The Great Alligator (1979) poster

The Great Alligator (1979)


aka Big Alligator River
(Il Fiume del Grande Caimano)

Italy. 1979.


Director – Sergio Martino, Screenplay – Sergio Martino, Maria Chianetta, Ernesto Gastaldi & Luigi Montefiori, Story – Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino & Cesare Frugoni, Photography – Giancarlo Ferrando, Music – Stelvio Cipriani, Special Effects – Paolo Ricci, Alligator Effects – Rocchetti-Carboni Cosmetics S.r.l. (Supervisor – Carlo De Marchis), Production Design – Antonello Massimo Geleng. Production Company – Dania Film.


Claudio Cassinelli (Daniel), Barbara Bach (Ali Pratt), Mel Ferrer (Joshua), Richard Johnson (Father Jonathan), Geneve Hutton (Sheena), Romano Puppo (Peter)


The entrepreneur Joshua is about to open a holiday resort on a native island. The photographer Daniel is brought in to take promotional pictures but one of his models goes missing. Daniel investigates and is told by the native Yakumas tell him that she was devoured by the river god Kruna, a giant alligator. The alligator now emerges to devour the tourists at the resort.

There is no country in the world that produced exploitation films like Italy. They built entire industries out of recycling US hits like Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Mad Max 2 (1981) and Conan the Barbarian (1982). They were still making Jaws clones fifteen years after the original came out – The Great Alligator is one such copy.

The Great Alligator is a dreary affair, conducted without much interest on the part of those involved. It was directed by Sergio Martino, an exploitation veteran who has made cheap copies of all the abovementioned films as well as several other Jaws clones including Isle of the Fishmen/Screamers (1981) and Devilfish/Devouring Waves/Monster Shark/Red Ocean (1984). (See below for Sergio Martino’s other genre films).

Despite eight listed screenwriters, the plot comes strictly by the numbers and is rendered even more comatose by the inflectionless dubbing into English. Everything goes exactly where Jaws has gone before – there is the greedy mayor/hotel developer who ignores the menace until the shark/alligator starts eating the guests, the intrepid hero who fights to have the truth heard and so on.

Claudio Cassinelli and Barbara Bach vs a giant alligator in The Great Alligator (1979)
Claudio Cassinelli and Barbara Bach vs a giant alligator

The film does manage to get in one uniquely Italian theme – in having the developer readily exploiting the natives as well. (Italian exploitation cinema, particularly their cannibal films, had a recurrent theme of nature in the raw taking symbolic revenge for colonial exploitation). It takes a long time to get to the main action but even then things happen at a snail’s pace. The alligator effects are passably convincing for the brief, almost subliminal shots we are allowed of it.

Sergio Martino’s other genre films include:- the giallo Blade of the Ripper (1971), They’re Coming to Get You (1972) about Satanists, the giallo Torso/The Body Bears Traces of Carnal Violence (1973), the cannibal film Slave of the Cannibal God/Prisoner of the Cannibal God (1978), Isle of the Fishmen/Screamers (1981), the occult film Murder in an Etruscan Cemetary/Scorpion With Two Tails (1982), the post-holocaust film 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983); the killer cyborg film Hands of Steel (1986); the action/psycho/fantasy film American Rickshaw (1989) and the giallo Mozart is a Murderer (1999), as well as wrote Devilfish/Devouring Waves/Monster Shark/Red Ocean (1984).

Trailer here

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