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The Alligator People


Title: The Alligator People
Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 74 minutes
DVD Released By: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Directed By: Roy Del Ruth
Writing Credits: Robert M. Fresco (uncredited), Orville H. Hampton and Charles O'Neal

Starring: Beverly Garland, Lon Chaney Jr., Richard Crane
Taglines:
1. Her honeymoon turned into a nightmare of horror!
2. Nerve-shattering terror!
3. The alligator people will make your skin crawl!
Alternate Titles:
None found

Review Date: 10.10.04 (updated 1.1.10)

Shadow's Title: "Ambien - The Movie"

 

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DVD
The Alligator People

VHS
Classic Quad Set 16 (The Alligator People / The Cabinet of Caligari / The Fly / House of the Damned)

 

Sorry, no Blu-ray yet.

Characters
Joyce Webster, aka Jane Marvin – Starts off as Jane Marvin, a nurse participating in a hypno-regression experiment, recalling the movie's events in a big flashback. Once she was Joyce Webster, who’s husband vanished. Her search to find him leads to a horrifying discovery.
Paul Webster – After surviving a horrible plane crash that left nearly every bone in his body broken, this guy makes a remarkable recovery. Then a mysterious telegram received on his wedding night prompts him to suddenly vanish. Talk about receiving a get out of jail free card! Whew!
Gator-Paul – What Paul looks like after his transformation into an alligator has begun. He's now the poster boy for Samsonite luggage. Either that or the world’s first Preppie. A Proto Preppie! Or would that be Preppie Progenitor? Those aren’t gator skin shoes! Those are his bare feet!
Manon – This guy is just creepy. He lives in a little shack out in the swamp and runs errands for Mrs. Hawthorne and Dr. Sinclair. Seems to be lacking any knowledge on the intricacies of bathing, grooming and the value of wearing clean clothes...or even owning clean clothes.
Dr. Mark Sinclair – This dork pioneered a new method for healing terrible injuries by injecting Alligator hormones into humans in order to take advantage of a reptile’s regenerative abilities. Too bad they began transforming into hideous caricatures of human beings, complete with scaly skin.
Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne – Paul’s mother, one seriously cranky old broad. Does her best to get rid of Joyce and prevent her from learning the truth. This woman has got to take the grand prize for mother-in-laws you want to strangle with their own intestines.
Dr. Wayne McGregor – The turkey that is running the hypno-regression experiment where he uncovers Jane’s former life as Joyce Webster. What he should have done was hypnotize her into performing a striptease and giving him a lap dance or two as part of her nursely duties.
Dr. Eric Lorimer – A colleague of Dr. McGregor, he drops by to see his friend’s experiment. He advises that McGregor just keep his big, fat mouth shut. Hey, if you’re just gonna keep everything a big secret, at least have the hypnotized hot lady do something memorable like a sexy dance.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

This film opens with a title and credit sequence that looks like it was filmed on a studio back lot rather than in a dark and foreboding swamp. In fact, I’m almost positive that this entire sequence was shot in such a location. I’d be willing to bet some serious cash. Why do I say that? Well, because the shoreline to the “swamp” the camera seems to be traveling through, is made of freakin’ concrete! The last time I saw a body of water with such smooth and gently sloping sides was the pool housing the bumper boats at the local miniature golf place. I guess scary really is a subjective term.

We ditch the “swamp” locale and now see a black car with Louisiana plates pull up and park in front of the Webley Sanitarium, in a section reserved solely for doctors. We know this because of the sign that clearly states that the area is for “Doctors only.” Do they have their own water fountains and toilets, too? The driver picks a parking spot with an empty spot on its left and an occupied one on the right. So what does the driver then do? Instead of getting out of the car on his side – the side with no vehicle next to it, he slides across the front seat (didn’t all the cars from this era have huge single sofa-like seats in the front? Yes? No?) and exits the automobile from the passenger side. WTF? Was this the forerunner of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazard? Is the driver’s door welded shut or something? Or is this guy just an idiot? Anyway he gets out, pops on a black hat and heads into the sanitarium.

Inside he enters a door marked, “Dr. Wayne McGregor – Neuropathology,” where the resident physician greets him warmly, and we learn that the seat-sliding moron is Dr. Eric Lorimer. Apparently these two go way back and Lorimer has dropped by after McGregor extended an invitation to come see something odd with one of his cases. Lorimer mentions that on the phone, McGregor admitted to having a serious problem with a young girl. Suddenly my mind was filled with an image of some pregnant teen who got knocked up by the kinky, perverted Doc while she was under anesthesia. That really would be serious trouble…and not wholly unexpected behavior on the part of some doctors.

Alas, the young girl in question happens to be one of the nurses employed at the sanitarium. Lorimer then asks if she is pretty! How is that for professionalism? McGregor hands over the case file and Lorimer, after looking it over, remarks that the girl is pretty. What an old lecher! The woman, Jane Marvin had volunteered to help McGregor is some Narco-hypnosis techniques and is by all standards a quite competent nurse. It seems it was by pure accident that McGregor discovered something strange about her. Lorimer wonders when he can see her (I’ll bet! The old perv…), so McGregor calls her in. Jane comes in and McGregor introduces her to Dr. Lorimer, who he says was a football teammate back in med school. Jane doesn’t object to Lorimer sitting in as an observer for the session (if she only knew what the lustful old creep was thinking!).

Tonight on ET – Our exclusive interview with Sleeping BeautyJane reclines on one of those sofa-couches that all shrinks have in their offices. McGregor injects her with Sodium Pentathol and has her count backward from twenty. She barely gets to seventeen before she is mumbling incoherently…a state of mental acuity usually reserved for Scientologists. Pow. She’s out of it. McGregor hooks her up to a lie detector and Lorimer inquires into its presence since the general agreement amongst physicians (and torturers I might add) is that no one has been known to lie while under the effects of Sodium Pentathol. McGregor just cryptically says, “You’ll see later.” He then starts up one of those ancient tape recorders, the ones that are about the size of a suitcase with two vertically positioned reels. He asks Jane what her name is, and she replies with “Joyce Patton. Joyce Patton Webster.” Some more questioning follows and she reveals that she was once married and was Mrs. Paul Webster. She frowns when recalling the details, and isn’t sure if it is all real or not. McGregor asks her to tell them all everything about it, from the beginning. She continues on under hypnosis, relating how she met Paul overseas. She was nursing at a hospital and he was lieutenant. They made plans to get married after they were both discharged. At this point, McGregor’s office fades away and we are met with the image of an oncoming train. If only that oncoming train would continue right on through the screen, into the midst of the audience, wiping us all out. At least we would be spared the rest of this yawn-fest.

On board the train, Joyce and Paul Webster are celebrating their recent nuptials with some champagne. She is glad that she has finally managed to convince him to get hitched, after waiting for such a long time. Paul references a plane crash he survived, no doubt alluding to his recovery time as the reason they had to wait. Joyce tells him how badly she had been worried, especially after the hospital told her that he was “more dead than alive” (he’s Republican!) and nearly all his bones were broken. The doctor even used the words “completely torn, mangled and smashed” to describe his condition after the crash. Joyce admits to Paul that she doesn’t believe what the doctor told her, as Paul now looks perfectly fine. No marks, no scars…nothing to denote that he had survived such a horrific accident and had been in such terrible shape. Upon hearing this, my brain screamed PLOT POINT!!! Can anyone truly doubt that this information will pop up again later? These old movies went by the numbers if not anything else.

Paul confirms that there really was an accident and that he had very much been in such crappy shape. "By all rights, I should be dead,” he says solemnly. Joyce tries to dismiss his words as crazy talk, but Paul gets very serious. He begins to tell her something that he claims she has a right to know. Something she should have known before they got married. Something that truly explains why he made her wait so long to get married. Can I get a drum roll, please?!

However, before he can spill his guts, a knock at the compartment door interrupts him. The attendant has returned with more wine and telegraphed messages for the couple. Joyce gets a message from her coworkers at the hospital where she works while Paul receives one from an old buddy. Things seem just dandy, but then Paul reads one message and his face visibly darkens. Joyce doesn’t notice at first, as she is gleefully reading her stack of messages and well wishes. We know something is wrong, not only from the “I think I just shit my pants but I wonder if I can get away with it before anyone knows” look that Paul is sporting, but also from the blatant music cue that makes it clear to all the ADD afflicted people in the audience, “something is not right here!” Paul looks around, as if contemplating something. My guess is that he has quite suddenly and jarringly realized what a mess he has gotten himself into with this whole marriage thing and is now wondering if it’s possible to slit one’s wrists with the edge of a piece of paper or drown oneself in a small glass of booze – after all, all you really need to fit into the glass is your nose. He quickly crumples the paper the message came on and gets up, leaving their compartment (a jump from the train perhaps?).

Outside, he asks the conductor when the next stop will be. Alas, the next scheduled stop won’t be for thirty-five minutes. He insistently inquiries if there isn’t any other stop before then. The conductor informs him that there is a mail pickup just ahead, and that is the reason the train is slowing down, but the stop will only be for half a minute or so – certainly no time to be getting off to make a phone call. Joyce approaches and wants to know what is wrong. Paul reveals nothing. He just kisses her and disembarks once the train has slowed to its brief stop. Joyce panics as the train begins to move again, calling for him to hurry, but he just walks away with only the slightest of glances back at her. Love and leave ‘em, eh? What a dork. At least he could of gotten in a few rounds of the Horizontal Hustle before leaving Joyce. She tries to convince the conductor that they need to stop and go back, but the annoying music swells, drowning all other sounds out…except for the noises made by the train footage now overlapping that of Joyce struggling with the conductor.

Suddenly we’re back in McGregor’s office. Still under hypnosis, Jane/Joyce talks about how that day was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, but she had just seen her husband’s face for the last time. McGregor asks, “What did you do then Joyce,” in much the same stilted manner an ignoramus would try communicating with a foreigner, a deaf person or an idiot (everyone knows that the proper method is to YELL REALLY DAMN LOUD!). Jane/Joyce relates how she was frantic. She got off at the next stop and went back to where Paul had vanished, but not only had no calls been made from that location, no one had seen him. He had just vanished.

McGregor prompts her again in idiot-speak and she then talks about how someone can disappear like that, despite feeling like you know them so very well. She relates how she went on to talk to everyone who knew him, even checking out his last known address, but she found no sign of him, nor any reason why he would disappear. The Police and private detectives were unable to help her. Even the army, in which he had once served, was only able to offer an old, useless address. Finally, months later she was going through his things again, looking for clues. She came across his fraternity pin. She wrote to the their headquarters and they confirmed that Paul had belonged to their chapter at Louisiana State University. So she went there and examined the records, where she found an address Paul had given when he initially enrolled in college. A place called Bayou Landing in La Fourche Parish. McGregor’s office fades away again…

…And we see a train stop at the aforementioned Bayou Landing with Joyce standing alone on the platform. Well, all alone beside a big crate that reads “Caution. Radioactive material. Cobalt 60.” Apparently she was the only person to get off the train at this stop and there is no one to be seen. That is always a good sign is it not? Especially with a huge box of radioactive crap as your only friend. So she sits down on the crate and waits. I don’t know about you, but I would not put my ass anywhere near the thing. I can only imagine what kind of horrible afflictions I could get. Super hemorrhoids or giant ass warts or something. No thanks.

Since from here on out the movie is nothing more than one gigantic flashback, we will be treated to several of Joyce’s voiceovers, as she recalls the events under hypnosis and relates them to the unseen Doctors McGregor and Lorimer. As we see her walking around the deserted train station, we suffer through the first of them.

"Yes, this is the Clarksville station, and yes that was the last train…but do I look one of The Monkees to you?"So, she is sitting there waiting when a truck pulls up that has “The Cypresses” on the door. A real creepy guy (the type that continually calls women ‘sweetheart’) gets out and asks her if someone is supposed to meet her. She admits that no one is and that she was hoping someone would be along to collect the Big Box of Radioactive Crap. The Creep says that is what he is there to retrieve. He then wonders what her business is, as no one ever gets off the train here. She claims to be looking for a place called “The Cypresses” and asks Mr. Creep if he has heard of it. Is the woman blind? The truck didn’t stop that far away, and the words are in plain sight right there on the freakin’ door. The Creep says he knows the place, but also knows that they don’t receive visitors and asks if she is expected. She claims that they will know who she is, and that answer seems to satisfy The Creep. He agrees to take her there. She gets in his truck, which given the heat and the Creep’s sweaty, unwashed appearance, must really stink. He grabs the Cobalt 60, places in the back of the truck and they’re off.

Speaking of the Cobalt 60, what kind of idiots ship radioactive material without any escort or any adherance to safety regulations? Just pack it in a crate, slap on a shipping label and toss it on a train! Nevermind about the danger to public safety! Screw the public! Even more importantly, where in the hell does one purchase a mail order bomb? Was there an old military supply depot that had a going out of business sale? Or was it just some guy working at such a place who decided to make a few extra bucks on the side and decided that no one was going to miss a single bomb? I just hope the freakin’ terrorists don’t have that guy’s number.

Winding their way through some pretty rough swamp terrain, they come to a stretch of road, and I use the word “road” very loosely here, that is blocked by some fallen tree limbs. The Creep stops the truck and gets out to clear the way, which gives Joyce the chance to get a closer look at the grotesque denizens of the swamp – snakes, lizards, alligators… and gator wrestlers. Not far off, two guys are trying to maneuver a small alligator into a canoe and despite the fact that the poor animal hardly moves at all in this scene, the two men somehow get thrown around as if they were trying to wrestle a full grown Grizzly bear. Either that gator is hideously strong, with deceptively slow but powerful movements, or those two dorks are the worst overactors I’ve seen in quite some time.

The Creep now gets back in the truck and gives Joyce a speech on how deadly the swamps are, culminating with a rant on the dirty, nasty slimy gators. He fires up the truck and tears off down the road again, happily running over an alligator which has climbed out of the water and is making its way across the road. This scene is funny. First we see the alligator slowly emerge from the swamp. Then we see it casually making its way across the road (why did the gator cross the roa….oh nevermind). Then a rear projection shot of Joyce and The Creep in the truck as it “bounces” down the road. Next up is a shot that is supposed to be the truck racing up the gator, but what it actually happens to be is a scene where the truck backed away from the animal, only now the footage has been sped up and shown in reverse. A reaction shot follows, showing Joyce reaching for the steering wheel, no doubt trying to avoid the animal (and not knowing how much this particular guy hates gators). Instantly her hand is gone from the wheel in the next shot and finally we see the gator as it runs back to the water as if it was on crack or something. Any faster and it would have been running on just two legs.

The Creep stops the truck and laughs. Joyce asks why he did that, as the animal was not doing him any harm. It is at this point that we learn why this guy hates gators so much. He has no left hand – just a hook, and it was a gator that was responsible for the missing appendage. Now, I must say that his hook is by far the worst looking “hook hand” I have ever seen on film. Sometimes filmmakers will at least try to make it appear like a character’s arm ends in a stump, with only a hook attached to the end. Not here. It is so painfully obvious that actor Lon Chaney Jr. just has his hand in a glove. Not only can you see the tremendous bulge where his fist is, but also the left arm is noticeably longer than his right. I guess I just didn’t realize that when you lose a hand, that arm compensates for the missing flesh by spontaneously growing, lengthening not only to match the untouched arm and hand, but in some cases even surpassing it! The miracles of nature! Yeah right.

So onward they plunge through the swampy surroundings, finally arriving at The Cypresses, which is an old plantation. Now, are there really plantations in the middle of the bayou? If so, what the hell for? What are they growing? Are the owners going to corner the world market for Spanish moss? Who knows and who cares. Anyway the Creep drops Joyce off at the front door and then speeds away, his odor no doubt still wafting through the air.

"Avon calling!"Joyce knocks on the front door and a butler opens it way too fast, as if he was standing just five feet away on the other side waiting for someone to do just that. When asked if she is expected, Joyce explains that she is following up on a letter she sent to this address. An older woman behind the butler tells him to let Joyce enter. This woman seems very testy and quickly asks Joyce what she wants after admitting that she is the owner of the house. Joyce goes through the whole spiel about Paul’s disappearance and her search for him, which has led her here. When she gives her name as Mrs. Paul Webster, the older woman reacts visibly to this news but doesn’t reveal anything, only accusing Joyce of making up stories. She introduces herself to Joyce as Mrs. Henry Hawthorne – a widow. Mrs. Hawthorne turns to Tobey the butler and tells him to fetch Manon so he can driver Joyce back to the train station. One assumes Manon is The Creep who Joyce met earlier. Tobey explains that the train only stops once a day and won’t return until the next day. Very reluctantly, Mrs. Hawthorne allows Joyce to spend the night, but lays down some stiff rules, like insisting that Joyce not leave her room under any circumstances.

Night comes and Joyce is in the guestroom, pondering things (which means another voiceover) and sure that Mrs. Hawthorne is hiding some secret. Suddenly gunshots begin piercing the air. Mrs. Hawthorne tells Tobey to “Find the drunken fool” and “tell him to stop that shooting.” It seems creepy old Manon has been hitting the sauce and has gotten himself good and liquored up. He is drunk off his ass and is now taking pot shots at alligators as part of his ongoing grudge against the critters. Tobey manages to get the fool to stop and go off to sleep it all off. There are twenty shots heard during these brief scenes, nine of them apparently shot without Manon needing to reload. It is also during this sequence that Joyce discovers that she has been locked in her room.

Louann the maid arrives to bring Joyce her dinner. Joyce asks her about the gunshots but Louann doesn’t reveal anything. Then Joyce asks if she has come to the wrong place. The maid is reluctant to say anything and tries to make a getaway but after Joyce corners her, she does say that the place is troubled and that Mrs. Hawthorne has a “big sorrow” and Joyce should leave before she has it, too. Then she leaves, forgetting to lock the door behind her.

Elsewhere, Mrs. Hawthorne receives a phone call from a Dr. Mark Sinclair who, going by the conversation, has just returned from somewhere. We see him in his lab, filled with all sorts of scientific equipment (in other words lots and lots of test tubes, beakers and a Bunsen burner) and an alligator strapped to a nearby table. She tells him that Paul’s wife has arrived and they must decide what they are going to do about it. She tells him to wait, as she will be right over. From her room, Joyce sees her leave.

Mrs. Hawthorne arrives at some building in the bayou that is being used as a medical clinic. Inside, orderlies are trying to contain a patient who is dressed in a long white hospital gown and an idiotic looking headpiece that covers his entire noggin. Whoever it is, he is putting up a hell of a fight and the four orderlies have to lay on the elbow grease to hold him down. Sinclair arrives and injects the patient with something, the masked man muttering something unintelligible in a voice that sounds like Darth Vader when he gargles in the morning. Sinclair admonishes the orderlies for manhandling the guy, saying that “these are people. You don’t handle them like animals.” I guess this is to help set up Sinclair as a compassionate man who is views his patients as people rather than just statistics. Just wait till the HMOs take over.

Mrs. Hawthorne enters Sinclair’s laboratory, which for some very odd reason seems located right off the main door to the building. She calls out for him and when he arrives, they discuss what to do about Joyce’s arrival. Sinclair is firm in that they need more time and Hawthorne is worried about what might happen if Joyce says anything to the police. The good doctor feels helpless in whatever he is trying to do and Hawthorne reminds him of the cobalt bomb that arrived that very day, its inherent radioactive properties surely a potential aid in whatever task he is attempting to accomplish. The doctor is reluctant to take a chance on a Human without months of animal testing first. Hawthorne says that he will get all the time he requires and that Joyce will be on the train first thing in the morning. Sinclair promises to swing by to see Joyce, so he can ascertain if she knows anything before leaving.

Later that night, a figure emerges from the swamps and enters The Cypresses. He sits down at a piano and begins to play in the dark. This attracts the attention of Joyce upstairs. She leaves her room (before the door was locked from outside but now there is a key in the keyhole on her side – I think she somehow tricked the maid into inadvertently leaving it) and descends the stairs, launching into another voiceover as she descends. She enters the room where the music is coming from, and the figure stops playing. Turning to see who has interrupted him, he bolts and flees out a door as soon as he recognizes Joyce. Joyce follows as far as the door, which leads outside, but it is obvious she didn’t get a very good look at whoever it was. All that is left are a bunch of mud the mysterious pianist left all over the floor. What an inconsiderate slob. Joyce launches into another voiceover as we see her examining the room.

"For the love of god, somebody get me an analgesic!"Outside, the figure runs up to an approaching car and waves the driver down. Inside the vehicle is Mrs. Hawthorne. She shows no surprise when the figure is revealed to be Paul Webster himself, only now looking quite terrible – his skin now dark, wrinkled and positively scaly in appearance. He questions Hawthorne as to why Joyce is there. She explains that Joyce came in on the train and she had no choice but to put her up for the night, the alternative being putting her out in the middle of the swamp. She promises that Joyce will be gone the next day.

Frankly, I find it near impossible to understand why Paul would not tell Joyce of his predicament, especially if he claims to love her. Wouldn’t he want her support during such a trying time? I sure as hell would want The Other Half with me if I suddenly began the transformation from man into bipdel suitcase, but Paul acts like there is some type of social stigma that is attached to his situation. Sure, going out in public would have to wait until you were cured, especially if the entire affair was to be kept secret…but not even telling your wife? He acts like admitting to his situation would be on the same level as admitting to being a child rapist, trafficker of child porn or something even worse…a Yanni fan.

Morning comes and Dr. Sinclair arrives in some type of amphibious vehicle – one that goes straight from the water of the swamps to dry land without missing a beat, but pretty much looks like a small fishing boat with four wheels. Joyce is standing on the porch to The Cypresses when Sinclair pulls up and introduces himself as the “Swamp Doctor.” Joyce does her best to get some answers out of him through some verbal wrestling, but he reveals nothing to her, claiming he was just dropping by to see Mrs. Hawthorne. Joyce drops her name, but he acts as if he has never heard the name Webster before. She is sure he and the others are hiding something, but he just dismisses her worries and moves on.

A brief scene shows Sinclair in his laboratory, unpacking the Cobalt bomb and preparing to use it in a test of some kind. Hopefully the moron won’t accidentally detonate it, creating a mushroom cloud over Louisiana.

Back at The Cypresses, Joyce is being a total snoop and is rummaging around through Mrs. Hawthorne’s desk. That could get you shot around my house, I’ll tell you. Elsewhere Mrs. Hawthorne grills her staff on why Joyce hasn’t left yet and Louann explains that Joyce had refused to go when Tobey brought the car around to pick her up. Hawthorne is even more upset now and catches Joyce rifling through her stuff. She accuses Joyce of taking advantage of her hospitality, but Joyce is sure that the older woman his hiding something from her. She wants to know who was playing the piano the night before in the dark and why Dr. Sinclair came around in an obvious attempt at finding out what she may or may not know. Joyce continues to press Mrs. Hawthorne and begins to accuse her of doing something with Paul, even going so far as eliminating all traces of him from his own home. Finally, Mrs. Hawthorne breaks and admits that she would be the last one to ever hurt Paul as she is his mother. Kick yourself if you didn’t see that one coming. Yeah, I thought so. Fade out.

Outside, we see Paul approaching the house again through the rain. When he enters, obviously believing that Joyce has been made to leave, she confronts him. Once again he runs off like a scared rabbit, plowing into the swamp in his haste to get away. Joyce calls after him and finally gives chase. However, it is not long before she is hopelessly lost in the swamp, the darkness and pouring rain making the situation even worse. Still calling Paul’s name, she has a couple of close encounters with some gators and a snake before attracting the attention of something even worse – Manon. The hook-handed creep arrives just in time to save her from a moccasin and then escorts her back to his cabin.

At his cabin, Manon offers her a drink to help Joyce warm up. When she asks him why he has brought her to his cabin, he mutters something about assuming she would naturally appreciate him for saving her from that snake. Uh-huh. Raise your hand if you know where this is going. Ok, ok, ok! Hands down! Manon then advises her to get out of her wet clothes so she won’t get sick. I said hands down! She claims she will be all right, so then he wraps her in blanket. Once he has gotten his arms around her, he then starts trying to kiss her and no doubt has much more on his mind. Naturally she screams and struggles, so what does the oaf do? He belts her, knocking her out. Of course, having an unconscious partner saves him from having to wrestle her into submission, so he starts to remove her clothes. At this point Paul rushes in and attacks him. A brief fight ensues, which looks like it was lifted from an old Republic Pictures serial. They manage to make a mess of the interior of the cabin in record time. Paul finally lands a solid punch and the drunken, glass-jawed Manon drops like a wet rag. Paul collects the unconscious Joyce and leaves with her. Manon comes to and yells out to Paul, promising to kill him.

Once more we return to The Cypresses, where Paul arrives with Joyce. She is handed over to the care of the staff while Paul explains to his mother what happened. She advises him that they can no longer keep Joyce in the dark and that hiding things from her will only lead to her getting hurt. She says that she will get Dr. Sinclair to explain things to Joyce.

Paul goes to see Sinclair and asks when they can use the Cobalt 60. The Doctor explains it will be months before it can be used. Paul insists that it be used as soon as possible. Sinclair claims it is just too great a risk. Paul persists, saying that the Doctor owes him this chance. Sinclair gives in and tells him they have to perform at least one test first. Paul agrees but is adamant that the procedure be performed on him the next night. Sinclair then informs him that he is going to tell Joyce all the facts and that she will know everything.

"All hail Landru! Let Red Hour Commence!"The next day, after a bunch of orderlies wrestle an alligator onto a gurney and transport it to Sinclair’s lab for testing, Joyce arrives and is given the grand tour by the doctor after he finishes up aiming some sort of radioactive ray at the test gator. Sinclair goes on to explain how he had once pioneered a method of injecting alligator hormones into people who were horribly injured or disfigured. Mrs. Hawthorne had financed his research and helped him set up his clinic. His new treatment allowed those who were mangled and horribly burned to heal amazingly fast and with no sign remaining of their injuries. Joyce recalls how Paul looked like he had never been in a plane crash and the doctor tells her that Paul had been the worst of the cases he treated, the most horribly burned and disfigured. Sinclair was convinced that he had stumbled onto a medical Holy Grail.

They are interrupted by an orderly who informs him that “Number six” is acting up again. Sinclair has Joyce accompany him to a room where three orderlies are trying to restrain a man who also has scaly skin on half of his face and a voice like Froggy from The Little Rascals. They finally get him to calm down after directing a bright heat lamp in his direction – warmth making reptiles somewhat lethargic and all that. Joyce asks who these people are and Sinclair reveals that these are the people he had once helped with his discovery. There was an unfortunate side effect from his revolutionary new procedure. It seems a year after their treatment, all of them began turning into alligators – Paul included.

They now wander outside, where Joyce wonders if there is any hope for these people and Sinclair explains that there is one: massive doses of radiation, with Paul being the first test case. Joyce insists on being there for the test and the doctor realizes that given all the circumstances, he really can’t prevent her from doing so.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

Night comes and Paul emerges from the swamp again. Just where the hell is he staying anyway? Sure, he is looking all scaly, but there is no way he has taken to hanging out with the other gators. He obviously wasn’t staying at The Cypresses. So, does he have shack in the swamp somewhere? A treehouse? A cave? What exactly? Alas, the film never tells us. Paul enters the lab and is met by Joyce. He tries to run and turn away, but she will have none of it. She tells him that she knows everything about what has befallen him as well as the plans for that evening. She professes her love for him and does her best to be encouraging, saying that she knows he’ll come out of it all as handsome as ever. Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Dr. Sinclair and Mrs. Hawthorne arrive and things are made ready for the test. Paul is ushered off, Joyce begins to cry and Hawthorne apologizes for how she behaved earlier. Paul is strapped to the table with the big gizmo thing that emits the radioactive beam stationed over him, aimed right at his head. Sinclair tells the women that the absolute maximum time of exposure is thirty seconds. No more. He then apologizes to Paul for playing god.

Meanwhile, Manon busts into The Cypresses, looking for Paul. The staff chases him off, but not before he realizes where Paul is. He arrives at the lab just as things are getting under way. He pulls Sinclair away for the control panel before the doctor can bring an end to Paul’s exposure to the Cobalt 60. Then Manon storms into the radiation chamber to confront Paul, only now the prolonged exposure has accelerated Paul’s transformation into an alligator. His entire upper torso is covered with thick, scaly skin and his head is that of an alligator. Paul frees himself from the table and lunges at Manon, who raises his arm in defense. His Hook-hand gets caught on an electrified cable nearby and the smelly oaf is promptly barbecued. Paul makes a run for it, startling both Joyce and his mother with his new appearance.

"Ok, you can have the last spot if musical chairs means so much to you!"Gator-Paul flees the clinic and when Joyce comes after him, barrels into the swamp. Inside the lab, the smoking control panel has caught fire. Somehow the combination of that, Manon still hanging from the electric cable and the Cobalt 60 produces an explosion that takes out the entire building, and presumably everyone that was inside.

Out in the swamp, Joyce continues to chase after Gator-Paul, who has caught his reflection in some water and is no doubt in a very bad mood. He wrestles a real alligator for a few minutes, probably out of spite. During this scene, the alligator suit really looks pathetic in comparison to the real thing. Then, moving on, he falls into a pit of quicksand. He tries to extricate himself, but it is to no avail. With a horrified Joyce looking on, Gator-Paul vanishes beneath the surface to his doom. Joyce screams and screams and screams….and screams some more. Finally, we fade out….

…And fade back into Dr. McGregor’s lab where he and Dr. Lorimer are going over the results of the experiment. The lie detector shows that Jane was telling the truth. In addition, records do indeed show that a Paul Webster and Dr. Mark Sinclair did exist but have since disappeared. McGregor wonders if he should tell Jane the truth, seeing as how she seems to have made a satisfactory adjustment after living through such a horrible experience. She now has a happy life, and attempting to cure her might make things worse. Lorimer isn’t sure what to do either, concurring that the situation poses a real ethical conundrum. Jane enters with some papers for McGregor to sign, saying that she will be going off duty unless the doctor needs her for anything else. As she turns to go, McGregor calls to her but a quick shake of the head from Lorimer convinces him to let things go and he just says goodnight to her. She bids both doctors goodnight, turns and exits through the door.

Something occurrs to me at this point. Wouldn’t Tobey and Louann tell someone about the big explosion at the swamp clinic? Especially since they would have to find new employment after the death of The end? That tape looks like it has quite a ways to go.Mrs. Hawthorne? Or since The Cypresses was so secluded, maybe they just took over running the place and acted like nothing was out of the ordinary, not bothering to tell anyone of what happened? Since Doctor McGregor could find no clue as to what happened to Doctor Sinclair – only that he did exist and has since vanished – I’m thinking that Tobey and Louann just kept their big mouths shut and began living the good life.

Speaking of the explosion, Did any other Gator-people survive at the end? If so, did the sudden increase in radioactivity suddenly supercharge their transformations, turning them all into full blown Alligator People like Paul? If so, perhaps they just decided to live together in the swamps, founding their own society. Even now there may be Alligator People living in the deep bayou somewhere, descended from this original bunch, living off the land and only occasionally venturing near civilization to forage for supplies (tools, chickens, smokes, etc). Maybe all those sightings of “Lizard Men” in southernly areas are actually sightings of these Alligator People! Then again, maybe all those sightings are just from people who made the mistake of drinking the bong water.

The End

Review

In 1958 Twentieth Century Fox released The Fly, starring Vincent Price. That film, about a scientist who ends up partially turning into a giant fly via a mishap in the lab, proved to be a modest hit for the studio. In true capitalist fashion, they decided to cash in by not only producing a sequel, but by producing a cheap derivative. The Alligator People follows a similar theme – A woman discovers her husband is has turned into an alligator-human hybrid. Whereas The Fly was shot in color, with state of the art FX, The Alligator People was lensed in black and white with a story that called for very little in the FX department. Sadly, what little there is to be seen is not very well done and is poorly lit – no doubt to help hide its substandard nature. The Alligator People was also presented in Cinemascope – a wide-screen format pioneered to help lure movie goers back into theaters after television had stolen them away. After watching this film, its only natural to think that they ran like hell back to their TV sets.

There is a word for films like The Alligator Peopleboring. This is definitely one of those films that is long on talk and short on action. While a great many science fiction and horror films of the same era contained lots of talk, as their budgets rarely allowed for frequent or extensive uses of FX, action or both; many still had enough polish to make the talky bits halfway interesting – even considering their often short running times. The Alligator People clocks in at one hour and fourteen minutes, but seems far longer. Not to say that the events in the film are of the coma inducing variety. It is just that things unfold so…well, boringly. Despite what we see, there just never seems to be any real sense of excitement.

It can be said the film certainly tries to live up to its hype. There is a desperate search, a creepy and foreboding plantation in the middle of a swamp, strange happenings at a nearby clinic that only add to the mystery and locals ardently trying to keep their secrets from seeing the light of day. Throw all these in the mixer and most would assume a really good and riveting film will result. Alas, The Alligator People doesn’t even achieve decent, and instead settles on barely passable. Despite all the right ingredients, the end product is flat. The pace is terribly slow. It takes forever for anything to happen, and when it does, it just doesn’t generate much enthusiasm for the film. Joyce’s search for Paul is just a seemingly endless series of conversations with various people. There is no real action undertaken to help move this plot point along. Even the resistance she meets during her quest doesn’t seem strong enough to deter anyone older than ten years of age. The filmmakers are going for intense drama is some of these confrontations, but instead give us a snooze-fest.

One reason for this general lack of thrills is the misleading name. I’m sure that many monster-loving kids back in the late 50’s swarmed to this film, positively convinced that they were going to see hordes of Alligator People rampaging across the screen. Well, I feel sorry for those kids, whose hopes were so cruelly dashed by this film. Not only do we rarely see any of the Alligator People, but also when we do, they are almost always covered head to toe in bandages and white robes. What the hell is frightening about that? Paul is the only one we get a really good look at, and his early stages of transformation are adequately done. However, once the final metamorphosis takes place, he becomes a total cheese monster. I’ve seen more frightening gators populating the local mini golf course. Adding to the silly look is Lon Chaney Jr’s ridiculously realized hook-hand that I mentioned earlier. It is just so bad looking, one has to wonder whether the people making this film even noticed it, and if they did, why they didn’t do anything about it.

There is one bright spot to this film, and that would be lead actress Beverly Garland. She totally sells her portrayal as both the friendly, happy nurse Jane Marvin as well as the worried Joyce Webster committed to finding her missing husband. A veteran of several earlier B films, as well as having numerous other television and film credits, she brings a touch of class and style to the film – something even the legendary Lon Chaney Jr, fails to do. It seemed pretty evident that at this stage of his career, old Lon was hitting the sauce pretty heavily and taking just about any role that came along – most of them being parts in low budget science fiction and horror films that took advantage of his notoriety years earlier as the Wolf Man. While turning in an effectively creepy performance as the lustful, crazy Manon; he still just seems regulated to glorified set dressing.

Speaking of set dressing, this film seems poorly lit all too often. At times I figured it was done in part to help hide the lame make-up and FX, while other times utilized to further convey mood – a sense of dread and gloom that has settled over The Cypresses. Many of the interior shots are well lit, but when the "action" moves outside to the swamp, things really begin to get murky and difficult to see. When Joyce stumbles around in the bayou, bumping into various creatures, it was often hard to see what she was screaming at. Likewise, the climactic chase through the swamps is similarly dark and difficult to make out at times.

One other positive element is the DVD transfer. Never have I seen an old black and white film look so good and clean. Sure, there are some imperfections, but considering that the film is over forty years old and despite the dark lighting, I must congratulate Twentieth Century Fox on their excellent presentation. The wide screen format is also a blessing for those B film fans like myself that have suffered with the pan and scan version of this film for years.

 

Expect To See:
Gunplay
Gunplay - Manon loves his guns but boy, does he hate them slimy, ugly gators! He tends to get drunk and shoot indiscriminately into the swamps, hoping to hit one.
Haunted Houses
Haunted Houses – No ghosts inhabit it, but there is a large, spooky plantation in the middle of the Louisiana swamps. How they get power or telephones lines is never explained.
Monsters
Monsters – We have people slowly turning into alligators. Most remain covered throughout the film and most of those we do see just appear to have the worst case of acne ever.
Science
Science – Everything began with Dr. Sinclair's experimental method for helping people heal faster. Now he employs science in a tireless effort to reverse the hideous transformations.
Swamp Hijinks
Swamp Hijinks – Plenty of swamp hijinks here. Lots of people driving, boating and running through the swamps for all manner of reasons...usually while screaming at the top of their lungs.
Violence
Violence – Not too much violence here. There is a fistfight between Manon and Paul, but the choreography looks like something out of an old Republic Pictures serial.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 8 (possibly more)
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 5
Cigarettes smoked: 1
Fistfights: 1
Times Joyce screams Paul’s name: 26
Number of voiceovers from Joyce: 3
Real alligators seen in film: 19
Fake alligators seen in film: 2
Times Manon’s hook hand looks convincing: 0
Minorities in roles of servants: 3
Shots fired from a six shooter without reloading: 9
Alligator People seen: 5

00 Mins - Opening credits. Is that Gilligan’s Island?
05 Mins – 3D coming at ya!
18 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
21 Mins - I bet her husband killed himself just to get away from her.
28 Mins - Somebody give that poor guy a throat lozenge!
32 Mins - I wish my brother George was here.
35 Mins - I wonder if he tries to pick up chicks with his swamp buggy.
47 Mins - Bitch slap!!
55 Mins - Ask Dr. Stupid!
67 Mins - Can you pick up HBO with that?
71 Mins - You can see the edge of the headpiece.
72 Mins - See ya later, Alligator (you knew that was coming, right?).


Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time you see an alligator, take a drink. Every time you see an alligator person, take two drinks. Every time you see an alligator person that actually resembles an alligator...take three drinks.

 

Images Click for larger image

"I know I ordered a Black Russian, but this
is a bit much."


"Oh, damn. That was supposed to be
inserted rectally, wasn’t it?"


JAG’s new amphibious lawyer-assault vehicle.

"So tell me Colonel Sanders, is this where you
perfected the eleven secret herbs
and spices for your KFC recipe?"

"Hold him tight, he swallowed El Corazon!"

 
Modern science has drastically cut the time it
takes to make gator skin shoes. Here we
see a pair of loafers being cut directly
from an alligator.


"Sir? It appears you fell asleep under the
tanning ray. Might I offer you some
skin cream?"

Let’s see…rock beats scissors, scissors beat
paper, paper beats rock and…electric
currents beat metal hook, dumb ass!!


"I’ll get you some day, Spider-Man! Some day!"

The cast didn’t react well when sequel
plans were announced.

 

Immortal Dialog

Manon giving Joyce the low down on the swamp.

Manon: "Do you know how long you’d last if you got a hundred yards off of this road? Maybe ten minutes. If the quicksand didn’t get ya, the moccasins would. Then…Then there’s always the gators! Dirty, nasty, slimy things!!

Shadow’s comment: Considering the source, it may be best to take your chances in the swamp rather than stick with him. And I do mean stick. I bet he hasn’t bathed in weeks.


Manon threatening Paul after the latter knocked him senseless while rescuing Joyce from his lustful advances.

Manon: "I’ll kill ya, Alligator man. Just like I’d kill any four-legged gator. Ya hear me? I’ll kill ya!!"

Shadow’s comment: Evidently this is accomplished by breathing in the target’s general direction and letting that unnatural breath do the rest.

 

Keep In Mind
  • Nurses routinely volunteer to take part in untested medical experiments.
  • Hypno-therapy can be accomplished without any actual hypnotism.
  • It is perfectly ok to ship radioactive materials in standard wooden crates, via public railroads.
  • Alligators make roaring sounds just like lions.
  • You can run over an alligator in your car at full speed and not hurt them at all.
  • Butlers have nothing better to do but wait by the front door for visitors.
  • Sweaty, one-handed guys who live in swamps are terminally horny and best avoided.
  • Hospital orderlies are trained to handle live alligators.
  • Radiation is a fix-all medical treatment, especially in massive doses.
  • Electricity + radioactivity = BOOM.
  • Repressing the memories of entire years is simple and raises no nagging questions about one’s past.



This Film & Me

Back when I was young child in the 70’s, I nurtured a passion for older horror films – mainly ones from the 1950’s. I watched them religiously and was always on the lookout for ones I had never seen. Keep in mind that this was long before VCRs and home video were the mainstays of popular culture that they are today. If you missed an airing of a movie or TV show, you were pretty much screwed. So I kept a vigilant eye on the TV listings to see what would be shown each week. I also read monster magazines as much as I could. It was in one such periodical that I first saw a photo from The Alligator People. I remember the name intrigued me and I made it a priority to watch this movie. Well, years and years went by and I never managed to catch the film. High school came and went. It was sometime shortly after graduating that I re-invested in my love of 50’s horror and science fiction by scooping up as many such films on VHS that I could locate. Alas, The Alligator People still eluded me. It wasn’t until a few years later in the early 1990’s that I finally saw the film listed on AMC…and this was back in the good old days when AMC didn’t air commercial breaks. I set my VCR and was finally able to get a copy of the film. I eagerly watched it, and while I wasn’t just completely devastated with disappointment, it is safe to say that I wasn’t jumping up and down in excitement. That taped pan and scan version was my only copy for many years until the recent DVD release. Sure, the film is talky and often dull, but it heralds an era of film making that I love, so I had to have it.

Shadow's rating: Four Tombstones



The Good

  • Great performance by Beverley Garland
  • Gorgeous-looking film print
  • Eerie swamp locations
  • Spooky atmosphere
  • Decent make-up for Paul before final transformation

The Bad

  • Horrible final transformation alligator man mask
  • Manon's utterly ridiculous hook hand
  • Not enough alligator people running loose
  • Lame ending

The Ugly

  • Too much damn talk: movie is boring, boring, BORING
  • Ludicrous element that has Joyce/Jane so easily assuming new identity
  • Lon Chaney obviously hitting the sauce quite hard by this time in career

 

 

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