Hammer was a class act. They gave us great films, with lush attention to settings, costumes and location shooting. They gave you incisive writing, witty dialogue (well, most of the time) and they are unsurpassed for creating atmosphere. They made screen legends out of Lee and Cushing, and brought old horror tells into vivid colour, with plenty of sexy-babes around to please the lads. For some reason, The Reptile, one of their better efforts works, tends to go unnoticed or dismissed. Could it be because of the "creature" was a mere female instead of the tall dashing Lee?
Well, now that time has passed, people can rediscover this classy Hammer tale. The Reptile (like the old grade C class The Alligator People) rather lets the cat out of the bag as soon as the title is flashed. However, stick with the tale and enjoy
Hammer's gorgeous lensing, and excellent location work. Directed by John Gilling (who directed Lee in Hammer's Pirated of Blood River and a pairing of Lee and Cushing in The Gorgon - two other overlook great films) and written by Anthony Hinds, who pens such other stylish Hammer classics (The Brides of Dracula, the Curse of the Werewolf, Kiss of the Vampire), The Reptile is a moody film. Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel play Harry George Spalding and his wife Valerie, a young couple who inherits the husband's cottage in Cornwall, England after his uncle's mysterious death. Michael Ripper, the perpetual also ran of Horror, does a fine character role as the tavern owner who helps them. No sooner than they unpack, they learn a serial killer has been murdering villagers and likely killed Harry's uncle. The film suffers from the obvious, we know there is a Reptile, so the impact is blunted from the start.
Shot back-to-back with the Plague of the Zombies, if you are familiar with one film, and watch the other, you will recognise the same village for the shoot. It builds suspense in an understated fashion, creating really spooky atmosphere. I think this leisurely pace causing some to dismiss this worthwhile film, while those with a more discerning taste will enjoy the non-hysterical approach.