Reptile, The (Blu-ray) (1966)
Featurette-Making Of-The Serpent’s Tale (33:57)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (3:38)
Trailer-Restored Original Trailer (1:56)
|Year Of Production||1966|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||John Gilling|
Charles Lloyd Pack
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In a five minute precredit sequence a man enters the house of Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) where he is attacked by something barely seen and bitten on the neck. The man froths at the mouth, his face swells and turns black and he dies, crashing down the stairs. An oriental man (Marne Maitland), who appears to be a servant of Dr. Franklyn, appears and takes the corpse away, leaving it in the village graveyard. After the credits the scene changes to the office of a lawyer in London. The dead man was Charles Spalding and his brother Captain Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) has inherited Charles’ cottage in a remote, small village in Cornwall.
Harry and his new wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) travel to Cornwall, but when Harry walks into the village pub to ask directions everyone leaves; only the landlord Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper) is at all helpful. Harry learns that there have been a number of mysterious deaths in the village and the villagers are scared. Tom urges Harry to sell up and leave, but Harry and Valerie are determined to stay, ever after another of the villagers, Mad Peter (John Laurie), dies in the same mysterious way. Harry, with Tom’s help, is convinced there is a rational explanation to the deaths which revolves around Dr. Franklyn and his beautiful daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce), but can they discover the truth before they too fall victim?
Released in 1966, The Reptile was made directly after The Plague of the Zombies with the same director, John Gilling, the same sets at Bray Studios, the same costumes and two of the cast from the earlier film: Jacqueline Pearce and Michael Ripper. The Reptile is not a mystery as such; we are aware from the beginning that Dr. Franklyn (who incidentally is a Doctor of Theology, not medicine) knows what is happening but is powerless to prevent further deaths and that his oriental servant, known only as the Malay in the credits, has some kind of hold over both Dr. Franklyn and his daughter. The real mystery is just what this hold is and how is Anna involved.
John Gilling had a reputation for being difficult but he did a handful of good films for Hammer including The Pirates of Blood River (1962), The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Mummy’s Shroud (1967). I think that The Reptile is close to his best at Hammer. He directs with style and a firm control of the material; the scenes in the woodlands are atmospheric, the Gothic House of Dr. Franklyn is spooky, there are some decent scares along the way, the creature is not revealed until more than 60 minutes into the film and the explanation for the events is left until the climax. The score by Don Banks is excellent and some scenes build a palatable tension, such as the fabulous set piece scene without dialogue where Anna plays the sitar for her father and the Spaldings, taunting her father with her glances.
Jacqueline Pearce, who was great in a small part in The Plague of the Zombies, is excellent here in a bigger role, but again we see too little of her. She is beautiful and charismatic on screen and while I am unsure if she did any more Hammer, she did become familiar later in her role in Blake’s 7. Noel Willman is also very good and elicits our understanding, if not our sympathy, in a role that is on the surface harsh and unbending. Jennifer Daniel and Australian Ray Barrett are adequate and it is great to see Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper in a bigger role than usual as he assists to resolve the mystery.
I feel The Reptile is rather underrated Hammer. It has none of the major Hammer stars and director John Gilling fell out with Hammer the next year, but The Reptile is a lot of fun; it is well made, well-acted, atmospheric and scary with a satisfying, fiery climax.
The Reptile is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
The restoration comparison extra shows that the colours and detail of the unrestored print were dull, which has been corrected. The print is still not perfect, but the film is 50 years old and looks pretty good! The start of the film looks the worst, with the outside location looking indistinct and small marks evident, but it soon settles down. The interiors are colourful and highly detailed in the Hammer manner, the village set, reused from The Plague of the Zombies, looks great. Blacks are solid and shadow detail very good, contrast and brightness consistent. Grain is nicely controlled.
English subtitles are available in a clear white font.
The audio is an English LPCM 2.0 mono at 1536 Kbps; the film was shown theatrically with mono sound.
Dialogue is always easy to understand. While this is a mono audio, effects such the thunder and rain, plus footsteps, are crisp. The score by Don Banks is atmospheric and comes across nicely.
There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.
I did not notice any hiss or distortion.
Lip synchronisation looked fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
Made in 2012 this is an entertaining featurette using film footage, still photographs and recent interviews with Hammer Film historian Marcus Hearn (who also directed this extra), writer and actor Mark Gatiss, authors Jonathan Rigby (English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema), David Huckvale (Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde) and Wayne Kinsey (Hammer Films: The Bray Studio Years), original cast member Jacqueline Pearce, Don Mingaye (art director) and Jon Mann (Pinewood Studios). Matters discussed include the uncomfortable make-up, director John Gilling, the sets, the cast, Don Bank’s score, shooting at Bray Studios and the restoration of the film. An informative and interesting extra.
Silent, split screens show various before and after restoration examples.
With soft colours and scratches, it does not look restored!
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There does not seem to be a Region A US release at the moment. Our version is the same as the Region B UK release, although that includes an additional extra; a World of Hammer featurette entitled Wicked Women.
The Reptile is a well-made Hammer Horror film which is a lot of fun; it is atmospheric and scary, the creature and the explanation are left until the end maintaining some mystery, there are some good, tense set pieces, Jacqueline Pearce steals the show and there is an atmospheric score by Don Banks. What’s not to like?
The Reptile is available as a stand-alone Blu-ray / DVD release from Shock Entertainment but is also included in Shock’s 17 disc Hammer Horror Blu-ray Collection. The specifications and extras on both releases are the same. That collection also adds two DVDs of World of Hammer featurettes produced in 1990, including the Wicked Women featurette that is included as an extra on the UK Blu-ray.
The film looks good on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono. The extras are worthwhile.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|