Harry George Spalding and his wife
Valerie arrive in a small village in Cornwall to take up residence in
the small cottage left to them in Harry's brother's will, after his
untimely, and unattributed death a few weeks earlier. It soon becomes
clear that something is very wrong in the village, and with some help
from "Mad" Peter (John Laurie), and Tom the barman (Michael Ripper),
Harry discovers the evil presence behind the mysterious Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) and his daughter.
Scripted by Hammer producer Anthony Hinds, The Reptile was quickly filmed by Hammer, back to back with Plague of the Zombies (1966), as a B-movie support for their big budget Rasputin: The Mad Monk
(1966). While the general story has been done to death over the years,
Hind's script helps to add an effective layer of tension over the
picture, particularly concerning the motives of Dr.
Franklyn, and it is often hard to predict what is going to happen next or just who is actually the 'bad guy'.
The climax is suitably dramatic, although like many Hammer films, it
does seem rather sudden and rushed.
notoriously temperamental John Gilling wrote and directed a number of
Hammer's summer action films in the early 1960s, and was given his
first shot at directing Hammer Horror pictures with the Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Reptile (1966) double bill.
Working with frequent Hammer cinematographer Arthur Grant, Gilling's
direction adds greatly to the film's atmosphere - particularly during
the creature's attacks. Make-up man Roy Ashton, who worked on almost
all of Hammer's films before 1966, provides some very dramatic
post-bite make-up, and a decent Reptile costume although the eyes are noticably lifeless. Don Banks gives a typically strong orchestral soundtrack.
Although none of Hammers big names are present, The Reptile does have a suitably strong cast. Noel William (Dr. Ravna - Kiss of the Vampire (1963)) gives a very impressive sophisticated and subtly evil performance as Dr. Franklyn. His Kiss
co-star Jennifer Daniel also returns, as Valerie, alongside Ray
Barrett as her husband who both give strong performances. Some familiar
faces also appear in minor roles - Hammer favourite Michael Ripper gets
one of his largest roles as a helpful barman, while John Laurie (soon
to become famous as Pvt. Frazer in Dad's Army)
plays a panicked villager (although sadly never gets to say "we're
doomed") while another Hammer regular, George Woodbridge, gets in front
of the bar this time as a pub regular.
Although far from original, The Reptile
does prove that even repeated themes can make good films when combined
with strong scripts, production and acting. See the Tigon film Blood Beast Terror (1968) to see how a similar story can make such a dire film. Overall, The Reptile is recommended to Hammer fans and partly recommended to all.
Anyone famous in it?
No actors of note.
Directed by anyone interesting?
John Gilling - writer and director of factually based Flesh and the Fiends (1959) and less than impressive adventure films Fury at Smuggler's Bay (1961), and Hammer's The Scarlet Blade (1963).
Is it scary?
A few tense scenes, might prove scary.
Some rather vivid bite effects although no blood.
Who is it for?
Hammer Horror fans should enjoy this effective little B-movie, as should most general horror fans.
A standard Hammer orchestral score from Don Banks. Works well.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour The
print is very grainy with some print damage and faded colours (Possibly
the result of an NTSC > PAL transfer) - generally watchable and
better than VHS quality.