TOOTHY CINEMA Alligators, man. As James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Peter Pan will tell you, meeting a gator is a surefire way to add insta-peril to your script, or at least supply a pun-tastic one-liner (Arnold Schwarzenegger to recently expired gator in 1996’s Eraser: "You’re luggage!") Last year’s pseudo-political Primeval was a disappointment, and Rogue, Aussie director Greg Mclean’s follow-up to Wolf Creek (1995), never quite made it into theaters stateside. Fortunately, Mother Nature’s cuddliest predator takes center stage in a few flicks well worth your Earth Day perusal. (Note: Scientists will tell you that head shapes, saltwater tolerance, and other factors separate alligators and crocodiles. But as far as Hollywood’s concerned, same difference.)
Lake Placid (1999) Directed by Steve Miner who helmed two Friday the 13th sequels (including the one in 3-D), C. Thomas Howell blackface classic Soul Man (1986), multiple episodes of Dawson’s Creek, and Jessica Simpson’s soon-to-be-straight-to-video Major Movie Star Lake Placid has the advantages of an agreeable cast (Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson, and a memorably foulmouthed Betty White) and a script by Emmy darling David E. Kelley. Lake Placid doesn’t quite achieve the critter-tastic heights of 1997’s Anaconda, but it’s adequately gruesome and campy. Trivia: the made-for-TV sequel subs in Cloris Leachman for Betty White and features laughably bad special effects, as well as way more boobs than the original.
Alligator (1980) You know how New York City is supposed to have alligators in its sewers? Chicago has a similar problem. This creature-horror sorta-classic pits Robert Forster against a gator named Ramon. Alligator would double-feature well with swamp-sploitation ‘Gator Bait (1974), which features Cajuns, incest, hick-tastic accents, and quite a few slimy reptiles most of them human.
Eaten Alive (1977) Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) also concerns an isolated house populated by "a family of Draculas" that’s stumbled upon by Marilyn Burns, Chainsaw‘s blond screamer. But in Eaten Alive, the dwelling resembles a redneck Bates Motel, with a hungry croc lurking in muddy waters that abut its porch. Veteran tough-guy actor Neville Brand glowers atop a cast of horror notables including Carolyn "Morticia Addams" Jones, Kyle Richards (one of the kids Laurie Strode babysits in 1977’s Halloween), and Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund.
Crocodile Dundee (1986) Granted, much of the wildlife in this film is supplied by Times Square but you gotta love that scene where Paul Hogan brains a baddie with a can of peaches.