The Reptile (1966)
The journey to finally seeing a movie can be a wonderful adventure though the end result isn’t always what one is hoping for and I have to admit that Hammer’s production of The Reptile is just such a film for me. That isn’t to say I don’t like it, it’s just that when cornered I’m apt to pick other titles from their horror catalogue that I would prefer to rewatch over and over again. Perhaps the reason for that is the simple fact that I never saw The Reptile on late night TV as a kid like I did so many of the other thrillers Hammer blessed us with. That and the fact the neither Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee participated in the strange goings on within this John Gilling directed effort.
My journey to The Reptile began as a kid discovering monster movies on late night TV as it did for so many other fans like myself growing up in the seventies and becoming a teen as the VHS or Beta machines invaded homes across the continent. Monster magazines and movie posters is where all my saved up allowance money went at a comic shop we had in downtown Kitchener, Ontario that I frequented. Famous Monsters of Filmland and Monster World among them. Plastered on the cover was The Reptile. A movie I HAD to see.
The progression of wanting to discover more classic horrors continued by finding hardcover books on the genre down at the local library. Books like the one from Alan G. Frank which featured a photo of The Reptile.
Or the one from Denis Gifford which held a similar photo on page 199.
As the years progressed I’m glad to say copies of both hardcovers made their way to my private collection of film books. An actual book on Hammer films I picked up only added to the fun of looking forward to The Reptile and a whole list of titles I’d yet to see from The Studio That Dripped Blood.
In the 1990’s it was the company Anchor Bay that finally gave me the chance to see The Reptile. They released a number of Hammer titles to home video on VHS and I bought them all up. First time viewings for not only The Reptile but Quatermaas II, Hell Is A City, Lust For a Vampire and a number of other titles they secured the North American rights for.
I’ve now seen the film 3 or 4 times including just recently on a new blu ray transfer from Studio Canal. Yeah I know what you’re thinking. Why would he buy another copy if he’s not as big a fan of this one as he is the Dracula or Frankenstein series? The answer to that is an easy one. I love all things Hammer from the films to the documentaries to the original film memorabilia like posters and lobby cards.
The Reptile itself was filmed back to back with the far superior Plague of the Zombies. Both movies would be directed by John Gilling and produced by Anthony Nelson Keys. Slated to play the title character in the snake make-up, Jacqueline Pearce, also starred in Zombies and fans of the studio will be happy to see character actor Michael Ripper appearing in one of his largest roles for the studio in The Reptile with fifth billing and should you make it a double feature, you’ll see him as well in Zombies. Though The Reptile was released on a double bill with Rasputin, The Mad Monk, home video affords us the opportunity to see it back to back with Zombies which is a fun experience due to them being filmed on the same sets so you can easily point out the locations and set designs both films share.
Top billed Noel Willman had previously worked with Hammer on Kiss of the Vampire and here is cast as the overbearing father of Miss Pearce who hides a deadly secret. His role is very much like that of Peter Cushing’s in The Gorgon where Peter came off as a cold unlikable sort protecting the well being of Barbara Shelley. That is just one of the many similarities you can pick out between Reptile and many of the other Hammer titles. Many of which were written by Anthony Hinds under the pseudonym John Elder including this thriller. Don’t be surprised then when a young couple come to a small village where people are turning up dead only to be given the cold shoulder down at the local tavern run by ….. who else, Michael Ripper!
Thrills, chills and nasty cobra bites are sure to follow when Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel seek to find out who or what is behind the killings in the community that leave the victims turning black and green and foaming at the mouth. Miss Daniel had also previously worked for Hammer alongside Willman in Kiss of the Vampire. A title I should add that is well worth seeking out despite not having either of the famed duo of horror (Lee-Cushing) in it.
Enough of my ramblings, I’m just tryin to say that while I like the film it’s not my favorite Hammer title. Do you like it? And what about the journey to finding films. Isn’t that part of the fun of being a movie fan? With times changing and films readily available, today’s kids won’t get to experience that journey to discovery as my generation once did. I think they miss out on something because of it.
Well it’s back to locating other titles. Has anyone got a copy of London After Midnight they can lend me?