Monday, October 11, 2010

The Reptile (1966)

AMC has taken to showing old Hammer horror movies on Friday nights, sometimes stringing four or five together in one night. I’ve tried to catch as much as I can. The other night they played The Reptile, a unique film in that the main monster was female (Hammer sometimes tried to stray away from the all-male sausage factory the world of monsters can sometimes be) and the monster wasn’t a vampire or other traditional beast.

The film opens with a man being attacked and killed (complete with puffy face, fothing mouth and blackened skin) by . . . something. His brother Harry Spalding and Harry’s wife Valerie arrive at the house of the dead brother sometime later. Harry is intent on finding out what really happened to his brother as other mysterious murders take place in the small village. Eventually, Harry finds out that the next door neighbors, Dr. Franklin and his daughter Anna, are prisoners of their own Indian servant who worships a snake cult and turns Anna into a half woman, half snake, determined to bring pain and chaos into the world.

As with most Hammer movies, the film unfolds as a mystery which eventually leads to the pay-off of seeing the monster, and then follows through for another 30 minutes with the story. I found this one kinda slow in the beginning (save for the kill in the beginning), introducing lots of characters that will eventually be fodder for the snake woman. When we finally do see the snake man (because there's another snake dude before we see the snake lady), it’s pretty pumped. The hideous face and flexible, realistic monster make-up come out of left field. The monster looks so good, it almost looks like it belongs in another movie. I don’t think they made any more Reptile movies beyond this one, which is a shame. The misty, secret, underground cave where rituals are performed to create the snake lady, images of cages full of bunnies, kittens and puppies on which the snake lady feeds, and the snake lady herself were enough to carry the film and make it a welcome change of pace from the usual vampire fare. But it takes a while to get to these things.

3 out of 5.


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