The Reptile (1966)

An effective little horror B-movie from Hammer Films. Optimum UK DVD, from the Ultimate Hammer boxset.

The Film

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.

The 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.

In brief:

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.
Any violence? Some rather vivid bite effects although no blood.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Hammer Horror fans should enjoy this effective little B-movie, as should most general horror fans.
Good soundtrack? A standard Hammer orchestral score from Don Banks. Works well.


Visuals 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. 
Audio Original English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
AvailabilityAvailable in the Ultimate Hammer Collection, and on a single disc release.
Region Region 2 - PAL
Other regions? OOP Anchor Bay US release with some trailers. German DVD (title: Das schwarze Reptil) contains a better looking print, along with some trailers and a comic book version of the film.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 9th October 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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