Cult Movie Essentials

The Alligator People (1959)

Directed by Roy Del Ruth, The Alligator People is a CinemaScope science fiction horror film; it was distributed by 20th Century Fox on a double bill with Return of the Fly.

As the film opens we meet nurse Jane Marvin (Beverly Garland) who is being administered the drug sodium pentothal by psychiatrists Erik Lorimer (Bruce Bennett) and Wayne McGregor (Douglas Kennedy). A side-effect of the drug is that Jane recalls a series of events from her forgotten past when she was known as Joyce Webster…

Joyce has just married a young man named Paul Webster (Richard Crane). Aboard their honeymoon train, Paul receives a telegram and, in a panic, immediately leaves the train to make a phone call. When the train pulls out, Paul is missing, having vanished without a word. Throughout the following months, Joyce employs private detectives and conducts her own search for her husband, to no avail, until one day she discovers the address of the Cypresses Plantation that Paul entered on his college enrollment forms.

Joyce takes the next train to the desolate whistle-stop town of Bayou Landing in the heart of Louisiana swamp country. While waiting at the rail station, she notices a large crate, marked as containing radioactive cobalt, and meets Manon (Lon Chaney Jr.), a hermit handyman at the Cypresses, when he comes to pick up the crate.. She asks him to drive her there and he obliges. As they proceed deeper in the swamps, Joyce is horrified when Manon tries to run over an alligator and then exhibits the hook where a gator bit off his hand, explaining his hatred for the reptiles.

At the plantation, Joyce introduces herself to Lavinia Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort), the Cypresses’ stern mistress. When Joyce suggests that Paul once lived at the plantation, Lavinia calls her a liar and tries to have her thrown out. However, when her manservant Toby (Vince Townsend Jr.) points out that Joyce has missed the last train back to town, Lavinia reluctantly invites her to stay the night under the proviso that she not leave her room.

That night, Manon, in a drunken craze, is in the swamps attempting to shoot several alligators. Joyce is disquieted by the sound of gunshots, but when she tries to open the door to her room, she discovers is locked in…

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