Reptilicus (1961)

Well its not often you come across a mainstream Danish flick, let alone a Danish monster flick, and yet here we are. Interestingly there are actually two versions of this movie, a Danish version directed by Poul Bang and an America version directed by Sidney Pink. Apparently the same cast had to do the same scenes both in English and Danish, which seems a bizarre decision. The American version also had new scenes shot with extra gore, more dialog, removed original Danish scenes and dubbed over the Danish actors. The Danish version had more shots of the young cast in swimsuits for one scene, and more comedic relief from Danish comedic actor Dirk Passer. Overall the US version seemed to cut out more footage whilst adding weaker stuff in the process.

But what’s it all about? I hear you say, well take a guess. I think this basic idea must be the most over used idea in movie history. Some Danish miners discover an ancient fossil (part of a tail) deep underground, frozen; they quickly fly it to Copenhagen for various old scientist blokes to examine. No one knows what it is but they know to keep it frozen. Alas some dumbass allows the fossil to thaw because he leaves the door open to the cold room. When this is discovered the scientists realise the fossil is regenerating, somehow, so they just let this happen apparently. Before you can say holy Godzilla rip-off! the creature has fully regenerated, escapes and is now running amok in downtown Copenhagen. Yes it really is that simple.


Now let me just start by saying there will be some piss taking here because this movie was pretty bad, but I do this in a loving way. So the effects, my God the effects; the monster in question is simply a marionette on strings/rods. I’ll just let that sink in there, yes that’s right its a puppet…and boy can you tell. The creature is supposed to be a cross between a large reptile and a Brontosaurus I think, but it comes out looking more like a skinny, tatty dragon. The monster lurches around some very obvious model sets and merely slams into them with its head, causing them to topple over likes models do. Another silly factor being you only ever see its head and neck at any one moment (unless you see the Danish version which has a flying monster), we never really see its body. This makes it even more obvious that its a puppet because you can almost see the marionette rods popping out from behind the models.

The film suffers from that aspect where some shots actually look OK, but others are bloody terrible. Now if you’re watching the US version you will also see extra footage specially added by the Yanks or whoever. That being green acid which the monster spits at the hordes of Danish troops. The acid in question is actually a very crudely superimposed effect that has been tacked on after the films completion. One minute you see a shot of Danish troops, the next some green goo seems to hit the camera lens and apparently the troops in question are dead. Along with that is probably one of the most horrific effects I’ve come across. The monster manages to scoop up some poor Dane and eat them, but the human in question seems to be an actual paper cut out or crayon-like drawing of a person. It clearly doesn’t even go into the monsters mouth because its clearly a tacked on horrendous effect. It happens fast but its so so bad looking it sticks out by a good country mile.


What makes everything so stupid is the fact that the monster can’t be killed with traditional methods. The reason being if a limb is lost or a chunk of the beast comes away, apparently that piece of monster will start to regenerate itself into yet another monster…because reasons. So there is no way in hell that you could possibly try to blow it up or shoot it or whatever. Cue a shit load of stock footage and real footage of troops firing guns, machine guns, tanks, anti-aircraft guns…the whole fecking enchilada. The monster even retreats into the sea at one point but they still go after it…with depth charges! (oy vey!). Yet despite this constant (and I mean constant) bombardment from the Danes the monster never seems to get hurt or loose any body parts. Hell it doesn’t even rampage that much, merely sits behind buildings and slams its head into things as if its retarded or something. In the end the monster is poisoned but not before a limb is blown off leaving the film open ended.

So other than the hilariously bad monster sequences what else is there? Well there are a whole load of scenes inside a main HQ type room where military leaders and scientists discuss things whilst Copenhagen gets crushed. This happens often, blokes standing around in suits and uniforms; with a large map with little toy soldiers on it, talking in a gruff manner. The more serious we act, the more shit gets done. But the really good bit, the highlight of the show has to be the travelogue section. Yes midway through this extravaganza we are treated to a sequence where some of the characters enjoy Copenhagen (more specifically Tivoli) by day and night. This overly long sequence shows us various landmarks in Copenhagen and generally what a great place is it (before its ruined by a gigantic reptilian dinosaur). It all ends in a nightclub in Tivoli with a musical number that has also accompanied this visual holiday brochure the whole time.

I saw the US version here so I can only wonder at how superior the Danish version might be (ahem!). This is really one of those tight corners you tend to get forced into when reviewing these old cult sci-fi/horror/monster flicks. On one hand the movie is generally complete garbage, none of it makes any real sense, nothing adds up and it honesty looks dreadful. Yet on the other hand some of the effects are quaint and charming, the acting is so bad its enjoyable and finding gaping plot holes is fun. I can’t really give this a top score because it is legitimately poor (the modified US version anyway), but it just about makes it into the ‘so bad its good’ bracket.




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