 4K case cover for Alligator.

I’m going to get this out of the way: I love Robert Forster. Not just for his Oscar-nominated turn in Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown or his scene-stealing performance as Ed Galbraith in Breaking Bad and its follow-up film, El Camino. From his cameos in Cleaner and Supernova to the schlocky in Avalanche and the work he did in Medium Cool, Robert Forster always delivers. When Robert Forster headlines a film, you know he always brings it, and that’s the case with Alligator.

If you flush an alligator down the toilet, will it survive, and if so, what happens afterward? Detective David Madison, played by Robert Forster, finds out the hard way when body parts pop up in his jurisdiction. Teaming up with Marisa Kendall, a herpetologist, they track the alligator as it eats its way through the city and up the socio-economical class.

Riding on the coattails of Steven Spielberg‘s Jaws and the quirkiness of Joe Dante’s PiranhaAlligator is a monster-on-the-loose picture that leans into the urban legend of flushing alligators down the toilet and living in the sewers. What could be just another creature feature turns out to be much more due to a well-written script from John Sayles that balances humor and horror and a cast that leans into the tongue-in-cheek film without winking into the camera. It’s a delicate balancing act that everyone performs to perfection, resulting in one of the most entertaining B-movies you’ll ever see.

Scream Factory understands how Alligator stands out from the pack and gave it a three-disc, 4K/Blu-ray release. The package comes with a slipcover featuring newly-commissioned artwork; the case features reversible art with the slipcover design on one side and the original theatrical print on the other.

The 4K and first Blu-ray disc contain an archival commentary with director Lewis Teague, Robert Forster, and moderator Del Howison with Dark Delicacies. Teague and Forster recount tales from the film that discuss how the production came about, the various type of alligators used, both working with Roger Corman, and their thoughts on the finished film. Especially with Robert Forster passing in 2019, it’s welcome to hear his thoughts and understand his thought processes and joy at a movie he regards highly.

Actress Robin Riker sits down for a newly-recorded interview recalling her time on Alligator. Riker’s pleasant demeanor translates to the stories she tells as she remembers Forster as “fabulous,” referring to herself as the “Richard Dreyfuss character in Jaws,” and how delighted she is that the film still has a life over 40 years after its release.

David stands at an open locked and stares at a rubber alligator hanging off the door.

Bryan Cranston, yes, that Bryan Cranston, sits down to discuss his role in the film’s production. While not in front of the camera, Cranston found work in the special effects department on Alligator. He discusses how he found himself working on the film, his role, consisting of concocting the titular monster’s blood, and a touching story about spending time seated next to Robert Forster. Cranston is always entertaining, and it’s impressive that he chose to sit and discuss his time on the film. The interview with Cranston is neck-and-neck, with the commentary track as my favorite feature on the disc.

Director Lewis Teague sat down to chat and revisit his work on Alligator. He talks about how John Sayles completely rewrote the script, the difficulties with the mechanical version of the title character, and how he came to casting Robert Forster. There’s a lot of overlap in the film details discussed between this interview and the commentary; it works well as a summation of the feature-length track and adds a few nuggets of additional production information.

Special effects artist Robert Short chats about his contributions to Alligator. While not involved with the alligator, Short discusses creating some wounds and separated limbs seen throughout the film. Short recounts his brief cameo in the movie and an almost near-disaster while prepping the opening scene.

Also included are two separate interviews with screenwriter John Sayles. Between the two interviews, Sayles discusses how he came aboard the project, how Japanese import films helped shape the story and the challenges of how to kill the film’s beast. I’m not sure if two different discussions are needed, but there’s plenty of information found between the two interviews.

A Trailers from Hell feature comes on the disc with comments from filmmaker Karyn Kusama. These features are always brief, but Kusama talks about Sayles as one of her mentors and appreciates the accomplishments in Alligator.

Scream Factory includes deleted scenes and the television version of Alligator. The additional footage doesn’t add much, especially since what’s there is there to pad time to fill the network block. You get more hair jokes at Robert Forster’s expense and a fake-out scene involving an infant. Nothing substantial is here, but I’m always thankful when cut scenes find their way onto a disc.

The disc closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and multiple television spots.

Shot behind the alligator as it approaches a cop exiting out of a police car through the driver's side window.

And there you have it! While Alligator may sound like a Jaws knock-off, there’s much more to the film. Featuring a dependable leading performance from Robert Forster and a better-than-it-should-be script by John Sayles: there’s plenty in the movie to enjoy. Scream Factory took this underrated monster film and gave it a scary-good physical media release. Featuring two cuts of Alligator, an excellent archive audio commentary, and an insight mixture of old and new interviews with those associated with the film, I can’t see Alligator having a better physical media release than this.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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