Following my announcement of Little Shoppe of Horror's upcoming 23rd issue I had a little Twitter discussion about The Reptile with my good buddy David Rattigan (webmaster of the Dictionary of Hammer Horror) which made me think of writing this little blog post.
I have recently – and quite timely from the looks of it – rewatched the second of Hammer's Cornish horrors after a previous one-off viewing way more than 20 years ago.
The first time round I remember not being too impressed with it, however, this time round I did start to appreciate the Cornish atmosphere as well as the original monster that Hammer created for this movie.
The film does, however, have a number of weird inconsistencies that IMHO stops it from being the masterpiece that a lot of Hammer fans seem to think it is and that reak of lazy storywriting. Mind you, I am generally not the type who obsessively looks for bloopers. If hard pressed ANY film will have some dodgy developments that could be questioned, but life's too short to worry about whether the third extra in the 9th row really carries the correct insignia in a WW2 movie, so when something strikes me as odd it usually means that it is big enough for me to carry an impact.
(I hate to highlight the obvious, but beware of spoilers from now on!)
And one of the biggest question marks I have with regards to The Reptile is over the fact that Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) manages to escape relatively unharmed from a bite that kills all others in the movie within seconds. He, on the other hand, finds the time to run out of the house, through the forests, into his home and then save his skin by immunising the initial wound. How does he last that long and why hasn't the venom infiltrated his entire body at that stage? None of that is explained and given that in all other circumstances the victims don't even seem to make it past a few steps before collapsing this is an area that really expects the viewer to utterly and completely suspend all disbelief.
Other plot points that worried me:
Towards the end when Noel Willman's character decides to kill his daughter he is ready to strike her, but hears a noise from the cages and decides to first of all release the bunny rabbits. Huh? What kind of priorities does this man have?
Then he gets attacked by Marne Maitland, the cunning evil Indian mastermind behind it all, who attempts to prevent the killing. Once Maitland is disposed off Willman turns to Jennifer Daniel, the heroine, who stood uninvolved in the background and openly accuses her of interfering with the initial killing. How did he come up with that conclusion?
And to make matters worse: From then on in he stops everyone else trying to kill the reptile from doing so.
So.... first he wants to kill the daughter, then he wants to release the rabbits, then he fights off the Indian who wants to stop him from the killing, then he accuses the girl of interfering and rather than proceed with his initial plan he now turns a 180 degrees and effectively does what the Indian wanted to do in the first place.
Scratching my head, but I can't make head nor tail of this. Yes, you could argue that Willman's character turned mad, but I prefer method to my madness rather than this hodge podge change of actions.
Mind you, the film without a doubt overall is quite a worthwhile addition to the Hammer canon, but you will have to foresake a lot of logic when viewing this flick. Then again, logical plot development was never a mandatory ingredient for fan adoration. After all one of Hammer's worst plotted movies of all times, Brides of Dracula, regularly features as one of the studio's best movies of all times.
By the way, check out Wrong Side of the Art's fantastic overview of Hammer posters in case you are wondering where I borrowed the poster image from.
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