Directed by Roy Del Ruth [Other horror films: The Terror (1928), Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)]
Years and years ago, I saw this film on AMC. I’ve not watched movies from AMC for almost a decade, so you can probably tell just how long it’s been since I’ve seen this, and because of that, I was rather excited to finally sit down and see this again.
Sure, it’s not a great movie. The story is pretty much a combination of The Fly (1958) and The Maze (1953), so it’s not all that original. Even so, it has that fantastic classic horror feel that you get from 1950’s horror that livens the film up even though the trajectory of the film isn’t that unique. It can also be said the framing of the story – much of it being told in flashback – was reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
A big positive for this film is the setting, being a swamp. I always thought that swamps were an underutilized setting for horror, so whenever one pops up prominently in a movie, even one that’s not that great (such as 2005’s Venom), it’s nice to see. Here, it made a great centerpiece and led to some pretty solid scenes, and brought a quality atmosphere to the film.
Beverly Garland (It Conquered the World and Not of This Earth) made a fine lead, though as with most actress leads at the time, she was somewhat limited in character. Same could be said of Frieda Inescort, who had some interesting scenes and a somewhat enjoyable character arc, but at the same time, she didn’t add a whole lot come the finale of the film. Perhaps most importantly, Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man) was present also, though his character didn’t really matter until the end. Still, he was sort of fun, and occasionally sleazy.
Perhaps most memorable about The Alligator People is the ridiculous design of the Alligator Person (despite the title, only one singular real “alligator person” appears), which is somewhat unfortunate, but as bad as it looks, there’s not much screen-time for it, and it almost has a hokey charm, so I don’t think it harms the film all that much.
If you’re a fan of 1950’s horror, I don’t think you’ll have a bad time with this one anyways. Sure, the story isn’t all that new, but it takes a well-loved route competently enough, and personally, I find the film a fun watch. It’s not great, but The Alligator People is a good time.
This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast, amazingly. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Alligator People.