Last year we reviewed the 1973 Burt Reynolds vehicle, White Lightning; this time we look at its 1976 sequel, Gator. Reynolds reprises his role of Gator McKlusky, but this time around he also makes his directorial debut.
If you’ve seen White Lightning, the basic premise of Gator – a moonshine runner is forced to go undercover by the feds – will sound all too familiar. Gator is once again just out of jail when he’s approached by New York federal operative, Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston), to use his insider knowledge to help nail crooked politician Mayor Caffrey (Dub Taylor). To do this, Gator must infiltrate the shady business dealings of his childhood friend, Bama McCall (Jerry Reed).
Gator is initially torn at the thought of betraying his friend, but soon learns that Bama has become far from a good person and deals in some very seedy ventures.
Gator falls for a hot investigative reporter, Aggie (Lauren Hutton), and the pair team up with Greenfield and odd-bod cat-lady activist Emmeline (Alice Ghostley) to find the proof they need to nail both Caffrey and McCall.
Unfortunately, unlike White Lightning, Gator is genuinely boring in parts. The storyline and character development is weak and slow-paced, and Reynolds’s portrayal of the once testosterone-fuelled McKlusky is nothing short of limp in this second outing. In fact, you could easily miss any connection between the two films if it wasn’t for the shared name of the lead character.
Where White Lightning is a legendary and thoroughly enjoyable film, Gator suffers from serious sequel-itis. The only real positives are the pairing of Reynolds and Jerry Reed (who would later continue their big-screen partnership in the Smokey and the Bandit franchise), and the sheer jaw-dropping size of actor William Engesser as McCall’s bodyguard, Bones; at
a towering seven-foot-three, Engesser literally drives McCall’s Lincoln Continental with his melon through the sunroof!
- 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury
- 1975 Lincoln Continental
- 1963 Ford F100
- 1972 AMC Hornet Sportabout
- 1971 AMC Matador wagon
- 1966 Buick LeSabre convertible
- 1964 Cadillac DeVille
- 1967 Chevrolet Impala
- Burt Reynolds
- Jack Weston
- Jerry Reed
- Lauren Hutton
- Dub Taylor
- Alice Ghostley
- William Engesser
- Lori Futch
The car stunts are fairly tame and mostly standard fare; it’s the on-swamp boat action that’s the real feature. Still, the F100 roll-over – complete with stuntman being launched from the vehicle – is very cool PLOT: A twice-incarcerated moonshine runner is recruited by federal agents in a sting to take down both a crooked politician and his former best mate.
COOL FLICK FACT:
An accomplished recording artist prior to his film career, Jerry Reed (above) sang the title song. He would later achieve great success with his tune East Bound and Down for Smokey and The Bandit.