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Rhino presents
Gator King (1998)

"For the past odd-some years, I've got enough bits and pieces to prove that Mr. Santos' charming exterior is nothing but a twisted facade!"
- Kelly (Shannon Foley)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 12, 2001

Stars: Shannon Foley, Antionio Fargas, Jay Richardson
Other Stars: Joe Estevez
Director: Grant Austin Waldman

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (mild violence, language, nudity, depictions of violence against animals)
Run Time: 01h:25m:10s
Release Date: May 22, 2001
UPC: 603497600724
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D- D-C-C+ D

DVD Review

Usually, it's a good rule of thumb to title a movie with something that reflects what you'll see within. In the case of Gator King, one might expect to see a giant alligator monster called the 'Gator King', or some kind of gun-toting hero, plowing through swamps, saving animals, who calls himself the 'Gator King.' Here, the film's title references a large corporation that, essentially, captures alligators and does various naughty things to them. Not exactly what I was expecting to see—kind of like Prince of Tides, which actually was not, in fact, about a Prince that controlled, or otherwise manipulated, the tides, but rather, something to do with Barbara Streisand. Or like Jack the Bear which, despite the presence of the slightly 'bear-ish' Danny DeVito, had nothing to do with any ursines.

The film's premise is that Mr. Santos (Antonio Fargas), the head of GatorKing, is rounding up gators, and then using their meat and skin to make products. He owns a posh restaurant called the "Crocodile Club", and gives out gator-skin items as gifts to sway politicians. An environmentalist, Kelly (Shannon Foley) is out to prove he's actually an evil person and that he's doing something illegal. Now, this premise confused me somewhat, as I would imagine that a dining club that publicly advertises that it's serving endangered animals would be illegal on its own. On top of that, Santos takes no pains to cover up things like, oh, shooting someone in the head in the kitchen of one of his clubs. On another point, would a few alligator-skin purses and wallets REALLY buy that much power in the U.S. Government? That aside, GatorKing hides behind the pretense that they actually save gators, instead of eat them.

Anyway, Kelly is certain that by collecting bits of evidence about GatorKing's activity, she'll eventually be able to close them down. She finds some support from a local ranger, but the sheriff (Joe Estevez) is trying to protect GatorKing. Presumably he is also on Santos' payroll of alligator-skin products. There's a lot of dialogue and threats thrown back and forth, but not much happens. I guess the extremely low-budget doesn't help, but there really isn't much of a story, either; honestly, there isn't a whole lot to this flick. The music makes it seem like a bad action film or a softcore porn movie, but no, it's just lots of talking and exposition. When something does happen (which is not often enough), I'm not sure many people would be awake to see it.

Now, I hate to say this, but you pretty much know you're in for it when you see the name of Joe Estevez in the opening credits. Joe, the younger brother of actor Martin Sheen (a.k.a. Ramon Estevez), has made a career of appearing in some of the most embarrassing, low-brow, straight-to-video films imaginable. I thought maybe films like SoulTaker and Arizona Werewolf would have pushed him off the map, but I would gleefully consume both those films on a double bill, rather than see Gator King again. If you've ever found yourself really bored late at night and turned on something like the USA Network, you'll kind of have an idea of what to expect here; even then, this film is amazingly mediocre.

I've often said that every movie should be released on DVD in the best fashion possible. I believe in film preservation and keeping just about everything for future use. I think Gator King is truly the exception to that rule. There is a total absence of filmmaking here; thus it is not a film. I realize that might sound extreme, but it is wholly fitting. I've seen amateur, film-school productions done with handheld video cameras that had far more soul and excitement behind them. Trust me, the presence of 'cult' actors like Antonio Fargas and a brief showing by Michael Berryman (the weird guy from The Hills Have Eyes) are not enough to drive even the most ardent b-cinema fan here.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Although the full-frame transfer does the best it can, the source material seems to have been of rather poor quality. There's a lot of fuzziness and blur on the image, much like the film was shot with a bad video camera (which wouldn't surprise me). It just looks very poor overall, and really none of the standard high-marks of DVD are present at all.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: A Pro-Logic Surround track is present on the disc, and it does its job uneventfully. Most of sound is done with on-set microphones of dubious quality, so a lot of the dialogue is difficult to hear above the almost constant musical score. The entire film, save the music, comes through the center channel. While the score sounds good in stereo, there is no use of the surrounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc features nothing on the 'extra' side. As this was a bare-bones screener copy, I also can't really say anything about the presentation or packaging.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Avoid Gator King. Although it's good for a few laughs, it wouldn't be worth the price of admission. If MST3K was still on the air, I'd recommend it to Mike and the bots, but even they have a pain threshold I wouldn't want to be responsible for breaking.


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