In my opinion, "The Reptile" is one of the Hammer studio's most enduring and entertaining offerings. It was directed back-to-back with (the equally excellent) "Plague of the Zombies" in 1966 and it really is a most enjoyable viewing experience.
The story concerns a married couple who move to a remote Cornish village. They are immediately shunned by the locals, and the whole village is clouded by a glum atmosphere and an overall sense of dread. Sinister things have been occurring in the village - namely, locals dying with mysterious bite-marks on their necks. Who...or WHAT...is responsible for these killings??
And so, the scene is set for...THE REPTILE!
When Hammer studios were on form, they were hard to beat, and this movie is a supreme example of Hammer GETTING IT RIGHT. Although Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are sadly not present, we do get to see Hammer regular Michael Ripper playing an innkeeper (and also sporting an amusing beard). Noel Willman is also excellent as the plummy, tight-lipped Dr. Franklyn. Happily, we also get to see the delectable Jacqueline Pearce who puts in a fine performance as Dr Franklyn's daughter, Anna.
Scenes worthy of mention include the first on-screen sighting of the actual reptile (half-snake / half-woman = CREEPY). It is genuinely a "jump-out-of-your-seat" moment. Rather shocking, to say the least. Another superb scene involves Dr Franklyn smashing his daughter's sitar to pieces in a blind rage - it's a hilarious piece of campy 60's cinema! Oh, and in true Hammer tradition, everything bursts into flames at the end of the movie.
"The Reptile" may not be as widely known as Hammer's Frankenstein / Dracula offerings but it is definitely one of their most satisfying movies. It is charming, chuckle-inducing and even occasionally chilling. In other words, it is vintage horror.
Okay, here comes the cliche - They don't make 'em like THIS anymore.
on 21 June 2012
Well done all at Studio Canal. This hammer classic is finally restored to its former glory with this dvd/ blu-ray double play offering. For anyone who owns this film on the earlier dvd, the quality of which was awful, rest assured this one looks fantastic, with the warm vibrant colours and crisp photography that hammer were renowned for. This presentation comes with both a dvd and blu-ray disc and both look great. Filmed in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which can be altered with some players. Also comes with some nice extas, including an episode of TVs World of Hammer, a short documentary on the making of the movie called 'The Serpents Tale', subtitles and the film trailer.
Well worth the money and a must for fans of hammer and fantasy horror.
on 28 March 2004
The thing about all the Hammer House of Horrors films, they all keep you guessing at the reason for the strange deaths or whatever is happening, and you aren't told until the very llast few scenes what has actually happened. Although this can get a bit annoying at times, generally it's a good way to present a film, and with this one is no acception, running pretty much like a murder mystery thriller.
When a man is mysteriously found dead his brother and his new wife come to live in his old house. They find that the town is very stange and there are whole load of other mysterious deaths, just like the mans brothers'. Along with the owner of the local pub, he is determined to find out the cause.
The acting in this film is pretty good all round really. Noel Willman is especially sinister (and rather scary) as Dr. Franklyn, while Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel play the troubled young couple who live in the cottage on the moor.
Overall this brilliantly directed film, while not as scary as some others in the Hammer House Of Horrors series is still very entertaining, and will appeal to horror fans and film fans alike. Definately a film to watch at night with the lights turned off.
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.
Away from the well-known Dracula and Frankenstein series that the Hammer studios made, there is also a raft of much rarer offerings which are well worth any vintage horror buff seeking out. "The Reptile" is one of two films Hammer made that were set in a small Cornish village, the other being "Plague Of The Zombies". Both were shot back-to-back using exactly the same sets.
"The Reptile" is about a man who inherits his brother's cottage, stuck up on the Cornish moors, after his brother is mysteriously killed in the village. He arrives there with his young bride to take possession of the cottage, and also to uncover the truth about his brother's death. There he comes up against a wall of silence and suspicion from villagers, who are plainly living in fear against some unknown terror that is killing people in their midst. The waters are muddied further by an enigmatic doctor, newly back from his travels in the Far East, who exerts a chilling possessiveness over his strange and beautiful daughter.
This is a very atmospheric little number, with strange voices being heard out on the moors, and people dropping dead in foaming fits. John Laurie puts in an exuberant turn as the village idiot, and Michael Ripper, a veteran Hammer actor, is good as an old sea-dog turned publican. The unique, strangely-supernatural feel of rural Cornwall is brought effectively to life in this film.
on 23 July 2012
It's nice to see this Hammer title restored on Blu-Ray for the 21st Century. Previous DVD and video releases were of a washed out colour print that made the film look very cheap and B class quality. This new release isn't absolutely pristine, but is an amazing improvement on anything seen in the home environment before. There are also some nice extras as a bonus. Recommended for all Hammer fans, and anyone interested in Classic British horror films.
I always liked this creepy 1966 British horror A LOT and recently I was happy to find out that it didn't age - AT ALL! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Somewhere around 1910 a certain Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett), a handsome and rather likeable fellow in his late 30s, inherits a cozy cottage after the death of his brother. The house is situated in Cornwall, in the village of Clagmoore Heath. Spalding arrives to take possession of it in company of his recently wed wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel). Even if local people are not very friendly Spalding and his wife try nevertheless to meet some of them.
They begin with the owner of the neighbouring house, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), a man of formidable appearance and great dignity, who lives with his young daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and a mute Malay servant (Marne Maitland) he brought with him from the colonies. Young Anna, an 18 or 19 years old sweet thing, cute like a button and clearly on her way to bloom in an amazing beauty, is particularly delighted to have some neighbours and especially some female company... And then the film really begins.
The main thing a horror movie should achieve is to be scary and this film is really REALLY DARN TERRIFYING! The whole atmosphere of this village and the general story line manage to create a climate of fear which blankets even the most innocent scenes - of which there is some... One could almost imagine that an ancient curse of heathen demons was cast on this whole village and all the houses in it - and one would be right... I saw this thing three times, at different moments of my life and I found it always as creepy and scary as during the previous viewing... The grotesque and somehow cheap appearance of the monster which, sadly, is fully shown on the cover of the DVD, doesn't destroy this film - to the contrary, once we actually meet "The Reptile", in fact as strange as it may seem things only become SCARIER!
For my personal taste, even if this is a little budget movie with unknown actors, "The Reptile" is the best and the scariest Hammer film EVER and a real MONUMENT of horror cinema. ENJOY - if you dare!
on 26 August 2009
The Reptile is a Hammer horror gem with many a frisson of shock and a very original and well conceived 'monster'. John Gilling marshalls a fine cast including the wonderful Hammer veteran, Michael Ripper, who steals the show here, and Jacqueline (Servalan) Pearce as a tortured soul as well as a fine cameo from Dad's Army's Fraser, John Laurie. The Cornish setting makes for an atmospheric film and at only just over eighty minutes it's a brisk, entertaining watch.
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.
Upon the mysterious death of his brother, Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) and his wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) decide to move to the inherited cottage in a small village in the Cornish countryside. On arrival in the village they are received coldly by the locals, with one exception, bartender and owner of the village pub, Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper). The couple are further mystified when their odd neighbours, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) and daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce), try to persuade them to sell the house and leave the place as soon as possible. Deciding to stay, Harry and Valerie come to learn that their brothers' death was not the only one to have happened mysteriously. Is there any truth in the Black Death rumours? And does the strange Franklyn family hold the key?
Quality Hammer production that belies it's problematic shoot. As common knowledge now dictates, The Reptile was filmed back to back with Plague Of The Zombies and thus used the same, and excellent, sets. However, with a tight budget, make up problems and constant rewrites of the script, it was a far from a happy production. So somewhat surprising then that it's actually a real tight and effective picture. There is a lovely sense of mystery dripping throughout the piece, and it's real nice to see a Hammer film being driven by its characters. Yes we are all desperate to see the "creature" of the title, but this is astutely kept from us by director John Gilling. So when the last quarter arrives and the story unravels its mystery, the impact is doubled, while make up problems be damned, the "creature" is excellent and a nice addition to the Horror genre. The performances from the cast are uniformly strong, particularly from the stoic Ripper, while Don Banks' music is right on the money. Released as the support feature to Rasputin The Mad Monk, The Reptile is a little Hammer gem waiting to be discovered by more people outside of Britain. 8/10