Il Fiume Del Grande Caimano (1979)



All notes and summary below by Stephen Weaver (2006).

Notes: a.k.a. Alligators or The Big Caimano River or Big Alligator River.

Starring Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer.

Directed: Sergio Martino

Crocodilian Kill Factor: Reasons why a crocodile should be an effective monster.

1.Carnivore: Crocodilians can easily kill and eat humans.

2.Size: Crocodilians are large compared to humans. Here, Kruna is even larger than normal, so he is a match for boats.

3.Domain: Crocodilians can reside in the water, which is mysterious and unknown to humans.

4.Foreign: Crocodilians can be found in the United States, but are also common in, and can indicate, foreign places like Africa and South America.

Il Fiume Del Grand Caimano begins with the image of a helicopter flying through the jungle to a newly placed tourist resort, the Paradise House, setting off the idea of a culture clash with the combination of technology and nature. The head of the tourist resort, Joshua, is showing the area to tourists, with crew members Daniel the photographer and Alice the anthropologist tour guide also taking care of things. While they prepare for the coming tourist crowd, we see that the native people, the Kuma, are blowing up some of their trees, presumably by directive of Joshua. We also learn of the Kuma’s river god, Kruna, an enormous alligator. When the tourists arrive, they are greeted with the slogan “Enter Paradise today; you might not be able to tomorrow,” enticing a few biblical references.

Another of Joshua’s crew, Sheena, is intrigued by one of the native Kuma, and they take a boat ride together over the river. As they are returning to the island, they are eaten by the enormous alligator Kruna, led up to by a nicely suspenseful scene with breathing as the only sound. Unfortunately, only Alice and Daniel saw the couple leave on the boat, and no one saw the attack. Alice and Daniel investigate, while no one else is bothered.

In the meantime, the tourists, all ignorant, insensitive people, are testing the boundaries of the resort. They try to dive beyond the crocodile-proof fence, unaware of Kruna on the other side, trying to break through. This also shows the culture clash idea, with the irresponsible invaders not caring about the native world and culture. In Alice and Daniel’s findings, they discover that the Kuma do know of the incident with Sheena, and they believe that Kruna is punishing them for befriending Westerners. Alice and Daniel also learn of Father Jonathon, the leader of a missionary group and the one man who has seen Kruna before. They find him, but his mind is nearly lost, as his whole group was devoured by Kruna, and he believes the alligator has returned for him. At this point, Alice takes the time to state that it seems Kruna is a caiman rather than a crocodile or alligator. This goes nowhere.

Outside the resort, the Kuma have decided that, in order to be free of Kruna’s wrath, they must get rid of the tourists. They begin to invade the resort, but, aside from one girl who is ignored, the tourists are too busy with their partying to notice. Another “paradise” acknowledgement is the large apple display, signifying Adam and Eve. Many of the tourists are on a large river boat, shining bright lights into the forest and shooting whatever they see, again showing the “ugly westerner” idea. As the Kuma attack, Kruna does as well, destroying the boat. The tourists swim back, into the safety inside the fence, only to have Kruna rip through it as well as the Kuma attacking from inside the resort. There is a lengthy, deliberately disturbing scene of the Kuma and Kruna killing tourists, both with flaming arrows and powerful jaws. Even Joshua is killed.

At the same time, Alice has been captured by the Kuma, prepared to be sacrificed to Kruna. She is saved by Daniel, and they return to the Paradise House. They find explosives, and are able to get Kruna to attack. When Kruna bites on the explosives, he is destroyed. The Kuma stop their attack, as their tyrant god is dead, leaving us with an enormous anticlimax.

The visual of Kruna is interesting. In full shots, the monster is a stiff-legged alligator puppet, but the director excels at close images where only parts of the creature are seen. Oddly enough, the idea of a giant alligator is not bad, even though a regular-sized crocodilian is threatening. This large monster is regarded as a god, so some uniqueness is allowed, and the size allows him to destroy the boats used in the film. Still, though, the monster is used mostly as a metaphor for the Kuma’s revolt, and the film works as revenge against the exploitation of a culture. Unfortunately, there is little subtlety, as the tourists are boorish partiers we have no empathy toward. The monster could easily not appear in this movie, as the Kuma do the most damage. That makes the ending even less effective, as the brutal murderers just stop at the sight of the demolished crocodile, while the few remaining tourists don’t do anything. All in all, the image of an enormous crocodile could have been an effective symbol of an oppressed people, but there just wasn’t enough to it.

Bad Animals Frontpage