The Reptile Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by John Gilling
Written by Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)
1966, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 30th, 2019
Noel Willman as Dr. Franklyn
Jennifer Daniel as Valerie Spalding
Ray Barrett as Harry Spalding
Jacqueline Pearce as Anna Franklyn
Michael Ripper as Tom Bailey
John Laurie as Mad Peter
David Baron as Charles Spalding
Harry Spalding and his wife Valerie inherit a cottage in a small Cornish village after his brother dies under mysterious circumstances. The locals are not very welcoming and their neighbor is a standoffish theologian named Dr. Franklyn who lives in a large house with his daughter Anna. Harry becomes friendly with Tom Bailey, the local barkeep, who advises him to sell his cottage and move on. He tells Harry the village is plagued by something called the “black death” that has claimed several members of the community. Soon there is another death and upon closer inspection, Tom and Harry discover bite marks on the victim’s neck resembling those of a large snake. It turns out there is a hideous creature responsible for the murders and it wants to claim the Spaldings as its next victims! Where did this creature come from and can it be stopped? Tom and Harry work together to find answers and the truth is far more bizarre than either could imagine.
In 1966, Hammer Films ordered four titles shot back-to-back to be released as a pair of double features. The first two were Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin: The Mad Monk, both starring Christopher Lee. Next came The Plague of the Zombies, followed by The Reptile. These last two were directed by John Gilling and contained themes of evil being brought back to the homeland following British colonialism. The Reptile went into production one week after Plague of the Zombies wrapped, used the same sets of a small Cornish village and shared many members of the cast and crew.
The cast is solid across the board with Noel Williams (Doctor Zhivago) in the lead as the secretive Dr. Franklyn. His fierce protection of his daughter is intimidating and a bit unnatural, lending an uneasy feeling to the picture. Ray Barrett (Touch of Death) is protagonist Harry Spalding, the conservative newlywed looking for answers regarding his brother’s death. The female lead is played by Jennifer Daniel (Kiss of the Vampire) as Harry’s wife Valerie. She is relegated to the background for the first half of the picture, but is given more to do once the plot is in high gear. The haunting Jacqueline Pearce (Plague of the Zombies) co-stars as Anna, the doctor’s troubled daughter. Her screen time is limited, but she leaves quite the impression. Rounding out the main cast is Hammer regular Michael Ripper (Scars of Dracula) in his largest role yet as barkeep Tom Bailey. He has an Everyman quality about him that keeps things grounded no matter how fantastic.
The Reptile is an old-fashioned monster movie with the titular creature only appearing in shadows or in quick glimpses until the grand finale. The story plays out as more of a mystery with our protagonists following a series of clues that lead them to something unbelievable. Superstition and isolation play a large part in the storytelling as well as rebuke for meddling in foreign affairs. The monster it turns out is something of a curse brought on as a result of someone’s transgressions. The reptile reveals itself in the final act and looks pretty awesome. The make-up is impressive for a low-budget chiller. It is a shame that it features so prominently in the marketing campaign, as the reveal is rather surprising. If you somehow missed this one I can easily recommend picking it up – just stay clear of the trailer until you’ve seen the film.
Video and Audio:
The Reptile arrives in both the traditional 1.66:1 and native 1.85:1 aspect ratios and really looks terrific. Colors are strong and black levels are solid with natural-looking flesh tones and plenty of small-object detail missing from previous releases.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix preserves the original sound recordings and is free from any hiss or other distortion. Dialogue levels are clean and clear and music cues are well-balanced with sound effects cues.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Film historians Steve Haberman, Ted Newsome and Constantine Nasr contribute a thoughtful and engaging audio commentary loaded with behind-the-scenes information. They delve into the history of the production and share anecdotes about the cast and crew. These guys are big fans of this picture and their enthusiasm is infectious.
1st Assistant Director William P. Cartlidge is the focus of an all-new interview (22 minutes) in which he reflects on his career and his time working at Hammer Films.
The Serpent’s Tale (23 minutes) is a retrospective documentary featuring film historians and crew members reflecting on the production of this film. Topics of discussion include casting, set design, location shooting, the music and special effects. This is an informative and entertaining piece well worth checking out.
An episode of the television program World of Hammer titled “Wicked Women” features clips from several Hammer movies, including The Witches, Countess Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde among others.
Three theatrical trailers are included promoting the film as both a solo release and as part of a double feature with Hammer’s Rasputin: The Mad Monk.
A TV spot promoting Rasputin mentions The Reptile as part of a double bill.
There are two still galleries, one featuring promotional stills and publicity shots (4 minutes) and the other showcasing international poster art and lobby cards (5 minutes).
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