Reptivoli

Pictorial history of horror films back

A long time ago, in the early Cretaceous period I think it was, I swore to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. I have not so far succeeded. I called by quest “See REPTILICUS and Die,” and I had been holding off on viewing the Danish dino non-epic until I had successfully tracked down such features as THE DEVIL BAT and THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE. I have not entirely succeeded. It’s not so much that several of the “most wanted” titles may or may not be lost films, it’s more that THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET seems unwatchably dull, even more so that it’s Hammer remake (known locally as ANTON DIFFRING’S ARSE IS ON FIRE), and that BLACK DRAGONS is an incoherent mess that makes you feel unpleasantly stoned when you try to watch it. But I may get through them one day.

Braving the possibility of a vengeful deity striking me down for tempting fate, I plopped REPTILICUS in the laptop and perused it with Fiona from the comfort of the marital bed. At least we would be carried off together. An IMDb reviewer seems to have shared my concern: “This is the movie that we Danes can be proud of!! It is the worst movie ever made but it is so funny that I am about to die.”

“When nature defies its own laws…” Hmm.

82 minutes later (for we watched the AIP English dub, not the 92 minute Danish original) Fiona remarked, “That was really disappointing. Although I did quite like the way everyone spoke really slowly, and all the women looked the same.”

The people spoke slowly because they were Danes speaking a second language for the English version, not knowing that AIP would dub them all anyway.

Danes drilling for oil in Lapland strike dinosaur blood instead, preserved in a layer of what is technically known as “icy muck.”

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The film’s main title appears over a closeup of the man’s crotch and his bloody hands. Which is kind of strange when you think about it or don’t.

They exhume a tail, which isn’t what they were looking for but maybe works as a consolation prize, ship it to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, and stick it in a tank of nutrients (I think they mean meatballs), where it begins to regenerate, like Oddbod Jnr in CARRY ON SCREAMING. The logic being, if a lizard can grow a new tail, why can’t a tail grow a new lizard? Hang on to that logic, for it is the last you shall encounter for some time.

Not anticipating that a rampant dinosaur in their capital city might cause traffic congestion, the Danes carry on feeding the tail while the American officer brought in to supervise the military side of the tail-feeding goes on a sight-seeing tour of the city. The Tivoli Gardens get much play, with even their own theme song, “Tivoli Nights,” (AKA “the love theme from REPTILICUS”). Prolific sci-fi scenarist and Scrabble tray Ib Melchior obviously included this scene to make us ache all the more heartily for the destruction of Denmark’s capital along with its entire population, and he succeeded all too well. The bloodlust emanating from Fiona as she lay beside me staring at the scenes of Scandinavian merrymaking with a look of cold psychopathic rage was positively alarming. But when the eventual sauropod rampaged through the scenic grounds, spitting acidic venom in all directions, I heard myself cheering alongside her.

Fiona did, however, feel that it was a gross dereliction of the monster’s duty to fail to bite the head off the Little Mermaid statue.

Don’t watch this song unless you have someone conveniently positioned to punch on the arm right afterwards.

The dinosaur itself is a… I think “puppet” is actually dignifying it too much. I don’t know exactly how they’re making it move — nor do I know how it’s actually supposed to move in the movie’s reality, since as Fiona pointed out, it has feet but no legs, is sort of dachshund-shaped — but I think it’s a basically inert figurine being waggled about by an offscreen “effects artist” holding it by the tail. In effect, what the Lap oilman unearthed was the monster’s handle.

Via Facebook, Jim Earp draws our attention to the unsung figure of the drawbridge operator, who panics and raises the bridge so that a score of panicked citizens can cycle over the brink into the deep. “One of the greatest interpretations of anguished, imbecile helplessness in the history of cinema.”

THIS song wasn’t in the version we saw, otherwise I believe we would both be dead. They would have to cut us out of the mattress. The “singer” WAS in the film though, in his Stephen King CREEPSHOW costume, providing the kind of laborious light relief that wouldn’t even work as relief if surrounded by autopsy footage.

Also, in the English version he doesn’t fly. Nor does he emit pathetic firecracker pops from his slack, rubbery jaws — clearly, AIP decided to mask what they considered an effect falling short of their high standards, by superimposing great snotty spurts of green goop. Or maybe they were worried that a fire-breathing dinosaur was inherently implausible. Yeah, that’ll never work.

At the end, the big guy is not actually killed, just rendered unconscious, his eventual destruction something the Danish authorities will presumably take care of offscreen, with the same wisdom and efficiency with which they grew him from a severed appendage and turned him loose in the first place.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ocean, a severed dinosaur foot, blown off in an earlier skirmish, awaits its chance to emerge and stomp the countryside in a sequel as yet unmade. I have Gilliamesque visions of the foot, which has declined to regenerate another legless dinosaur, bouncing around Jutland on its own recognizance, while a moron in dungarees warbles disturbingly.

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“I don’t want this to be the last film I see,” said Fiona. So we watched IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.

 

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16 Responses to “Reptivoli”

  1. Somewhat abashed to say that I have never seen ICTW, though it’s on my bucket list. “Cucumber Creature,” AKA “Beula” is the stuff of legend. I have a Japanese vinyl kit replicating said monster in fetishistic detail. The kit is likely better than the movie. It certainly cost more.

  2. While not as fascinating as Not of this Earth, ICTW is pretty enjoyable — appreciation will appear soon.

  3. DEVIL BAT is hilarious. seek it soon.

  4. Yes, that one should be quote painless. And Fiona will dig the scent angle.

  5. chris schneider Says:

    I may have seen this, as a schoolchild, when I was willing to see literally ANYTHING with a monster in it. No memories remain, though. I am, however, prompted to think: “What are the best songs to be taken from non-musical — i.e. non ROCKY HORROR — science-fiction and monster pictures?” “The Words Get Stuck in My Throat” would certainly be on *my* list …

  6. A jaw-dropper. Spider Baby has a delightful novelty song, sung by Lon Jnr himself.

    I remember, as a kid, being thrilled by the clips of Reptilicus that would turn up on The Monkees. I think I watched entire episodes in hopes of seeing the big guy. THEN would have been the ideal time to see R.

  7. Excuse the digression, but I’ve just seen the announcement on Twitch of Eureka’s upcoming release of the new restoration of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, “which will include an audio commentary from David Kalat and a new video essay from David Cairns.” Woot! Hope I get to see this eventually! The restoration sounds (and, in the tidbits I’ve seen, looks) pretty incredible.

    http://twitchfilm.com/2014/06/gorgeous-new-trailer-for-das-cabinet-des-dr-caligari-re-release.html#ixzz33iLoeWLC

  8. Restored, it’s a whole new experience! Yes, was very happy to contribute, since the film keeps on giving, and I’ve always enjoyed Mr Kalat’s commentaries in the past.

  9. “The Words Get Stuck in My Throat” is pretty hard to sit through but when the ape from “War of the Garganutuas” appear it is worth it.

    I always liked “Look for a Star” in “Circus of Horrors.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVyKYPodql0

    Lon Chaney Jr a hoot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7RT9OGzXL4

    “JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET has love song about Uranus sung by Otto Brandenburg:

    I guess this is a cheat because CAPT INVINCIBLE is a musical parody with Christopher Lee singing “Name Your Poison” with dancing girls…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9se8i4ujs&feature=kp

    Lee and Alan Arkin don;t fare as well with “Mr. Midnight” from the same film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh_pCaOupSs

    And finally of course Burt Bacharach’s THE BLOB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzHDvzGmmw0

    I got intorgued and went searching for more sand found B-Sides: http://www.dreadcentral.com/b-sides#axzz33jdWXTCo

    Have fun

  10. Thanks! Above and beyond the call of duty. So far I’ve enjoyed the Not King Cole arrangement of Journey to the Seventh Planet, complete with MST3K-style heavenly body.

    I remember Lee’s solo number being the only good bit of Captain Invincible, which didn’t even have a reasonable number of songs…

  11. As a child, too young to see Circus of Horrors, I nonetheless *obsessed* on Look for a Star, had the 45 single, played it constantly, and staged intricate circus death scenes inferred from both the trailer and the novelization of the film (one of my prized possessions). I was particularly imaginative when re-staging Erika Remberg’s death plummet (the sequence in the movie to which Look for a Star is a bizarre counterpoint), in which I employed as the ill-fated aerialist a small plastic ballerina, originally a decoration surreptitiously saved from a young female friend’s birthday cake. I was ten.
    Or maybe, on further reflection, it was one of my own plastic ballerinas (I was a strange little boy).

  12. Delightful!!

    I need to write something substantial on Sid Hayers’ work some day, since like me he was Edinburgh-born. Circus of Horrors isn’t the best, but it’s probably the most significant, forming part of Anglo’s “Sadeian Trilogy.”

  13. Indeed. And Hayers also was responsible for the dream-like and haunting Night of the Eagle. But if you use the term ‘Sadean Trilogy’ please credit critic David Pirie, who coined it in his essential 1973 book A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946 – 1972. Which also contained the first proper appreciation of Night of the Eagle I had ever come across.

  14. I didn’t name him but I did put it in quotes to show I wasn’t the one who came up with it.

    Pirie’s book is excellent, though I was amused to find him so offended by Dr Phibes. He likes his horror Poe-faced, I guess.

  15. Heh heh. The “new” edition of his book is dreadful – typos everywhere and misinformation sprinkled throughout. In the index he confuses And Now the Screaming Starts… with Bride of Frankenstein, doubtless because Screaming Starts… was originally titled Bride of Fengriffen. The mistakes are that naff and clumsy.And he certainly has an idiosyncratic take on certain classics of the genre. But don’t we all.

  16. Oh, that’s tragic. 1) You can’t find good editors anymore in this country and 2) sounds like his brain’s gone a bit.

    A sad case is the book about George Roy Hill. The frst two-thirds is solid if stolid, but the updated but is sloppy beyond words — portrait of a declining mind.

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