• Reptile, The (Das Schwarze Reptil)



    Released by: Anolis Entertainment
    Released on: September, 2015.
    Director: John Gilling
    Cast: Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce Noel Willman
    Year: 1966

    The Movie:

    Directed for Hammer Films by John Gilling in 1966, The Reptile tells the story of a couple, Harry George Spalding (Ray Barrett) and his wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel), who moves to the town of Clagmoor Heath when Harry’s recently deceased brother leaves them his home. Harry would like to figure out just what exactly happened to his brother, as the circumstances surrounding his death are foggy to say the least, but nobody in town is talking save for Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper), the pub owner who advises him to sell the place and get out while he can.

    Making strange events even stranger is the presence of their new neighbor, Dr. Franklin (Noel Willman), who hides away in his huge mansion home with his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and a strange man referred to as The Malay (Marne Maitland). As it turns out, Franklin has returned with Anna from a trip to Borneo where he was studying a strange tribe of snake people and that when they became unhappy with his presence they turned poor Anna into one of their own. As such, Anna has the tendency to turn into a horrible snake monster now and then. Meanwhile, Harry and Tom start digging up bodies of recently deceased townsfolk and learn that all of the corpses have one thing in common... markings that look like they could be a snake bite.

    This is a fun watch, really well-paced vintage Hammer Horror to be sure. It’s a little on the predictable side but Gilling does a pretty good job here creating both atmosphere and tension at regular intervals throughout the movie. The sets (some of which will look familiar to fans of The Plague Of The Zombies made the same year and also featuring Ripper and Pearce!) are pretty great here too – Franklin keeps a special area under his home that contains a sulfur spring, just what a reptilian woman might need to keep warm during the colder months in England – and visually speaking the movie is pretty impressive. There’s great use of color on display throughout much of the picture and if the makeup effects are understandably a product of their time they are still creative and fun to see.

    As far as the performances go, Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel are fine as the two ‘hero’ types but they’re not the ones you really remember. That honor goes to Michael Ripper, who is genuinely really good in this role (a much more substantial one than we’re used to seeing him in) and to beautiful raven haired Jaqueline Pearce as our poor snake woman. Noel Willman is also pretty good as her father, at first his character is a bit off putting, his behavior towards the new home owners nearby unpleasant, but once we understand why, you can at least feel for the guy and his actions make sense in their own way. The cast all do fine work here, and that helps things quite a bit.

    As to the story, well, there are occasional logic gaps and questionable actions on the part of the characters in the movie, but it goes at a good pace and offers up the right mix of drama and monster related mayhem to hold our attention. The period setting, typical of Hammer’s output of this era, seems to fit things rather well (it just wouldn’t work as well if this were set in the mix-sixties). This isn’t on par with the best of Hammer’s output but it’s definitely plenty entertaining and absolutely worth seeing. This new Blu-ray from Anolis offers a great way to do just that…

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Anolis presents The Reptile on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Things shape up pretty nicely here as the transfer offers up fantastic color reproduction and strong black levels. Detail is strong throughout and there are no compression issues aren’t really ever a problem. Some shots show better detail and more refined grain than others, but print damage is never really a problem. Skin tones look good and there aren’t any obvious issues with edge enhancement.

    Audio options are provided in German and in English DTS HD 2.0 Mono format with optional subtitles provided in German only. The English track fares well here, the dialogue is clean and clear and properly balanced and the score has more depth and range than you might expect to hear. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the sound effects have decent presence to them.

    As far as the extras go, the disc starts off with an audio commentary track from Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz. Unfortunately the commentary is in German language only, there are no English subtitles provided. There is, however, a thirty-three minute long video commentary presented by the same two participants that is in English that talks about the origins of the project, it’s place in Hammer history, where some of the story ideas originated from and quite a bit more. This is a very thorough, well researched track and a nice addition to the disc.

    Thankfully the rest of the supplements are also English friendly, starting with The Serpent‘s Tale: The Making Of The Reptile, a featurette that runs roughly twenty-eight minutes in length. Here Hammer Film Historian Marcus Hearn is joined by writers Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Rigby, David Huckvale and Wayne Kinsey as well as and the film’s art director Dom Mingaye for a discussion of the history of this particular entry in the Hammer filmography. This does a fine job of putting the film into context alongside some of the other horror pictures that Hammer was churning out around the same time but also points out how and why this one stands out alongside some of those same movies. It’s a pretty interesting talk and does a fine job of detailing all of this.

    Aside from that we get a British theatrical trailer, some American television spots, a still gallery of promotional materials and behind the scenes bits and pieces, a German pressbook gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Reptile may not be the first movie you think of when talking classic Hammer horror pictures but it’s a fun watch to be sure. This Blu-ray release from Anolis continues the studio’s trend of delivering top notch Blu-ray editions of Hammer films, presenting the film in excellent shape and with a nice selection of supplements as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!