Monster #1 - Alligator People


United States, 1959

A 20th Century Fox Production
74 mins, black & white, 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio (CinemaScope)

Director - Roy Del Ruth
Screenplay - Orville H. Hampton
Story - Charles O'Neal & Robert M. Fresco
Cinematographer - Karl Struss
Editor - Harry Gerstad
Music - Irvin Gertz

Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr. (billed as Lon Chaney), George Macready, Richard Crane, Douglas Kennedy, Frieda Inescort


The Alligator People from the movie of the same name are the first monsters on Denis Gifford's alphabetically ordered list.

To my 13-year old self the image of Richard Crane in the process of transformation into an alligator wasn't one of my favourite pictures in the book, but it did hold a certain fascination - and if nothing else, it was the entry point into the collection of Monsters of the Movies.

The make-up provided by Ben Nye and Dick Smith is well balanced and quite effective for as long as the main male character is in the transformation process. Once you get to the fully developed "alligator people" stage, however, the resulting gator head on a human body is simply too stilted and unconvincing (and therefore ultimately cheesy) to truly work.


(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)

Alligator People is a wonderful surprise and even something of a little gem. In spite of its somewhat unpromising title, it displays quite a bit of refinement - the story, naturally, requires the usual suspension of disbelief and basic knowledge of science, but it is nicely presented in a framing story in which the female lead is put under hypnosis and recounts the film's events as a subconsciouly buried memory.

  The bayous of Louisiana are recreated well and set a convincing background and atmosphere for the plot to unfold, and the photography and production values throughout are generally very high and lift this film clearly above the usual B-Movie levels of the 1950s.

The acting, too, is to the point and works well, even though female lead actor Beverly Garland famously noted that "the hardest thing in that movie was simply to keep a straight face." (Warren, 2016)

Alligator People was developed as a double-bill co-feature with the similarly themed Return of the Fly and shot to a budget of $300,000. It was first released in the US in July 1959.

The movie received rather upbeat reviews at the time (Variety called it "a good program horror film" and praised its "good characterizations"), while film historian Bill Warren in 2016 felt it was a "decently crafted and intelligently made program SF-horror film, sadly let down by misconceived makeup and perfunctory ideas".

Leaving aside the truly ineffective "gator head make-up", Alligator People tells its story well and manages to keep up viewing interest rather effortlessly for its entire 74 minutes. It has aged rather well.

I watched this movie for the first time on 101 Films' 2017 Blu-ray release, the great picture quality of which underscores the quality of the work originally put into this movie. Extras are rather sparse, limited to a reversible sleeve (one side featuring the original 1959 poster art, the other newly created imagery) and a physical extra in the form of a poster repro.
Monster Factor:

Overall Movie Rating:


Alligator People provides some decent entertainment value without really setting off any fireworks. In comparison to other monsters from Denis Gifford's list, the "monster factor" is a bit below average, but within limits the movie does work. Definitely worth a watch.


Denis Gifford on The Alligator People
in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973)

There is no specific reference by Gifford to Alligator People in his seminal reference book, and the film is represented only by a still image showing a fully transformed Alligator Person with an actual gator head. Gifford does however make a general comment applicable to Alligator People:

"The German horror film had been cursed by the Doppelgänger; the American horror film was cursed by the Double Bill. Every big picture had to have a little picture in support. Every 'A' must have its 'B': it was a Hollywood law as immutable as any of Amun-Ra's."


WARREN Bill (2016) Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition, McFarland


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The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction in this non-commercial review and research context is considered to be fair use
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All images from Monsters of the Movies (Carousel/Transworld) were scanned from my personal copy purchased in 1977
All images of Blu-ray or DVD covers were scanned from my personal copies

Page created 21 February 2023
Last updated 2 September 2023

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