From the DVD case: Exploring the depths of the frozen Arctic tundra, Danish scientists discover the remains of a huge prehistoric monster when their drill comes up dripping with flesh and blood! But scientific study soon turns into prehistoric payback when the terrifying specimen regenerates itself and begins a blood-curdling reptilian rampage. Immune to bombs and impervious to missiles, Reptilicus reigns over a world where only one thing is certain – now that he’s defrosted, civilization is about to be cooked! (1962, color)
Mark says: I can not absolutely declare Reptilicus the worst giant monster flick ever made, as there are some giant creature films I’ve not seen, but it’s hard to imagine that a less convincing beast has ever dis-graced the silver screen. The Giant Claw features an equally terrible “special effect,” but the movie is at least entertaining. Even AIP, a distributing company with less than stellar standards, was reluctant to release this monstrosity.
Scriptwriter, Ib Melchior (Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Death Race 2000), has commented that he would rather not be closely associated with this movie, stating that his script was heavily altered and he had “absolutely nothing to do” with the directing of the film. Melchior’s script was based on an original story by the film’s director/producer, Sidney Pink (The Angry Red Planet, Journey to the Seventh Planet).
Reptilicus is Denmark’s answer to Godzilla, but instead of a man in a monster suit, Reptilicus is an obvious marionette. And rather than spewing a blast of hot fire like Godzilla, Reptilicus belches a green, laughable vomit on his hapless victims. The beast is constantly positioned in front of ridiculous backdrops and surrounded by silly, unconvincing miniatures. He has permanent strands of drool that never actually fall, but only waggle as he shakes his preposterous head. In addition, he sports two impossibly tiny wings which could not serve any practical purpose (he did fly in the original production, but these scenes were cut from the American release). Reptilicus also lacks the social/political commentary found in Godzilla pictures.
But Reptilicus is more than a study in atrocious movie monster special effects; it is a complete course in movie-making ineptitude.
The first thing you’ll notice is the lousy acting. The hero of our story is American, Gen. Mark Grayson, played by Danish actor, Carl Ottosen (Journey to the Seventh Planet). Ottosen’s portrayal is way over the top, giving the character a cartoonish demeanor. Grayson is a staunch military man and entirely unlikable. I suppose he is meant to be bigger than life, but he comes off as grumpy, whiny, and dull.
To counter-balance the grouchy American military man, we have Asbjørn Andersen in the role of Prof. Otto Martens. When Prof. Martens isn’t having a heart attack, he is giving completely useless “advice” on how to kill the beast. There is a showdown between the professor and General towards the end of the movie, but both men walk away looking like idiots.
Oddly enough, it is the obnoxious American General who comes up with the ultimate solution for killing the creature, which renders the professor’s character almost meaningless. Why have a professor if he is not the one coming up with the answers?
Perhaps the only real reason the professor’s character exists is to introduce his two daughters into the plot. Ann Smyrner and Mimi Heinrich (both women have parts in Journey to the Seventh Planet) play Lise and Karen Martens. Karen, particularly, doesn’t have a lot to do. Lise, at least, gets to fiddle with some test tubes. But for the most part, the sisters are nothing more than window dressing.
Dirch Passer was lucky enough to land the role of Mikkwlawn Peterson. Peterson is the night watchman used as comedy relief. His character, with his constant mugging and antics, is by far the most grating. Perterson is such a bungling buffoon that he grabs an electric eel with his bare hand just for the fun of it. Luckily, after Reptilicus is set loose on the world, we never see Peterson again.
Reptilicus is littered with a host of other useless characters. Their significance is so minor that I feel no need to list them here.
Something you’ll notice about Reptilicus, almost immediately, is the awkward dubbing. Both Danish and German actors were used in the film, and all spoke English with different accents. According to Ib Melchior, Sid Pink knew the film was going to be dubbed, and so he told all the actors “to be sure to speak distinctly and move your mouths distinctly.” The result is comical. Gen. Grayson, particularly, speaks in a halting manner which only adds to the absurdity of the film. Melchior states that he dubbed six of the minor characters’ voices himself.
As if the movie wasn’t bizarre enough, right in the middle of the thing we are treated to a Copenhagen travelogue. Gen. Grayson tours the city with American scientist, Connie Miller (Marla Behrens) and we learn about the historical landmarks of the town. We even take in a lounge act featuring real life Danish nightclub singer, Birthe Wilke. Isn’t this just what you want in the middle of a monster picture?
Of course, it is Reptilicus himself that incites the most laughter. If he’s not barfing green spew all over the place, he’s gobbling down some poor “animated” farmer (click the thumbnail image below to view this atrocity). It’s all so pathetic that it’s amusing.
Unfortunately, Reptilicus suffers from long spells of ponderous dullness, which hampers the one element the movie has going for it: kitsch appeal. For many, the words of Gen. Mark Grayson will run through their own minds as they watch this film: “How long do you expect me to continue this hell?”
Any hardcore fan of the genre will certainly welcome Reptilicus to his collection, but the casual observer will find little of value here.
(The “farmer” is actually screenwriter Ib Melchior’s 12 year old son, Dirk. They needed someone small for the animation and Dirk happened to be handy.)
Scene to watch for: Reptilicus pukes on the beach.
Line to listen for: “We’re not accustomed to see such a beautiful woman connected with science.”
Trivia: Director/Producer Sid Pink enlisted members of a local athletic club for the scene where Reptilicus chases a crowd of people off a drawbridge. Pink got them to perform by promising new equipment for their club. If you watch closely, you can see many of the crowd smiling and laughing before they take the plunge.
Reference: Whenever I quote screenwriter Ib Melchior (directly or indirectly), it is taken from Tom Weaver’s book, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes (McFarland Classics). Highly recommended to all fans of the genre.
Special thanks: To regular reader, Eismann, who supplied me with a copy of Reptilicus for review.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.