Monday, February 4, 2013

Killer Crocodile (1989)

... aka: Alligator, The
... aka: Coccodrillo assassino
... aka: Killer crocodile - Coccodrillo assassino
... aka: Murder Alligator

Directed by:
"Larry Ludman" (Fabrizio De Angelis)

Here's yet another giant killer croc movie for those of you who may have missed one of the thirty other killer croc movies released after JAWS. After a couple of night hunters and a girl swimming get gobbled up, six ecologists; Kevin (Anthony Crenna, the son of actor Richard Crenna), Jennifer (Ann Douglas), Pamela (Sherrie Rose), Bob (John Harper), Mark (Julian Hampton) and native Conchita, come to a small island to investigate claims of illegal chemical dumping. They find it odd that there are no birds in the area and no fish in the waters and soon discover why. Barrels of toxic waste have been carelessly dumped there and have leaked gunk into the waters. And not just regular toxic waste, but extremely radioactive toxic waste ("...like leftovers from Hiroshima!") They decide to camp out there that night. Conchita and Candy the poodle unwisely decide to take a midnight stroll and don't return. The next day, the other five head into the village looking for help.

Our heroes are surprised to encounter hostility from the village leader, who goes only by "The Judge" (Van Johnson) because he's actually a criminal hiding out there. The Judge is being blackmailed to allow a corporation headed by Jim Foley (William Wohrman) to dump their unwanted chemicals there. Foley also lives on the island and pretends to be a writer so no suspicion falls onto him. After Conchita's mangled body is recovered from the swamps, great white hunter and "ballbreaker" Joe ("Thomas Moore" / Ennio Girolami) shows up with a rifle in hand. The Judge and Foley both try to insinuate the ecologists killed their friend, but they can't deflect the problem for long when the croc makes himself known and gobbles down two men and a Cabbage Patch doll (noooo!) in front of half the village.

Despite what's been going on, the ecologists are "against killing of any kind" and want the animal captured instead of killed... at least at first. It also takes them a little while to put two and two together. Nearly an hour into this movie one of them finally ponders, "Do you think the size of the crocodile has something to do with, uh, the radioactive waste?" Deciding they want to keep tabs on Joe and what he's up to, our not-so-bright heroes decide to head back out into the swamps to try to stop the game hunter from killing the gator. Their engine dies on their boat, they're forced to camp out and then have another fatal encounter that night and Joe ends up dead. Kevin's rage finally boils over, his animal instincts are unleashed and he becomes intent on killing the beast.

Strangely, this movie refuses to really take a stance and is simultaneously pro and anti environmentalism. Perhaps it's pro environmentalism, but anti extreme environmentalism. Either way, the ecologists are made out to be rather foolish on more than one occasion and Kevin and his friend seem to really get a thrill out of setting aside their gentle pacifism to indulge in a little bloody revenge. On the flip side, the movie also makes sure to punish to guys responsible for dumping the toxic waste in the first place. The white hunter character I suppose is the middle ground. He's also the one who gets all of the hokey zingers, like calling the croc an "overgrown pollywog" and hissing "I'll make a purse out of your rotten carcass!" I would say he was the wise one of the bunch except for a scene where he jumps onto the crocodile's back and starts stabbing it over and over again with a spear until it takes him under.

There are no two ways about it; Killer Crocodile is a pretty weak effort. The plotline's tired, the characters are clichés, the dubbing and dialogue ("I'll be back in this boat faster than you can say Three Mile Island!") are horrendous and nothing surprising or all that exciting ever happens to liven things up. I'm not going to knock Giannetto De Rossi's model gator creation as others have done. It doesn't look as good as the ones used in other movies of this type, such as ALLIGATOR (1980) or even the cheesy low-budget films of Thailand's Sompote Sands (CROCODILE, KRAI THONG), but it was passable and certainly looked a hell of lot better than the CGI ones of today. His gator is also larger than the ones used in the aforementioned gator / croc movies and he probably didn't have much money to work with. There's lots of POV camerawork and the score from Riz Ortolani has the expected John Williams echoes.

KILLER CROCODILE II (1990), was filmed back-to-back with this one and again starred Crenna and Girolami, with fx man De Rossi stepping in the director's chair and De Angelis (using the "Larry Ludman" alias) producing and co-writing. One of the other writers, "David Parker Jr.," is Dardano Sacchetti.


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