The Great Alligator – Italy-Spain, 1979 – reviews

The Great Alligator – original title: Il fiume del grande caimano [“The River of the Big Caiman”] – is a 1979 Italian action horror feature film directed by Sergio Martino (Mountain of the Cannibal GodTorso; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Cesare Frugoni and Ernesto Gastaldi. Luigi Montefiori [aka George Eastman] and Mara Maryl [as Maria Chianetta) contributed to the storyline.

Stelvio Cipriani composed the funky soundtrack score.

The film stars Barbara Bach (The Unseen; Isle of the FishmenShort Night of Glass Dolls), Claudio Cassinelli and Mel Ferrer (The Antichrist; Blood and Roses).

The ‘alligator’ was designed by Carlo De Marchis (Monster Dog).


A photographer, Daniel (Claudio Cassinelli), is employed to take publicity shots for Paradise House, a newly-opened tourist complex set deep in the jungle. Unfortunately, a giant caiman, which the local tribespeople revere as ‘The Great God Kruna’, begins to besiege the local area.

After a few of the tribespeople are killed, they blame the tourists and set out to kill them while the survivors try to rally on a boat with the hungry caiman attacking…


An obvious reworking of Jaws, which despite the professionalism of Sergio Martino and his team, fails to add up to anything other than a slightly superior rendering of a routine concept. Richard Johnson, who was also in Martino’s The Mountain of the Cannibal God and Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, is wasted in a pointless cameo as a babbling, bearded clergyman who seems like he’s stepped out of the same year’s Life of Brian .

Nevertheless, the use of freeze frame and red tints to denote victims of the monster is an interesting device and there is some fun to be had from relishing the spectacle of the oversized caiman chomping on annoying tourists.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

Alligator is an above average B film that has a few moments that bring on unintentional laughter and to its credit this film effective keeps the alligator off screen as much as possible not to give away how cheap it looks. Content wise Alligator is a cross between the animal vs. people films of the 1970’s and the action adventure stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.” Michael Den Boer, 10K Bullets


” …the picture is depressingly mechanical, with none of the characters or their situations generating any interest at all, and the alligator scenes unimaginatively filmed in the same style as Jaws, with lots of underwater and water-level point-of-view shots. Making matters worse is that both the full-size alligator prop and the outrageously phony miniature used for wide-angle underwater shots are stiff and lifeless.” Stuart Galbraith IV, DVD Talk

“Short on story, but long on travelogue photography, silly dialogue, and an outrageous monster […] The film excels over most other Jaws rip-offs by at least attempting a different approach. Instead of just some pissed-off water creature going man-hungry for no reason, the theme of Third World exploitation and pro-environmental concerns is big thinking for an exploitation film!” Casey Scott, DVD Drive-In

” …the prosthetic alligator is kind of impressive in some screwed up way, and there’s no doubt that Martino could have gone all in with stock footage if he wanted, but instead there’s a big toy croc in the waters. Even if it does look fake in some shots, so does Bruce in Jaws, and this movie is made on a fraction of that budget.” Jason Meredith, CiNEZiLLA

“The film does manage to get in one uniquely Italian theme – in having the developer readily exploiting the natives as well. […] It takes a long time to get to the main action but even then things happen at a snail’s pace. The alligator effects are passably convincing for the brief, almost subliminal shots we are allowed of it.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“After ten minutes of the same damn thing happening over and over, basically a closeup of a screaming face, the immobile puppet lunging, and a pint of red dye in the water to indicate bloody death, you would either be worn down by the hilarity or checking your watch to see how much further this had to go.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

Choice dialogue:

Peter: “What the hell’s got into these goddamned savages!?”

Cast and characters:

  • Barbara Bach … Alice Brandt [voiced by Susan Spafford]
  • Claudio Cassinelli Claudio Cassinelli … Daniel Nessel
  • Mel Ferrer … Joshua
  • Romano Puppo … Peter
  • Fabrizia Castagnoli … Minou’s Mother
  • Enzo Fisichella … Maurice, lover of Minou’s Mother
  • Lory Del Santo … Jane
  • Anny Papa … Laura
  • Bobby Rhodes … Joshua’s forman
  • Clara Colosimo … Tourist
  • Peter Boom … Tourist With Rifle
  • Giulia D’Angelo … British Tourist
  • Marco Mastantuono … British Tourist
  • Piero Jossa
  • Marco Giannoni
  • Geneve Hutton … Sheena
  • Silvia Collatina … Minou
  • Richard Johnson … Prophet Jameson
  • Donald Dias
  • Christopher Ferrando
  • Paul Taylor Odiase
  • Peter Peiris
  • D. Pauline Skilton

Filming locations:

Sri Lanka

Technical credits:

89 minutes | 2:35:1


The German DVD has a Super-8 Version (German language only), as a special feature.

Image credits: Cinema Arcana | ICMDb.comMalastrana VHS

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