The year, 1964. The place, Lapland. Yes, Lapland and stop that snickering! Well, actually the film only begins in Lapland. See Sven Viltorft (Bent Mejding) runs one of those Lapland based oil drilling teams for the petroleum superpower Oily Reindeer and has just pulled up a test drill caked in what appears (to me at least) to be chuck steak. But then, I am no oil drilling reindeer herder and thus slap my forehead soundly when Sven pronounces that the meaty substance is actually, “Bone, fossil bone.” He tosses the “bone”, still dripping with red, red, red fossil blood into a non-fossil wheelbarrow.
From this gore we are presented with the title of the film “Reptilicus!”
I knew you were all just waiting for that. In the 1960s several B-movie production companies launched themselves into the giant monster movie business based on the success of the Godzilla franchise. Interestingly enough, Toho studio’s Godzilla was director Ishiro Honda’s quasi remake of King Kong, but that’s another story for a review not found in the Hall of Shame here at Horrorview. The teen market for really shitty movies was reaching its zenith in the middle 1960’s so companies like erstwhile crap importer American International Pictures searched far and wide for new ways to draw kids with disposable income into the theaters. If they couldn’t make something cheaply, then they bought it from some other film company in another country, re-titled it, redid the soundtrack in English, then foisted it upon the popcorn consumers, collected their money, then died and suffered an eternity in Hell watching reruns of Dynasty dubbed into Swahili... Okay, where was I? Oh yes, Reptilicus. Reptilicus was the brain-child of horrible hack writer Ib Melchouir and his director/producer pal Sidney Pink. These are the same men who caused untold horror to the movie theaters of America with “The Angry Red Planet”.
Thus forewarned they give you Reptilicus. Now, Sidney Pink loved Denmark which can only the be reason he decided to film this movie there. When I think giant monster my mind does not immediately leap to Denmark. Yours might... But then I am not insane.
So here we are in Lapland still as Sven and his cadre of oil drilling Scandinavians discuss what is best done with their dripping corpulent fossil. After a short conversation in front of the coldest campfire I have ever laid eyes on, they decide to send it on to the experts at the Copenhagen Akvarium.
Cut to an establishing shot of the Copenhagen Akvarium.
We will now meet the bulk of our characters, and brace yourself, there’s a whole shit load of them. Professor Martins (Asbjørn Andersen) and Dr. Dalby (Povl Wøldike) seem to be the big-cheeses at the Akvarium. Now why on Earth would Sven choose this place to send the “fossilized” (yet still quite raw) meat and bone fragments from his drilling site? I mean, if I stumbled over a Tyranosaurus steak in the backyard would I send it to the New England Akvarium? Of course not. But then I am not Sydney Pink, Ib Melchoir, or an idiot. So there.
Professor Martins is the bigger of the two cheeses on hand and graciously accepts the flesh and bone gift from Sven. He introduces Sven first to Dr. Dalby then to his two voluptuous daughters Lise and Karen. Both women are immediately attracted to Sven. Though, they both also seem attracted to Dr. Dalby.
What the hell do I know?
Anyway, Lise has brought along a friend looking for work at the Akvarium. Petersen (Dirch Passer) is his name and he wears overalls all the time. Petersen is lacking quite a bit in the brain department, but that does not stop Professor Martens from offering him a job as a night watchman. We get to see a whole lot of Petersen in this movie. Too much Petersen. Waaaaaay too much Petersen. Some viewers may chose to commemorate the plethora of Petersen by erecting a tasteful yet functional shrine in their home. From this shrine it is possible to beg the god of your choosing to afflict Dirch Passer with any number of painful yet non-fatal diseases. I have recently suggested that the god of my choosing afflict Dirch Passer with flaming genital warts.
Your mileage may vary. But I can rest assured that somewhere in the cosmos a deity of supreme vengeance is preparing a hit list for Mr. Passer, and when his time comes, look out.
Okay, on with the show.
Petersen is told that the freezer holding the Lapland steaks has to be kept at -30 degrees centigrade or else. Or else what? They imply that because the fossil meat is indeed fossil that exposure to room temperature would render it rancid and yucky.
See if you can guess what happens in about ten minutes.
Anyway. Petersen starts his rounds of the Akvarium not long afterword. In a scene that may encourage you to gouge out your own eyes, or those of a nearby loved one, Petersen stumbles upon a fish tank (ironic it being an Akvarium and all) labeled “Electric Eel.” Petersen takes a few long seconds to sound out the name of the fish just in case the kiddies watching the movie can’t read. How nice.
Petersen considers putting his hand inside.
The electric eel is a better actor than Dirch Passer.
Cut to the incoming other major character American general Mark Grayson (Carl Ottosen). Grayson is introduced to Sven, Lise, Karen, Dr. Dalby and Professor Martin. They play a short round of let’s see how awkward it is to get around a desk and stay in the shot then everyone leaves except for Professor Martens.
Enter another character, this one is also an American, Connie Miller (Bodil Miller) she is on loan from some science center in the states. Then again, she might be a reporter? I forget, it’s been two weeks since I last watched this and in between Mrs. McLargehuge made me watch “The Wedding Planner”.
Don’t get too attached to Connie, she doesn’t stick around long.
Sven, General Grayson, and Connie head out for a some travel footage of Copenhagen. This is pretty funny as most of the unsuspecting people in each framed shot look directly at the camera. One guy, on a roller coaster, actually waves. Each little snipped of stock footage is paired with some astoundingly obvious dialogue. “The Danes really love their bicycles...” as a shoot of several bicyclers zoom past.
I believe this montage of nothing is specifically designed to lull the viewers into a state of complacency, to give us a false sense of security before springing the trap. The trap in this case is a hideous musical number called “Tivoli Nights” warbled badly by a female Danish lounge singer, in English.... uncertain English.... to a crowd of people who look like mourners at a very boring wake. No wonder Camus consider Scandinavia as Hell on Earth... Anyway. The song is bad, really bad, but not as bad when you are listening to it in the movie than it is bouncing around inside your head for the next week.
“Tivoli night, oh what a site, all Copenhagen is dancing...” OH GOD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!
Cut back to a laughably bad model of the Akvarium. It honestly looks like two stacked shoe boxes and a Lionel train set tree. Dr. Dalby is working late and is very tired. I think he actually lives in the Akvarium since we never see him anywhere but in his office. Anyway... He cuts a sliver of “fossil” meat from the “fossil meat” and puts it under a microscope.
Cut to Petersen (DEATH TO PETERSEN!!!) eating a sandwich beside a microscope. He places some of his sandwich beneath the lense and peers down. Cut to some stock footage of water fleas.
Just what in the hell kind of sandwich was he eating?
Cut back to Petersen, now nauseous from the sight of the stock footage.
Cut to Dr. Dalby falling asleep at his desk. Pan and zoom to the refrigerator door. It magically pops open and the temperature begins to rise.
Could it be that this will at last revive the fossil meat?
If you said, “why yes Big McLargehuge it certainly will!” then go and get yourself a healthy snack from the kitchen.
Professor Martens and Connie arrive early the next morning to find Dr. Dalby still asleep on his desk. “I must have fallen asleep.”
Anyway, they notice that the refrigerator is open and Professor Martens is about to open a six pack of Danish whoop-ass on Dr. Dalby for ruining the fossilized yet still very raw, meat. Connie notices that the wound in the flesh appears to have new skin growing over it.
My god! It’s healing!
Cut to several reporters sitting in a set designed not to look like Professor Marten’s office, yet it strangely still does... Martens blabs on a bit about dinosaurs until a reporter suggests that they name the creature Reptilicus-Martenesis (or something similar). Marten’s settles on “Reptilicus.”
Cut to some stock footage of thunder and lightning beside that same goofy model of the Akvarium. Now someone is sprinkling water on the Lionel Train Set Tree. Must be raining. Inside Petersen is making his rounds. He stops beside the electric eel tank, (prepare to pluck out your eyes), checks to see if anyone is looking, (place fingers in eye sockets), then sticks his hand into the top two inches of water (grind fingertips until a loud “schlupping” sound emanates from your skull). Petersen begins to scream like the idiot that he is, and to do the Charleston. Apparently getting an electric shock will make one dance like it was the height of prohibition. it is just the stupidest thing I think I’ve ever seen...
A roar echoes up from the hallway. Petersen, scared out of his moronathon, punches the fire alarm. Dr. Dalby comes running as do Professor Martens and Connie. Dalby is about to give Petersen the big shove-off when Martens creeps up the steps and peers into the tank containing Reptilicus’ tail. It’s moving. It’s much larger now. It’s silly looking.
Cut to a series of spinning papers announcing a prehistoric dinosaur is alive and living in Denmark. At some point in the history of cinema this must have been considered a pretty nifty effect. It isn’t anymore.
General Grayson laments his stationing in the Akvarium. He bemoans the fact that he is was decorated at the Battle of the Bulge and now is only in charge of two UN guards and one giant lizard tail. Such is the fate of General Grayson. Feel free to weep... I know I did. General Grayson has exactly one expression for this entire movie. It is not quite boredom, but he definitely looks like he would rather be doing something... nay, anything else rather than starring in this movie.
Learn this look. You will see it again the next time you look in the mirror and think of watching Reptilicus.
Okay... More lightning. Now the power is out at the Akvarium. Dr. Dalby is again working late. Why he has a chemistry set on his desk no one will ever know. Not that anyone cares really.
Cut to Petersen again walking the halls. This time he has his trusty flashlight and appears afraid of the dark. Reptilicus roars and something moves across the window of the chamber where his tail is submerged in some sort of solution.
Cut to Dr. Dalby. He hears it to, and doing what any rational scientist would do, retrieves a Luger from his desk drawer and sends Petersen off to get the cops. They’ll certainly know how to handle Reptillicus. Petersen is a man of action and leaps out onto his bicycle (The Danes sure love their bicycles!).
Cut to two very bored looking policemen playing chess as Petersen rushes in. The police captain is not impressed with Petersen’s antics (and neither will you be!).
“The lights went out... all over!”
“Ya Petersen, ya.”
“It was so dark I couldn’t see my own face in front of my eyes!”
“I wish I was so lucky.”
“Even the electric eel went out!”
“The monster... It’s escaped!”
“Why don’t you tell Dr. Dalby?”
“He is the one who sent me!”
Pause for the police captain to make sense of this then both men leap to their feet.
Cut back to the Akvarium model with a shadow behind it. It’s Reptilicus, and he’s escaped.
Inside the Akvarium model Petersen and the police captain find Dr. Dalby’s glasses and a whole wall knocked down. Dalby has become a Reptilicus crunchy. Strangely enough we never see Petersen again after this scene. I have learned never to look a gift horse in the mouth so I will not speculate as to why he vanishes. I like to think that Reptilicus, remembering the Charleston, came back and ate him.
It works for me.
At the royal armory (or some such think... the Danes use so many letters in their language that the sign on the building in the establishing shot looks like “Laaggeraggaadfadf Miglgagaqrtga”) I take this to mean military headquarters as there are several military men inside.
One of them is General Grayson he is with Sven and Professor Martens. There is some inane banter about where Reptilicus might be going, how he might be stopped, what the weather in Greenland is that time of year... You get the idea.
General Grayson and Sven then speed away in a jeep followed by footage of the Danish military in all its mighty Scandinavian fury. Grayson breaks the military into two groups. He and Sven, and all the other military guys.
Cut to a severed cows head. Pan up to a guy who apparently shops at the same store as Petersen.
“Did you see it?”
“It vas... Huge... It ate 18 of my best cows.”
“where did it go?”
points off camera and stares madly.
Sven and General Grayson leap back into the jeep and give chase. Some of the other soldiers have spotted Reptilicus, they also remark that “it’s... huge.”
Grayson orders the military footage to make a defensive line as Reptilicus is hiding behind some nearby bushes (yes bushes... don’t believe me? Watch the damn movie then but don’t say I didn’t warn you!) The military attacks and we get our first real look at Reptilicus, and boy is it anticlimactic.
Reptilicus is a snake-like monster, covered in scales, with a mouth that is perpetually open, a tongue that perpetually wags, with little legless feet glued to his underbelly (they also appear to both be left feet... but I’ll leave that up to any podiatrists in the audience). To accomplish the feat of making Reptilicus look menacing the scenes of the creature are displayed in slow motion. This was accomplished by frame doubling, or copying and pasting identical frames beside each other in the negative so that the creature appears to be bulky and massive. It succeeds only in making Reptilicus appear to be having slow-motion spasms.
The Military attack with tanks and machine guns to no avail. Reptilicus’ scales are too thick to be penetrated by the shells.
Reptilicus heads off and eats a paper cut-out of another farmer who shops at the same store as Petersen. Yes, a paper cut out. You have to see it to believe it. Reptilicus attacks and kills a paper doll.
Grayson leaps onto a tank and before you can say Mike Dukakis loses the race for president, straps on a flame thrower and orders the tank driver to chase Reptilicus down. he then squirts the monster with a nice blast of fire.
Reptilicus screams as he is covered in flames. Luckily for him, and unluckily for us, this occurs directly beside a large body of water which Reptilicus enters to extinguish himself.
Strangely enough this tactic of flame thrower-ing him is never tried again. I guess the Danes have no short-term memory.
Okay, time to speed this review up. If you have seen one giant monster movie, then you have seen enough plot development to understand Reptilicus. Here is a simple breakdown of the events.
Reptilicus retreats to the sea to heal.
The government forces depth charge the area where they think he is.
Reptilicus is hit but not badly (it blows off one of his legless feet)
Everyone things Reptilicus could not possibly have survived such a vicious attack.
Reptilicus comes back.
Panic erupts in downtown Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen bike club rides off an open draw bridge.
Sven closes the bridge when the tender panics.
Professor Martens has a mild heart attack.
The army is powerless to stop him until...
Professor Martens returns to the movie seemingly unharmed by his cardiac arrest.
Someone suggests drugging the creature to death.
The army readies a special hypodermic shell to shoot into the soft tissue of his mouth.
Reptilicus gets the fatal dose and dies.
Okay. Now, the overall thing you will notice in this movie is the complete lack of a single competent special effect. Reptilicus is clearly a marionette, Copenhagen when not shot as background footage, is clearly made of old shoe boxes. The green slime that Reptilicus shoots onto his enemies is clearly superimposed, and poorly at that.
Since the special effect shots only make up about 30% of the movie, the remaining 70% consist of Petersen, and some of the silliest dialogue ever written. You will notice that every single actor speaks exactly like they are reading from a teleprompter. Well guess what. They are. Apparently American International Pictures screened the film with the original vocal track and the Scandinavian accent was so thick they knew something had to be done. Imagine the film with every character sounding like The Swedish Chef from “The Muppet Show” and you’ll get a good impression I think. Thus a second vocal track was prepared for the film. This is most noticeable with Petersen (DIE PETERSEN DIE!!!) and General Grayson.
Imagine the cast of Dragnet reading for the cast of Reptilicus and I think you will get the idea.
Now some perverse segment of my personality wants to find a copy of this movie with the original Scandinavian accent English intact. There must be a copy around somewhere.
This is one of the cheapy Midnight Movies releases and for all its fault Reptilicus is presented in a nice clean copy. The colors are good and the soundtrack is clear so you can hear every nuance of Jack Webbishness in the second track. There are no extras except for a single grainy trailer. Like all Midnight Movie releases this is presented in pan-and-scan format, though I am not even sure Reptilicus was even produced in widescreen. At any rate the full frame does not appear to be cropped as Petersen is still visible in the print.
American Movie Classics runs this flick at least 365 times a year. I recommend watching it there unless you absolutely have to have it. But then, now that AMC is inserting commercials into their presentations I don’t recommend watching it at all.
Reptilicus is a lot of fun to watch with some friends or on a lazy winter afternoon, it's also suitable for little kids. Baby McLargehuge cries whenever Petersen (DEATH TO YOU PETERSEN AND ALL YOUR SPAWN!!!) is on screen.