Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE (1959). Director: Roy Del Ruth.

Joyce Webster (Beverly Garland) is happily beginning her honeymoon with her handsome new husband Paul (Richard Crane), when he opens and reads a letter, tells her good-bye, and runs off the train to disappear. Joyce's search for the man leads her to a mansion in the swamps which is occupied by the imperious Mrs. Hawthorne (Freida Inescort, at her most imperious), a couple of cowered servants, and a weird man who sneaks in at night and plays the piano. George Macready plays a doctor who is experimenting with reptile hormones to heal mortal wounds in humans -- but the best laid plans .... Lon Chaney Jr. is a crazy guy who lives in a shack and goes on and on about how an alligator bit off his hand. The Alligator People actually has an interesting premise, a certain amount of suspense, a genuinely tragic air, and is very well acted by the entire cast, although Inescort's Southern-British accent is kind of odd. Even Richard Crane gives a much better performance than usual as a very tortured man. The make up in the film isn't bad, but a certain mask late in the picture creates unfortunate giggles. You''ll find yourself rooting for the characters to find happiness.

Verdict: Unusual monster flick with pathos. ***.


Neil A Russell said...

I was glad to see you had reviewed this one, until today it was one of the few 50s science fiction monster movies I had never seen.
I have to wonder at what point the writers discovered they had created a screenplay for a horror movie that didn't have a bad guy in it, and then had to hastily put in the Lon Chaney character.
I think if this had been a bigger budget, better promoted movie the genre might have taken off on a different course and science fiction movies might have been considered to be more serious rather than languishing for another decade or so as fodder for American International and the likes of Larry Buchanan.
Except for the silly rubber suit and the poorly thought out villain, ok, and the cliche ending, this was an uncharacteristically thoughtful monster movie.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I bet anything there was a discussion after the Chaney character was dreamed up that someone said; "...and a hook! That's what he needs, then everyone will know why he's like that!"

William said...

Thanks for your very interesting comments, Neil. You make some good points. Alligator People is one of those movies, as I always say, that is just good enough that you wish it were better. Definitely more thoughtful, as you put it, than the usual cheapie creepy. Bill