Blu-ray Review: The Reptile

If you’ve seen Hammer’s The Plague of Zombie then The Reptile is going to have a familiar look to it. We’re not talking about a classic Roger Corman production with the same script reused five times. When Hammer made new deal for distribution with Fox, they came up with a rather smart way to save on the budgets of the first four horror films. They would shoot two films back to back so they could reuse the sets and save considerably on the budget as they construction crew only had to work half as much. They even reused the crew with John Gilling directing and Arthur Grant as Director of Photography on both films. The key to this strategy was that Christopher Lee was making Dracula Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, the Mad Monk also back to back. They’d mix the four titles to create two double features for Fox to book across America in 1966. This way the audience wouldn’t look at the set and think they were still watching the first film. The Reptile went out with Rasputin although the new Blu-ray, lets you see it solo.

Something is going wrong at the small village of Clagmoor Heath in Cornwall. People are dying from what seems to be a new version of the Black Plague. Harry Spalding (Thunderbirds‘ Ray Barrett) discovers his brother has died of this strange malady. Harry inherits a cottage and decides this is the proper place to settle down after years in the military with his bride, Valerie (Jennifer Daniel). Even though his brother lived there, the locals aren’t happy with a new couple showing up in their quiet town. The locals don’t even seem to care about the whole plague thing that’s killing them off. The only guy who seems to care is Mad Peter (The Abominable Dr. Phibes‘ John Laurie). After he has dinner with the couple, his help hits a wall. Harry’s hope that Dr. Franklyn (Doctor Zhivago‘s Noel Willman) will be of assistance doesn’t quite pan out. The learned man’s daughter Anna ( The Plague of the Zombies‘ Jacqueline Pearce) is kind of drifty when she visits with Valarie. The doctor also has a servant (The Man with the Golden Gun‘s Marne Maitland) from his time in India. Harry finally gets a lead of what’s killing people when he resorts to grave robbing and finds the most telling of clues. Is any of this tied into the research Dr. Franklyn investigated on the subcontinent?

The Reptile and The Plague of The Zombies have more than crew and set in common. They are both films about quaint towns where people are mysteriously dying. Although this is where the tales diverge. Nobody in The Reptile is being raised from the dead. They are buried and stay there until Harry breaks out his shovel. The make up for the monster is rather startling for the time. Since Hammer wasn’t using it’s usual stars, there’s a question if anyone will survive the new plague sweeping the town. The sets reused after Plague don’t look too awkward this second time around. The Reptile is its own creation with fresh scares in a familiar remote community.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the elements in the dark and all the stuff eventually set on fire in the finale. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. The levels are clear so you can hear the hissss before the attacks of The Reptile. The movie is subtitled in English.

The Reptile 1.66:1 Version is the framing it would be given in England. This gives you a peak of what’s at the top and bottom of the frame.

Audio Commentary by film historians Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr and Ted Newsom. The trio go deep into the elements behind The Reptile and how it falls in Hammer’s history.

Interview with Assistant Director William P. Cartlidge (21:39) talks about how he moved up at Hammer. He admits nepotism helped him as his father was in charge of ABC Cinemas. It still was tough to break in. He had a pal who knew Anthony Hinds at Hammer.

The Serpent’s Tale – The Making of The Reptile (22:45) talks about how Hammer worked out the four film experiment at Bray Studios. Mark Gatiss is part of the group talking about the film. They mention that the reason Hammer never tried this again is that the studio didn’t save any money. Three of the four films went over budget.

The World of Hammer – Wicked Women (24:52) is another installment of the TV series from the early ’90s narrated by Oliver Reed. This time he deals with Hammer’s films that had dangerous female characters.

Trailer (6:33) reminds us that this was Rated X in England so no little kids allowed. They also have the double feature trailer when it went out with Rasputin, the Mad Monk. You will get a kick out of the gift moviegoers received for buying a ticket to the double feature.

TV Spot (0:23) is for the double feature.

Still Gallery (3:48) features photos of the Reptile make up being applied.

Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (4:51) includes the double feature posters with the promise of the swell gift. There’s quite a few of the international posters.

Scream Factory presents The Reptile. Directed by John Gilling. Screenplay by: Anthony Hinds. Starring: Noel Willman, Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel and Jacqueline Pearce. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: July 30, 2019

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