If you find yourself feeling a vague sense of déjà vu whilst watching The Reptile don’t be alarmed. It shares a few narrative devices with The Plague of the Zombies: they were shot back to back by the same director, using the same sets.
Unfortunately this film doesn’t share the charm of its zombie sibling, in fact it is actually quite dull.
Harry Spalding and his wife Valerie move into a cottage once owned by Harry’s brother, inherited after his untimely death – one of many in the village. The locals shun them, apart from the local bar owner Tom Bailey (Hammer vet. Michael Ripper), who implores them to sell up and move on. A shadowy neighbour, Dr. Franklin, gives off all kinds of weird as Harry and Tom discover that the mysterious deaths in the town are being caused by some kind of snake bite.
The creature effects are mildly convincing, as is the bite/death makeup artistry, yet we rarely see the purported monster throughout the film. It’s a complaint that you may say is unfounded, “what about Jaws?” I hear you cry. Well yes – but in that film there is a constant threat of danger. The Reptile never really gets going, there is far too much posturing for any really suspense to arise and any plot twist is seen from a mile off.
Watching the film, I was under the impression most of Gilling’s energy went into making The Plague of the Zombies, along with Hammer’s production budget.
The film has a faint whiff of a director going through the motions, with little of the panache shown in Plague – the iconic dream sequence for example. Perhaps I am being overly critical but it does convey the impression that The Reptile was quickly thrown together.
I’d love to say that I enjoyed The Reptile but, as you may have gathered, I really didn’t. I was looking at my watch far too often. Not a great barometer of a films quality.
Perhaps as a modern viewer I’ve been spoilt and in 1966 this would have been chilling – unfortunately to this desensitised soul The Reptile was a chore to watch.
And if you like Hammer Horror check out our Plague of Zombies comp right Here