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  REPTILICUS

Some movies are just too stupid to be ignored. Case in point: REPTILCUS, Denmark’s answer to GODZILLA, and a deeply, profoundly, unbelievably stupid movie.

The Package
     Literally the entire population of Copenhagen--all 900,000 citizens--apparently participated in this 1962 movie. It was the first (and apparently only) monster movie to be made in Denmark, and had its origins in an aborted project called VOLCANO MONSTERS, scripted by the popular science fiction writer Ib Melchior. Melchior ended up with a co-screenwriting credit on REPTILICUS, which was heavily reedited and redubbed (even though the film was lensed in both Danish and English) by American International Pictures for its U.S release, complete with an added voice-over. It’s that latter version of REPTILICUS that has become the most common, and which was released on DVD by MGM--and is thus the subject of this review.

The Story
     A patch of prehistoric skin is discovered at an oil drilling site. The skin is taken to a science lab where, shut in an isolation chamber, it slowly begins to coalesce into a gigantic scaly tail. It’s apparently part of a critter scientists dub Reptilicus that can regenerate itself from any portion of its body--and electricity, bequeathed by a lightning storm, accelerates the process.
     Inevitably the Reptilicus grows to its full size and busts out of the laboratory. The military is called in to track Reptilicus down and blow it up. All they succeed in doing, however, is mildly wounding the thing, which promptly disappears into the ocean to nurse its wounds. The military men are not to be deterred, and blow Reptilicus up by bombing the ocean floor. Unfortunately a new Reptilicus regenerates from a blown-off foot, and immediately capsizes several ships.
     But the fun’s just beginning, as Reptilicus alights on land and commences tearing up Copenhagen. The populace reacts with alarm, resulting in thousands of people running every which way through the city, while the military unleashes a barrage of machine guns and bombs. A prominent scientist advises against the use of bombs, as they’d blow Reptilicus into little pieces that would only regenerate new critters. The military general, however, is hell-bent on blasting Reptilicus to bits. Who will ultimately prevail?

The Direction
     REPTILICUS is very much an old school monster movie, meaning it takes some time for the title critter to show itself. In the meanwhile we get lots of indifferently shot scenes of stone faced scientific types hand-wringing over the danger posed by Reptilicus, some seriously dumb comic relief on the part of a goofy janitor who gets freaked out by the growing creature, and even a music video of sorts set to documentary footage of early 1960s Copenhagen.
     Yet once Reptilicus gets loose things pick up. The fact that director Sidney Pink evidently had no clue how to properly film his model creature makes the proceedings especially enjoyable: not only is the Reptilicus among the goofiest looking model dragons you’ll ever see, but Pink insists on giving it frequent and lengthy close-ups so we can admire just how incredibly unconvincing the thing truly is.
     More fun is provided by the awful, awful rear projection effects (that try and make Reptilicus interact with actual people and scenery--and fail spectacularly) and animated laser-like bursts that shoot from Reptilicus’ mouth. There’s even a message about the fallacy of reckless military action, although it doesn’t have anywhere near the same gravity of GODZILLA’S anti-nuclear stance.
     The film, in short, is a blast--and really, I find it inconceivable that anyone could not enjoy a movie that features thousands of extras running from a ridiculous model monster while oodles of firepower and explosions are lobbed at it. The term Guilty Pleasure might as well have been invented for REPTILICUS.
 

Vital Statistics

REPTILICUS
American International Pictures

Director: Sidney Pink
Producers: Sidney Pink, Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay: Ib Melchior, Sidney Pink
Cinematography: Aage Wiltrup
Editing: Sven Methling, Edith Nisted Nielsen
Cast: Carl Ottosen, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heirich, Asbjorn Andersen, Bodhi Miller, Bent Mejding, Povl Woldike, Dirch Passer, Ole Wisborg, Birthe Wilke

     

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