Alligator (1980): Directed by Lewis Teague, From the Pen of John Sayles, Starring Robert Forster, Michael V. Gazzo

Anthology inaugurates a thrilling series, From the Pen of, aimed to spotlight that neglected figure, often forgotten in the filmmaking process–the screenwriter.

Famously devalued by cinephiles more prone to celebrating auteurs and actors, screenwriters are rarely honored with critical studies or repertory retrospectives.

Most scribes have not received their fair share of credit. This is particularly true of writers who emerged on the heels of the demise of the studio system in the 1960s. While audiences may associate their written features with particular directors, a closer look reveals that the sensibility and ingenuity of some screenwriters is evident in these films.

Lewis Teague: Alligator

Lewis Teague directed this low-budget independent horror film, written by John Sayles, and starring Robert Forster, Robin Riker and Michael V. Gazzo.

Sue Lyon (Lolita) appears in what became her last screen role.

In 1968, a teenage girl purchases a baby alligator while on vacation with her family at a tourist trap in Florida. After the family returns home to Chicago, the girl’s surly, animal-phobic father promptly flushes the alligator, whom the girl had named Ramón, down the family’s toilet and into the city’s sewers.

The story then jumps ahead 12 years to 1980, revealing that the alligator has survived by feeding on discarded pet carcasses.

Set in Chicago, the main story then follows a police officer and a reptile expert who track a giant murderous sewer alligator, attacking residents after escaping from the sewers.

The film received praise from critics for its satirizing of genre clichés.

Vincent Canby, N.Y. Times.

“A very funny meditation on the old ‘what happens when you flush the goldfish down the john?’ nightmare. It is also a formula film that simultaneously demonstrates the specific requirements of the formula while sending them up with good humor. Lewis Teague, the director, and John Sayles, who wrote the screenplay, know exactly what they’re doing. … Though Alligator is done straight, not as parody, it never for a minute loses its sense of humor.”

Sequel

A direct-to-video sequel was released in 1991, entitled Alligator II: The Mutation. Despite the title, Alligator II shared no characters or actors with the original.

Running time: 91 minutes.