The Alligator People

Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 74 Minutes
DVD Released By: 20th Century Fox
Directed By: Roy Del Ruth
Writing Credits: Robert M. Fresco (uncredited), Orville H. Hampton (story), Charles O'Neal (story)
Filming Location: Louisiana

Starring: Beverly Garland (Joyce Webster, aka Jane Marvin), Bruce Bennett (Dr. Eric Lorimer), Lon Chaney Jr. (Manon), George Macready (Dr. Mark Sinclair), Frieda Inescort (Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne, Henry's Wife), Richard Crane (Paul Webster), Douglas Kennedy (Dr. Wayne MacGregor)

Tagline #1: Her honeymoon turned into a nightmare of horror!

Tagline #2: Nerve-shattering terror!

Tagline #3: The alligator people will make your skin crawl!

Alternate Titles: I was unable to locate any alternate titles for this film.

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
The star power in this film is incredible. Born in 1926, Beverly Garland has had an extremely long and prolific career which as of this writing encompasses 64 films and 142 television appearances. Lon Chaney Jr., who was born in 1906 and died in 1973, appeared in 172 films and made 32 television appearances. Even the lesser known actors in this film all had great careers. For example, Bruce Bennett, who plays Dr. Eric Lorimer in this film, appeared in 125 films and made 31 television appearances throughout his career. He was born in 1906 and is apparently still alive at the ripe old age of 98! While he hasn't worked in years, you have to admire his longevity.

 

 




Cast Of Characters
Joyce Webster (a.k.a. Jane Marvin): Why does this woman have two names? Well, her real name is Joyce Webster. She was married to Paul Webster before that whole alligator person thing got in the way. She took the name of Jane Marvin in a fit of happy amnesia after it was all over with. The amnesia was her way of moving on with her life. Gee, I wonder if that works for everything? I wonder if I could just stop paying all my bills and then when all the creditors start calling I could just play like I have amnesia and don't know who they are? Nah, they'd probably throw me on a couch, fill me full of sodium pentathol and force me to remember just like they did with her.

Manon: Arrrrrr me hearties! There be treasure in this swamp, and I means to find it! Yes, this is none other than the legend himself, Lon Chaney Jr.. He reminds me of a pirate in this movie for a couple of reasons. One is that he's always wearing a poofy shirt that's open down to his belly, and the second is that he has a hook hand. Yes, a hook hand. Seems that an alligator bit off his hand, and now he has a hook there instead. Anyway, he's a drunken sot and he really has no redeeming characteristics other than that he's the most interesting person in this film. He works for Mrs. Hawthorne running errands. At least he did until he tried to have his way with Joyce in a drunken fit of lustful passion. I dunno why everyone got so upset over that though. At least someone in this film had some passion.

Dr. Mark Sinclair: This is the guy that made the alligator people. He was actually trying to come up with a way for people to regenerate themselves, much like lizards can regenerate a lost tail. Somehow he got from lizards to alligators. I have no idea how he made that jump, but he did, and he screwed up the serum. See, the serum he made from the hormones he extracted from the alligators had a little extra ingredient in it that he didn't catch. So about a year after he injected all these messed up, injured people with it, they all started turning into alligators. I guess that isn't all bad though. I mean, first off, the funky skin texture gives them a little character. Plus, now they all taste like chicken. How cool is that?

Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne: She talks like Bette Davis with a hangover, and has to use a cane to get around. You might think that makes her interesting, but it doesn't. Neither does the fact that she's Paul's mother or the fact that she's a crabby old cow. In fact, the only really interesting thing about her is...no wait. There really isn't anything interesting about her at all. Anyway, she set Dr. Sinclair up with lab facilities on her plantation so that he could work on his serum and use it to save the life of her son Paul who had been horribly mangled and burned in a plane crash.

Paul Webster: And here's Paul. Big improvement huh? Actually he looked perfectly normal at the beginning of the movie. It was only after he received word from the doctor that his tests came back positive that he ran off and went back home to the plantation in hopes that the doctor could find a way to stop the process. Unfortunately, Manon busted in while the doctor was trying to treat him and only ended up making things worse. Now I know what you're thinking. "Worse? How could it get any worse??? Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah.."

(Reviewer's Note: For those that don't know, that last bit was a reference to Monty Python's The Life of Brian.)

Dr. Wayne MacGregor: This guy is Joyce's psychiatrist and she works for him now as his nurse. He shoots her up with sodium pentathol and then makes her go through her whole story again just so that Dr. Lorimer can hear it. Frankly, as boring as this story was, I think I would have asked her a lot more interesting questions than that. I would have asked her stuff like, "Have you ever made out with another woman?"

Dr. Eric Lorimer: This is Dr. MacGregor's buddy and fellow psychiatrist, Dr. Lorimer. He was brought in to listen to Joyce's story so he could give Dr. MacGregor advice on whether he should try to cure Joyce of her amnesia or just let her go on living her happy little life in delusional land. Basically, neither he nor Dr. MacGregor were in this movie much at all. Just a little at the beginning and a little at the end. The rest of it was all the story of what Joyce was remembering. I look at the two doctors here and the only funny thing I can think to say about either of them is that they'd both probably make good Punch and Judy puppets. I dunno why that popped into my head...but...yeah.




Screen Shots
"That was sure a long trip. I'm beat! Oh look, a box with a label on it that says Caution - Radioactive Material - Cobalt 60. I think I'll sit on it so that I may rest my tired feet after my long journey. My word, it sure is pretty around here. Funny how there's no people though. Hmm, this crate is really warm for some reason. I wonder where all the people went?"

"Say baby. As long as we're stuck here until those guys finish hog tyin' that gator, what say you and me jump in the back and make a little nice nice?"

"50 Points if you can hit the old lady with the walker! And I'll give you an extra hundred if you can bounce her off the mailbox and into the lamp post."

"Mrs. Webster, I'd like you to meet the Warner brothers. They used to work down at the cartoon studio, but after an unfortunate accident with a steam roller, they were sent here so the doctor could re-three-dimensionalize them. As you can see, the doctor's done a wonderful job so far. Just a few more operations and we should have them back to their old selves again."

"Now madam, you can either have the large handbag with the matching belt, or the smaller handbag with matching boots. Alternatively, if you're going to be traveling, we can make you a nice set of matched luggage."




Best Quote

"I'll kill you alligator man! Just like I'd kill any four-legged gator! Ya hear me? I'll kill ya!"



- Manon shouting out of his doorway after Paul broke in and saved Joyce from his lecherous clutches. - (Reviewer's Note: The fact that that's the best quote in the entire film should tell you something...)




Video Clip
When prompted, enter bmovie for the username and central for the password.

The Alligator People
Manon interrupts Paul's radiation treatment and bad things happen.



Summary and Conclusion

I came into this movie expecting to have fun. I mean, the cover art is cool. The back side art looks pretty cool too. And the taglines...well, they're amazing! Unfortunately, about fifteen minutes into the movie, I discovered the horrible truth. This movie is flat out boring. The strange part is, that's the only thing that's really wrong with it. The acting was good, the premise was good, the pacing, the editing and pretty much everything about it was just fine, except for the fact that it was insanely boring. I haven't had this difficult a time getting through a movie since I reviewed It's Alive a while back. At least that movie had a monster that looked like William Hung. This movie didn't even have that going for it.

So this left me in a dilemma. A bee rating just didn't seem to suit it, and I couldn't give it a bat because it really wasn't a bad movie. The only choice I really had was to alter the ratings system that has served me well for the last two and a half years, and add a new rating for movies like this one. You can read about it in my updated ratings page, but the long and the short of it is that films that receive the newly created Snoozer rating are pretty much guaranteed to put you to sleep if you watch them at bed time. They're generally good movies, but the one common factor with the Snoozers is that they're all really boring. Not bad, just boring.

Now with that said, let's move on to the plot, such as it is. There's this woman named Joyce Webster. At least she used to be named Joyce Webster. Now she's going by the name Jane Marvin because she's living with delusional amnesia, which was a side effect of the horrible experience she went through in this movie. Hell, I should have it as well from the horrible experience I had with this movie, but that's another story, so let's move on. Anyway, Joyce was a newlywed, and she and her new husband Paul were on a train headed off on the grand railway of love. Unfortunately, at one of their stops, they received a bunch of telegrams congratulating them on their nuptials. One telegram however, wasn't of a congratulatory nature. It was in fact a telegram from Paul's doctor. The same doctor that miraculously healed him after his horribly disfiguring plane crash. Paul read the telegram and then hopped off the train at a mail stop leaving behind his highly confused and upset wife long before they ever got to enjoy the fun part of the honeymoon.

Joyce went on a mission to find her missing husband, and through some school records of Paul's that she discovered, she finally ended up at a place called The Cypresses, which was a plantation somewhere down in the swamps of Louisiana. There she found a man with a hook for a hand, lots of gators, a crabby old woman, a scientist, and her husband Paul who was slowly turning into an alligator because of the treatment he received from the doctor. See, the doctor had devised a serum based on some hormones he extracted from alligators that allowed the human body to regenerate completely. When the serum was given to horribly disfigured people, it made them whole again. Unfortunately, there was a little sidecar hormone in the serum that the doctor didn't know about until it was too late, and it started turning all of his patients into alligators. So Paul went back home to the plantation where his mother had set the doctor up in his own research lab so that he might find a cure for these poor people. Eventually Joyce finds out the truth of it all and sticks by Paul as the doctor tries to restore him to his old self.

As I said above, this actually was a good movie in most respects. There were some amazing scenes with alligators that I'm still trying to figure out. I mean, in one scene, Joyce basically steps over one, and in several others, we see people from the plantation grabbing them and putting them on tables and what not. The alligators never seemed all that aggressive, and I've been wondering why that is. The only thing I can figure is that it was at least one of three things. They were either hand raised by trainers, stuffed to the begeezers before they shot each scene so they weren't hungry going into it, or they were drugged. In any case, they actually did use live gators where most films would have used fake ones, so they get some kudos for that. They also used a live snake in one scene that Manon picked up with his hook and tossed aside. I have to commend Beverly Garland for the way she handled herself around the creepy crawlies. She did a marvelous job and was a professional all the way.

Lon Chaney Jr. is actually billed on the case as one of the stars of this movie, but in truth he's little more than a supporting character who has a key role in how the movie ends. Still, he played the role of the boozy plantation hand quite well and delivered the performance you'd expect from a legend like him. All the performances in this movie were quite good, but Lon Chaney's portrayal of Manon stood out as being by far the best.

Something else that I have to mention here is the transfer quality of this DVD. It's absolutely gorgeous. It's extremely rare to find a transfer of a classic film that's been done this cleanly or with so much care. The sound is great and the picture quality is simply amazing. When you consider that this film was made in 1959, that really tells you something about the quality of the film reels they used and how much time and effort they put into making a beautiful transfer.

All in all, The Alligator people really is a decent movie, but it spent far too much time dwelling on Joyce's search for the truth, and not enough time dealing with the alligator people themselves or the doctor's quest to find a cure. The ending, which I won't spoil here, is absolutely ridiculous and will probably just leave you shaking you head in disbelief at how they could have spent all that time making a movie with such a huge amount of star power in it, and then let it end in such an inane fashion. Because of the fact that even the great actors and superb performances in this film couldn't save it from being a total bore, I'm forced to give it my newly created rating of...

B-Movie Central's Rating: Snoozer

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