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  THE REPTILE

Crummy Hammer horror from 1966. It’s dull and derivative, coming to life only on those occasions when the title creature makes its appearance, and then only fitfully.

The Package
     Director John Gilling previously scripted the 1964 Hammer production THE GORGON, to which THE REPTILE is similar in many respects. Gilling’s other directorial credits include the Hammer productions THE MUMMY’S SHROUD (1967) and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966), the latter film shot back-to-back with THE REPTILE--which was definitely not among Hammer’s more ambitious efforts! Writer Anthony Hinds (credited as John Elder) was another Hammer regular, having scripted Hammer classics like THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963), RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1966) and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968).

The Story
     A distinguished man, one Charles Spaulding, is invited to the ancient Franklyn manor and killed by something we don’t see. This is apparently the latest of a string of killings plaguing the area, even though the cause of Spaulding’s death is classified as heart failure.
     Charles’ brother Harry doesn’t buy that diagnosis, and together with his wife Jennifer goes to stay in an inherited cottage next door to the Franklyn manor. Harry meets up with “Mad” Peter, an eccentric old guy who was present the night Harry’s bother died (but refuses to divulge any pertinent info), and who calls the manor an “Evil Place.” The following night Mad Peter shows up severely bruised and foaming at the mouth, apparently due to an epileptic seizure.
     Anna, the attractive daughter of the manor’s patriarch Dr. Franklyn, takes a shine to Harry. She begs him and Jennifer not to move away, even though her father strongly advises them to vacate at the first opportunity. The doctor’s advice is sound, as Harry, afoot in Franklyn manor, is confronted with a scary snake woman who bites him on the neck!
     It seems that years earlier Dr. Franklyn got involved with a cult of snake worshippers who turned Anna into a half woman-half snake creature who emerges from the manor’s basement each night to do evil. Will Harry and Jen be its latest victims?

The Direction
     While this isn’t a terrible film, it’s not a good one by any means. The photography and art direction aren’t at all distinguished, and the script is overly talky. Director John Gilling over-relies on shock effects (such as the first appearance of Mad Peter jumping onto the protagonists’ back) to jazz up a highly simplistic narrative that pivots on the appearances of the Roy Ashton created titular creature--which looks like exactly what it is: an actress wearing a goofy snake mask and clawed mittens!
     As I pointed out earlier, the film is more-or-less a remake of an earlier Hammer production, THE GORGON (which wasn’t great but is leagues better than this one), and also contains elements lifted from DRACULA and CAT PEOPLE. You’re advised to see either film in place of THE REPTILE.
 

Vital Statistics

THE REPTILE
Hammer Film Productions

Director: John Gilling
Producer: Anthony Nelson-Keys
Screenplay: “John Elder” (Anthony Hinds)
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Editing: Roy Hyde
Cast: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper, John Laurie, Marne Maitland, David Baron, Charles Lloyd Pack
 

     

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