Monday, January 16, 2017

The Alligator People (1959)

Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr., George Macready, Frieda Inescort
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In probing a young woman's mind, psychiatrists discover that she's suppressing memories of the horrifying experience her husband went through after a risky operation in the Louisiana swamp.

This is a fun science fiction picture, but not a great one, with some interesting creature makeups from Ben Nye and Dick Smith, and one of Lon Chaney Jr.'s craziest performances as a drunken hired hand with a hatred of alligators.  The screenplay by Orville H. Hampton is smartly structured around Beverly Garland's character, and the actress gives a good performance, although her character's unconcerned stumbling over ravenous alligators is rather hard to believe.  Still, veteran director Del Ruth has helmed a good looking and suspenseful film, accompanied by an effective music score from Irving Gertz with some very eerie themes.  The main problem with the film is its climax, which involves the reveal of a creature makeup that looks great in closeup but is not very convincing in medium shots and a rather lacklusterly filmed finale.  Despite those shortcomings, I'm fond of the picture, and wish 20th Century Fox, with the production values at their disposal, had made more like it in the 1950s.

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