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5.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare in Green, 27 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Reptile (Blu-ray + DVD) [1966] (Blu-ray)
Films like The Reptile encapsulate everything I love about Hammer. I only have to see the heightened-colours, the gorgeous interiors and the cranky day-for-night filming (did they ever get that right?) to be transported back to youthful days of horror double-bills on late-night TV. They don't, more's the pity, make them like this any more. All Hammer films are worth watching, even the bad ones have a charm and quirky beauty all their own, but The Reptile has long been one of my favourites. In The Reptile Hammer attempted something a bit different, just as they did with the film they made in parallel and using many of the same locations and actors - The Plague of the Zombies - and the result is a very fine, and sadly neglected, piece of horror.

The plot is relatively straightforward with Harry Spalding and his wife, Valerie, moving down to Cornwall when the former's brother dies in mysterious circumstances, leaving them a property in the area in his will. Upon arrival the locals behave in a distinctly unfriendly fashion, aside that is from Tom, the landlord (played to perfection by Michael Ripper), while the lord of the manor, Dr Franklyn, is cold, aloof and odd. Only Dr Franklyn's daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce at her most fragile and hauntingly beautiful) appears genuinely friendly although, as soon becomes clear, she is emotionally damaged and perhaps not all she seems. Add to this some excellent location-filming in Cornwall and some beautifully rendered interiors (both Harry and Valerie's cottage and the corridors in the manor house make excellent use of the colour green which saturates the sets like a beautiful, poisonous fog) and you have not only a visually engaging spectacle but also a cast of characters you come to know and care about. The Reptile also contains one of those crazy moments which once witnessed is never forgotten - namely the scene where Dr Franklyn smashes his daughter's sitar when her playing becomes somewhat too intense and hypnotic. It's insanely over the top and yet deeply disturbing at the same time. As Harry and Valerie become ever more entwined in the mysterious goings-on, and as the number of deaths increase (the effects of the reptile's bite are visually some of the most disturbing Hammer ever created - there are no little fang marks and trickles of blood here but rather ghastly green and black skin discolorations and a repellent frothing at the mouth) the sheer mystery and bizarreness of the events become ever more unsettling.

The restoration on the Blu-ray is excellent with the blacks and reds and greens (particularly those nightmarish greens) coming across in beautiful clarity. It's great to see such care being lavished on one of Hammer's less well-known movies. In a sense it's a shame Hammer became synonymous with the Dracula and Frankenstein films. They are, of course, often brilliant but it has always been the quirky and less well-known Hammer films that I have loved the most - Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, for example, or the above-mentioned Plague of the Zombies. Somehow, when away from the Count and the Baron Hammer could perhaps stretch the accepted boundaries a little further. The Reptile contains some arresting visuals, some colourful plot twists and some terrific performances (watching this film always leaves me wishing Jacqueline Pearce had been given a major Hammer role - she would have been, I suspect, superb and then some). It may be neglected, but it is brilliant all the same.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Mar 2014 22:30:49 GMT
Timelord-007 says:
Blimey this I haven't seen in a while, Great movie this, Superb informative review.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Mar 2014 20:45:46 GMT
Thanks! The Reptile really is, for me, one of Hammer's best. It's quirky and a little odd-ball but the performances are all superb and it deserves extra marks for trying something different. One of my five favourite Hammer films for sure.
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