The Alligator People
Seeing as how it’s the birthday of director Roy Del Ruth (for more on that far-ranging director go here), and it is also the Halloween season, it seems fitting to share one of his last efforts, 1959’s The Alligator People.
This film is a neat cross between Southern Gothic and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, with a smattering of The Fly. The movie’s ultimate silliness undermines a fairly effective story. A wife is searching for her husband who mysteriously disappeared. Her search brings her to this mansion/laboratory in the bayou, where the couple who live there turn out to have been her husband’s parents. The son is there, too. It turns out he is becoming one of the titular alligator people, the results of an experiment gone awry. The most ridiculous feature of the movie is that the alligator people are just people who have alligator heads—and cheap looking paper mache ones, at that, a very laughable effect. Even if science were able to somehoe genetically merge a human with a crocodilian it’s unlikely the result would be this proto-Sleeztak. Lon Cheney, Jr. plays a creepy Cajun who loves to shoot everything and tries to rape the heroine. I bet that wasn’t even in the script! Yet the story is somehow effective…the woman’s discovery of the secret by gradations works well, even if the science is bogus. Cast includes Bruce Bennett, George Macready, Beverly Garland and Richard Crane.
To find out more about show business past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc