Reptilicus (1961)


*. My goodness this is a bad movie! But in the best way, because it really is so bad it’s quite enjoyable, at least the first time through. Which will be the only time you’ll ever want to watch it.
*. That doesn’t look like the frozen tundra of Lapland to me. It looks like California. But by using the power of imagination . . . no, it still looks like California.
*. This is a monster movie, considered by some to be the only Danish monster movie, and so what you really want to see is the monster.
*. Only you really don’t want to see the monster. It looks ridiculous. Indeed all of the special effects are very bad. The scale buildings are crude, utterly unconvincing models and the process shots both poorly scaled and murky. The green vomit is a crude animation added to the American version.


*. As for the farmer who is tossed into the air and eaten, I am speechless. This is a true low point in the history of special effects.
*. As bad as the movie I saw was, the Danish version may be even worse, including a scene of Reptilicus flying and another bit where the dopey security man Petersen (Dirch Passer, a popular comic actor who isn’t funny at all here) sings a Reptilicus song to a bunch of children. Both clips are well worth checking out online.
*. Apparently the Danish version does not have the neon green “acid slime” effect. Given how bad this looks, it’s a real toss-up as to which version, the Danish or the American, is worse.
*. I don’t know why they had so much trouble locating the monster, since he isn’t hiding, at least when on land, is rather big, and moves very slowly. In fact, he doesn’t seem suited for movement on land at all with those short little legs. I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just stay in the water.


*. The scenes of panicked crowds running through the streets of Copenhagen were, I thought, surely stock footage borrowed from some other movie. But as far as I can tell they were actually shot for this film. They’re actually pretty good, and the scene of the bridge being raised and the bicyclists falling into the water are pretty impressive.


*. Whenever you laugh at a movie this bad someone usually chimes in with the warning that it is, after all, a very low-budget film and so you shouldn’t be too harsh. Which is fair enough when you’re talking about anything related to the budget, like the not-so-special, or especially bad, effects. But what makes this movie really terrible is the script, and a low budget is no excuse for incoherence and stupidity.
*. For starters, none of it makes any sense. I don’t mean the science, I’m willing to give them a pass on the idea that a piece of monster tail can regenerate an entire monster. But how does the monster break out of the aquarium building it’s in? Why is security just a husky rube in a pair of overalls? When the monster escapes, why does a one-star American general take over Denmark’s entire military and civilian command structure?
*. Then there is all the filler, like the ghastly sightseeing tour of Copenhagen. Hey, if you’ve got some local colour, you might as well show it. And while doing so why not overlay dialogue explaining what everything is, and lines like “Look at that traffic! So many bicycles!”
*. Or take the totally useless scene where General Grayson has a meeting with all the Danish chiefs of staff and simply tells them what their roles are and then dismisses them. As if the admiral of the navy wouldn’t know that he’s responsible for hunting the monster at sea, or the chief of police is in charge of keeping order in the streets.


*. Finally there is the dialogue. It’s very funny. I particularly like the scene where the information is relayed to the command center that the monster has just attacked. “Where?” “A small farm on the coast!” And so everyone scrambles from the room. Because in Denmark “a small farm on the coast” can only mean one place.
*. Or when Professor Martens sends his daughter to pick up a man she has never met at the airport. “How will I know him?” she reasonably asks. “Since when do I have to tell you how to find a man?” he replies. Ho-ho. And he never does tell her what he looks like!
*. A last one: the monster is described as being “nature’s attempt to breach (?) the steps from reptile to mankind.” Now that’s evolution for you!
*. There are lots of other great scenes, like the pointless and very stilted confrontation between General Grayson and Professor Martens, but I won’t say anything more. You really should check it out for yourself.


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