Jane Marvin (Beverly Garland) is a nurse working for Dr. Wayne MacGregor (Douglas Kennedy). She has agreed to be part of an experiment the doctor is doing using sodium pentothal. Dr. MacGregor asks Dr. Eric Lorimer (Bruce Bennett) to witness the experiment. Under the influence of the sodium pentothal Jane tells the doctors a fantastic story. Knowing that subjects under the drug must tell the truth, the doctors aren’t sure what to make of her tale.
Jane says that her real name is Joyce Webster and that she is married to a man named Paul Webster (Richard Crane). They are celebrating their marriage on a train having champagne and reading telegrams from friends. One telegram upsets Paul. At a mail stop he jumps off the train to make a phone call. The train starts up again and leaves Paul behind. Joyce gets off at the next stop and races back to the mail stop but Paul has disappeared. She never hears from him again.
Joyce begins a search for her husband. Eventually through his possessions she finds a class ring. With it she finds the school he went to. The school gives her the only address they have on file, a place called The Cypresses in a backwater town called Bayou Landing in Louisiana. Joyce goes to the desolate spot. A crate addressed to The Cypresses is waiting to be picked up. When handyman Manon (Lon Chaney Jr.) shows up she asks him to bring her to the plantation.
At The Cypresses Joyce gets a cold reception by the owner of the plantation Lavinia Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort). Lavinia denies knowing Paul. Without another train coming until the next day Lavinia is forced to give Joyce shelter for the night provided she doesn’t leave her room. During the night she hears a piano playing downstairs. At the keyboard is a disfigured man who upon seeing her runs from the room. Joyce doesn’t realize that the man is actually Paul.
The next day Dr. Mark Sinclair (George Macready) comes to the house to question Joyce. Suspicious of the doctor and everything else at The Cypresses Joyce refuses to leave until she finds out what is going on. What she finds is an experiment gone so horribly wrong it affects Joyce’s mental state for the rest of her life.
“Alligator People” was released in 1959 and was directed by Roy Del Ruth. It is an American horror movie and one of Twentieth Century Fox’s low budget “B” horror films. It is one of the classic horror movies of the fifties. Perhaps lesser known than some but for a “B” movie it boasts some fine actors and acting as well as a cool yet campy looking monster. Nothing says fifties horror movie like an alligator wearing pants.
Consummate actor Beverly Garland is fabulous as the forlorn yet feisty Joyce Webster. Lon Chaney Jr. does what he does best, rant and rave and drink a lot. George Macready is the not so mad scientist that actually has a conscience yet everything he does makes things worse.
The film was directed by Roy Del Ruth who is not exactly known for horror. Some of the better known of is over 200 films are “The Babe Ruth Story” 1948, “The Little Giant” 1933 and “The Maltese Falcon” 1931.
The movie may have the usual silly monster effects that most fifties style monster movies were known for but in the long run it’s still a well done film. The plot is laid out with enough mystery and atmosphere to keep you interested. Yes, the title tells you a lot about the plot and you get to see some actual alligator wrestling but the trip is part of the enjoyment as well. Some spots may seem a little slow by all in all it’s a good monster movie. In my opinion the main aspect that makes the movie so good is that the actors take the film seriously even when face to face with a guy wearing an alligator head.