Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: Reptilicus (1961)

Believe me, this poster is the best thing about the film.
Thought we'd go end this week with another great bad movie. Reptilicus is one of the very few Danish monster movies that made it big. I think it's also one of the only Danish monster movies, period.

It's also two-movies for the price of one. Sort of. There is a Danish and American version of Reptilicus, sort of like there's Godzilla Raids Again and Gigantis the Fire Monster, or two decidedly different versions of Varan the Unbelievable. Poul Bong directed the original Danish movie, and then Sid Pink came in and re-dubbed and redid a lot of the scenes, changing quite a bit of it to make it more palatable to US audiences. I've seen both versions of the movie.

The basic plot is that a mining engineer in Lapland happens across a frozen segment of a giant reptile's tail. Taking it back to an aquarium in Copenhagen, a series of accidents cause the tail to thaw and regenerate into a giant, serpent-like creature, which proceeds to go on a rampage across Denmark. The creature's regenerative abilities pose a stickler of a problem, until the military finally bazookas an overdose of poison into Reptilicus' mouth.

The original version of the movie features a lot of things missing from the one readily available today: A romantic sub-plot, a song-and-dance number, and a lot of mediocre special effects. The scenes of Reptilicus flying were cut, as they were not up to the standards of even sixties' bad movie special effects. There's a particularly horrid effect in which the monster eats a farmer. The farmer is depicted by what appears to be a crayon animation on a piece of paper. No, I am not kidding - that's exactly what it looked like.

Sid Pink's version removes all that stuff, and gives the creature a corrosive, poisonous slime that he spits all over the place. The effect isn't very good, but it is better than some of the originals. It doesn't help that the monster is a marionette to begin with, with a lacking design right up there with the bird in The Giant Claw.

Sid Pink, as genre fans are probably aware, was responsible for some great b-movies, like the first 3-D movie Bwana Devil, and The Angry Red Planet. I think his best film is 1953's The Twonky, with Hans Conried. I have to get around to reviewing that one soon. He's one of those filmmakers I have to respect, as one of the even-then dying breed that could get movies done cheaply and profitably. Nowadays we only have The Asylum for those sort of things.

Surprisingly, Sid's also the man who discovered Dustin Hoffman. Go figure.

Reptilicus is available (or at least was available) as part of the M-G-M Presents Midnite Movie collection. They probably should have did a double feature of it with a movie like Journey to the 7th Planet, another Sid Pink flick that shares some cast members. It's still a fun waste of an hour and half as a solo act, especially if you're a bad monster movie fan.

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