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  Alligator People, The Scales Of Injustice
Year: 1959
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Stars: Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr, George Macready, Frieda Inescort, Richard Crane, Douglas Kennedy, John Frederick
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Eric Lorimer (Bruce Bennett) arrives at the offices of his friend Dr Wayne McGregor (Douglas Kennedy) as he has been called there to investigate a new case that has been troubling the psychiatrist. His new secretary, Jane (Beverly Garland), is that case and he invites her in to undergo a combination lie detector/hypnosis session to reveal what she believes what happened to her when she was called Joyce. As Lorimer listens with interest, the story unfolds of how she was newlywed to Paul Webster (Richard Crane) a man who had survived a near fatal plane crash. But that night, on their honeymoon, Paul disappeared...

Now, you would have thought that it would be unlikely that a psychiatrist would put his own secretary under such conditions - what would his motives be? Yet as with much of this film, it's simply something you have to accept as part of the plot, which has to keep moving somehow, even as it starts to drag. The reason for that is the title gives everything away and you spend the rest of the time waiting for Jane (or Joyce) to catch up; it's plain for the audience to see why her husband jumped off the train while they were headed off on honeymoon.

It's because he's an Alligator Person! Why would it be called The Alligator People if nobody turned into an alligator in it?! I suppose you could view the thwarted wedding night due to a husband's guilty secret as an alligator - sorry, allegory of homosexuality in the nineteen-fifties, but it doesn't appear as if anyone, least of all the scriptwriters, thought about it that much and this is essentially your basic monster movie, broadly inspired by The Fly as it happened. Poor old Joyce (Garland goes brunette in this one) is pushed around by a narrative determined to give her as much grief as possible.

She manages to track down Paul's old home - she says she never asked him about his background, adding to the mystery, such as it is - and it's a mansion in the Louisiana swamps. However, when she turns up the frosty owner, the widowed Mrs Hawthorne (Frieda Insecort), denies all knowledge of Paul, although she does allow Joyce to stay the night, locking her in the bedroom so she doesn't go snooping. Among the local colour is Lon Chaney Jr with a hook for a hand, thanks to alligators he now despises, taking every opportunity to either shoot them or run over them in his truck.

That's what is known as plot foreshadowing. As the revelations continue with a complete lack of surprise, Joyce discovers that she is indeed in the right place, and there have been your typical mad scientist goings on thanks to mad scientist Dr Sinclair (George Macready). Inject crash victims with alligator serum! Of course it'll work! I can't think of any side effects that could possibly occur! Even for a hour and a quarter this movie seems drawn out to snapping point, but your patience will be rewarded when the last five minutes finally arrive. Crane's mid-stage scaly makeup was designed by a master in the field, Dick Smith, and looks great - until Crane has to don a alligator head which naturally looks hilarious. That ending is utterly barmy and well worth the price of admission. The rest of it? A bit of a chore, to be honest. Music by Irving Gertz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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