(director: John Gilling; screenwriter: Anthony Hinds; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editors: Roy Hyde/James Needs; music: Don Banks; cast: Noel Willman (Dr. Franklyn), Jennifer Daniel (Valerie Spalding), Ray Barrett (Harry Spalding), Jacqueline Pearce (Anna Franklyn), Michael Ripper (Tom Bailey, Innkeeper), John Laurie (Mad Peter), David Baron (Charles Spalding), Marne Maitland (The Malay); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Nelson Keys; Anchor Bay; 1966-UK)
“One of the better Hammer films.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the better Hammer films (a studio that specializes in cheapie horror films), that’s mostly hampered by its low budget; still, it’s a minor classic that’s a mixture of silliness, suggestiveness, chills and action. It’s filmed back to back and on the same sets as Hammer’s other horror classic, The Plague of the Zombies, which is also directed by John Gilling (“Panic”/”The Mummy’s Shroud”/ “Where the Bullets Fly”). It’s written by Anthony Hinds, who unfortunately leaves some deep holes in his script. The best thing about The Reptile was Roy Ashton’s monster makeup on a woman turned into a snake-person, having her look scary like a venom-dripping giant cobra. This shot became the film’s poster child and was on all the ads.
It’s set in the remote village of Clagmore Heath in Cornwall in 1902. Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett), a captain in the Royal Grenadiers, upon the death of his brother Charles (David Baron), inherits his Cornish cottage and moves in immediately with his bride Valerie (Jennifer Daniel). Stopping at the pub to ask directions, Harry’s perturbed to learn that the locals are unfriendly toward strangers because several of them have been killed by what they call the “black death”–their faces turned a sickly green and they foam at the mouth. Later it’s learned after exhuming the bodies of the vics that the cause of death are mysterious snake bites on the neck, as was the case with Charles. Upon further investigation it’s found that Harry’s nearest neighbor, the unfriendly rigid doctor of theology, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), has a beloved daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) who had been cursed when abducted by Malayan natives of a secret snake cult called the Snake People when she and her father lived in Borneo and dad was doing forbidden research of the natives’ magical practices there. Anna, we are led to believe, now transforms into a deadly snake creature when exposed to great heat and in the winter sheds her skin to go into a deep sleep.
This horror flick features a rare female monster (most are males), who in her few scare scenes steals the pic with her venomous ways. Gilling does a nice job setting up mood and bringing it to a fit fiery conclusion.
REVIEWED ON 10/7/2008 GRADE: B