A Movie A Day #9: Gator (1976, directed by Burt Reynolds)


gatorposterGator McClusky is back!

Since the events in White Lightning, Gator (Burt Reynolds) has been released from prison and he’s now living in the Okefenokee Swamp.  Other than running moonshine, Gator is laying low and keeping to himself.  Gator may be done with the feds but the feds are not done with him.

Gator’s old friend, Bama McCall (Jerry Reed), is now unofficial boss of Dunston County and both the Department of Justice and the Governor of Georgia (played by talk show host Mike Douglas) are determined to take him down.  Federal agent Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston) is convinced that he can get Bama on charges of tax evasion.  But Irving’s from New York and he does not know how to talk to the good ol’ boys.  He needs someone on the inside and that’s where Gator comes in.

Gator not only starred Burt Reynolds but it was his directorial debut as well.  Though it’s a sequel to White Lightning, Gator feels like a very different movie.  Whereas Joseph Sargent kept White Lightning relatively serious, Reynolds take a more jokey approach with Gator.  Reynolds has his famous mustache and his hairpiece in Gator and the self-amused attitude that went along with them.  Gator is full of car chases, fist fights, willing women, and corny jokes.  It also has Lauren Hutton, playing a familiar character who would appear in all of Reynolds’s movies, the sophisticate who cannot resist Burt’s good ol’ boy, country charm.  In the 1970s, audiences couldn’t resist Burt’s good old boy charm, either.  Critics hated Gator but it made a lot of money.

Gator is dumb but fun.  The most interesting part of the movie is seeing Jerry Reed playing a ruthless villain.  Reed is thoroughly convincing as a Dixie Mafia crime boss, the type of redneck who earlier inspired Buford Pusser to pick up a baseball bat and destroy pool halls.  One year later, Jerry would play Burt Reynolds’s best friend in Smoky and the Bandit so it’s interesting to see them playing deadly rivals in Gator.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, Burt’s a football player in jail in The Longest Yard.

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