The One and Only Alligator

This is it.  The big one.  I've seen just about all of the killer gator and/or croc flicks out there: the long-standing respected ones like Crocodile and Lake Placid (plus its cheesy SyFy sequels), the modern ones people got excited about like Rogue, Dark Water and Crawl, the junk like Primeval, Croczilla, Supergator and Croc, the crazy Italian ones like Killer Crocodile 1 & 2 and The Great Alligator, Tobe Hooper's Crocodile and its sequel (and yes, Eaten Alive, if we're counting that one), even the sequel to this one: The Mutation.  And they all get in the back of the line behind this one, 1980's Alligator.
Director Lewis Teague certainly went on to prove himself with films like Cujo and Cat's Eye.  In fact, the only directorial choice I didn't really dig here is a couple times he slowly pushes the camera towards the next victim while playing a blatant, but weaker, Jaws theme rip-off.  He should've known he had a better film that didn't deserve to be sold off so cheap with such a cheesy move; he had something with a life of its own, thanks to the smart and vibrant screenplay by John Sayles.  Particular credit definitely has to go to this film's excellent ensemble of characters, the result of both the writing and Teague's spot-on casting.  Robert Forster is a perfectly charismatic lead who handily carries the film, at least until Henry Silva shows up as this great white hunter, a spin on Robert Shaw's Quint, who consistently delightful, including one scene where he performs alligator mating calls to a flabbergasted television reporter.  And, like the work of William Lustig, this show is packed with great character actors like Sydney Lassick, famously of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but we all know and love him now from The Unseen, Michael Gazzo, Dean Jagger, and Jack Carter.
The effects are also great, though a few of the miniatures are obvious.  But even then, it manages to add to the charm.  How can you not love that cute, little baby gator who grows up to become a true urban legend?  And it's an ambitious story.  When you're convinced you can predict every pending beat of a fun but formulaic monster flick, the film goes in surprising, and bigger, directions.  The characters are more authentic and the plot points are more outrageous.  It's all in good fun, but has a few classic scare moments in it that will haunt anyone who stumbles upon this film at a young age.  "Walk the plank!"
So Lions Gate first put Alligator out on DVD in 2007, and honestly it was almost all you could ask for: anamorphic widescreen, uncut.  Not a fully loaded special edition, maybe, but it had some first class special features.  Still, it was flawed (as we'll get into below) and certainly came short once we broke into the HD age.  But all we got during that time were Spanish bootlegs and a couple of rare German blus which were reportedly just upconverts of the DVD.  But now in 2022, Alligator's basically just skipped the BD era and hit the ground running with a massive UHD Collector's Edition, 3-disc set.
1) 2007 LG DVD; 2) 2022 SF Theatrical BD; 3) 2022 SF TV BD;
4) 2022 SF UHD.

So what was wrong with the DVD?  Well, it wasn't a huge disaster, but it's interlaced and edge enhanced, which you could pretty much get away with in the days of old school 4x3 TVs, but not anymore.  Speaking of aspect ratios, the DVD was also 1.78:1, as opposed to Scream's new release, which properly mattes it to 1.85:1.  And the new scan doesn't so much trim the tops and bottoms, as open up and reveal more on the sides, though it does also reframe the image vertically (LG has more on the bottom and SF has more on the top.  And beyond all that, Scream Factory's new 4k scan (taken from the original negatives) is just immaculate.  The colors are more vibrant and clear up the DVD's red push, and the detail looks so clear, you'd think the film was shot today.

The DVD gave us the original mono track in Dolby Digital 2.0, plus a Dolby 5.1 remix, with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The blu ditches the 5.1, which is fine by me, because it gives us a remastered mono in lossless DTS-HD with optional English subtitles, which is everything that matters, and that's on both cuts.
An insert shot exclusive to the TV cut, taken from the interpositive.
So okay, let's talk about that Television Cut.  Last year, German label Retro put out a blu-ray/ DVD combo of Alligator with a longer, 98 minute cut in SD only.  Well, that longer cut has now been included on the Scream Factory version, too, as a HD blu-ray bonus disc.  Basically, it takes the extra made-for-television footage and edits it back into the film - the deleted scenes included on the film's main blu-ray.  But where it's fuzzy and full-screen there, it's in HD, scanned fresh from the interpositive here.  And it looks great.  I doubt casual viewers would even spot the seams between the inserts and the rest of the footage.  The theatrical cut's a lesser version of the film, but it's cool of Scream to include it in the spirit of being definitive.
Now, like I said, the DVD already had some good extras.  It has a fun and insightful commentary track with the director and Forster, which is still pretty much the crown jewel today.  It also had a great on-camera interview with John Sayles and the trailer.  And Scream Factory has hung onto all of that.  But they've also come up with a bunch more.  The best are new interviews with the special effects artist, who's got some very fun anecdotes, and Bryan Cranston, who got his start as a PA on Alligator, and shares some fond memories of Forster.  Other highlights include a brief interview with Robin Riker, who doesn't have much to add, but it's just nice to hear from her, the TV cut footage presented as separate deleted scenes, and an amusing television spot for a children's board game based on the film.  There are also new interviews with Teague and Sayles, but they basically just repeat what they already said in the other extras, so feel free to skip those.  You also get two galleries, some additional teasers and TV spots, reversible artwork and a slipcover.
Man, I can't tell you how many times I had my finger on the order button for one of those dubious, grey market Alligator blus over the last few years.  Were they truly upconverts, or just the same old master slapped onto an HD disc?  I was prepared to bite the bullet and find out, fingers crossed for a slim upgrade that might've at least fixed the interlacing.  Now that's all academic, because this Collector's Edition came just in the nick of time, at least for me.  This is the kind of treatment Alligator should've been getting since the laserdisc days, and it took until 2022.  Scream Factory has finally given us a release big enough to house the 'gator.


  1. Looks like the UHD disc is darker than the bluray copy it comes with?

    1. Yes. That's standard for UHDs, though. TVs with proper HDR capability should display it brighter (more nits), while still keeping the darks nice and dark, so it basically matches with the BD's levels, except more dynamic. So a UHD should look darker in a comparison like this, unless it doesn't have HDR (like Color Out Of Space).

    2. That's too bad! Would be nice if you didn't need any extra stuff just to get those UHD screen caps to look brighter!