(1959)2Craig ButlerA bizarre late 1950s sci-fi/horror tale, The Alligator People seems like it should be either a humdinger of a flick or else the kind that is enjoyable for the unintended laughs it provokes. In fact, Alligator is a rather somber, rather serious affair, which makes it far less engaging than many worse films. Genre films, especially in the 1950s, were often surprisingly good vehicles for social messages about the era, whether intentional or not. Alligator, despite its rather obvious inspiration from the earlier The Fly, seems to want to make some sort of point about alienation, as well as perhaps about secrets between married couples and, on a larger scale, the feeling that larger manmade forces are somehow intruding into individual lives. But it deals with all these in a superficial manner; worse, Alligator takes both its thematic ideas and its dramatic ideas and portrays them both in a manner that is equally dull. Make-up artist Dick Smith does a very good job with the monsters before they turn all-alligator; unfortunately, once "totally" transformed, they spout a rubber head that is laughably fake. Roy Del Ruth makes great use of locale and atmosphere (aided by Karl Struss's moody cinematography), but he allows everything to move very sluggishly and kills a great deal of potential suspense. Richard Crane and George Macready are serviceable, but Lon Chaney, Jr. gives a strong, hammy performance that adds fire. And as the lead, Beverly Garland is terrific, turning in the kind of B-movie performance that is absolutely essential for this kind of flick.
A confused horror yarn set in the Deep South, Alligator People stars Richard Crane as a husband who becomes accidently separated from his new wife (Beverly Garland) during a train ride. She tracks him down to the swamplands surrounding his family mansion. Her reunion with her husband is tarnished by the fact that he's been partially transformed into an alligator! This is the handiwork of doctor George MacReady, who's been conducting curious experiments with gators and humans. Garland must figure out a way to save her mutated husband from both the scientist and a drunken alligator hunter (Lon Chaney Jr.). The story is told in flashback, as psychiatrists try to figure out what has driven Garland insane. The Alligator People was the last film directed by Roy Del Ruth, light years away from his glory days at Warner Bros.