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Anchor Bay presents
The Reptile (1966)

"No, I will not leave you alone, Dr. Franklyn. You should have thought of that before you started meddling in things that do not concern you."
- Malay (Marne Maitland)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: August 21, 2000

Stars: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce
Other Stars: Ray Barrett, John Lurie
Director: John Gilling

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (moderate violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:02s
Release Date: November 02, 1999
UPC: 013131068290
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CD+B+ B-

DVD Review

The Reptile is a 1966 Hammer Films production starring Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel as Harry and Valerie Spalding, a young couple who inherit Larkrise Cottage following brother Charles Spalding's mysterious death. They befriend an eccentric old man called Mad Peter (John Laurie), but he soon passes away of the same "Black Death" that claimed Charles' life. Shortly afterwards they encounter their theologian neighbor, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and his ominous manservant Malay (Marne Maitland). Anna seems troubled and leaves a note requesting the Spaldings' help, but when Harry goes to the Franklyn mansion he is attacked by a hideous snake creature and nearly dies. With the assistance of village bartender Tom (Michael Ripper), Valerie goes to the house to investigate, but she is too late as Anna's dark secret comes to light.

Unfortunately, The Reptile is not one of Hammer's stronger efforts. The physical production is up to the studio's usual standards, with good lighting and naturalistic sets, but the creature makeup is a little hokey and the "Black Death" effects call The Jazz Singer to mind. Mild blood effects are unconvincing, with a bite wound to Harry Spalding's neck displayed on his shirt collar rather than his actual neck, though Hammer's traditional mastery of on-set fire is displayed to advantage.

The script is stilted and predictable, and the performances follow along the same lines (although a briefly-seen parish priest character is charmingly perfunctory in his funeral proclamations). Noel Willman plays Dr. Franklyn as The Compleat Bastard with no moral shading to make him interesting, the Spaldings seem hopelessly naïve, and Anna isn't given enough screen time to make her a tragic or even sympathetic figure. Director John Gilling tries to generate some excitement, but the story holds few surprises and depends on some awkward contrivances: the Spaldings live close enough to town for Tom to visit on a regular basis but are completely isolated when they need help, there are NO medical doctors in the area, and Harry's apparent ability to recover from the "Black Death" is never explained (presumably it has something to do with his military service).

The Reptile is a purely average old-fashioned monster movie, predictable and uninspired despite its Hammer pedigree. Most horror fans will find little of interest here, though it might be a good choice for younger buffs, as it has some scary moments without being truly gory or excessively violent.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents The Reptile in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio with an anamorphic transfer, and the dual-layered disc provides plenty of bandwidth. Unfortunately, what ought to be a fine transfer suffers from major compression problems—while the slightly-hyperreal colors and detail are generally well-preserved, this is one of the most unstable DVD images I've seen. Many scenes have "floating" picture elements—bright spots against black backgrounds are particularly prone to unwanted movement, and even human faces suffer as features shift around in relation to each other. The disc appears to have an interlacing problem of some kind as well, which may exacerbate the other image issues, and color shifts during dissolves are quite noticeable. Some scenes look good, if a bit soft, and the source print is quite clean for a 1966 film. But motion artifacts, occasional smeariness and general instability combine to make this an unsatisfying visual experience.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The Reptile features a Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic soundtrack, ProLogic-decoded to play through the center speaker. There's a bit of hiss and crackle in spots, but the track is otherwise nicely mastered with a surprising degree of bass activity. Dialogue and sound effects are clear and Don Banks' suitably Hammer-esque orchestral score comes through powerfully. Given the age of the film, it sounds fairly good.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:02m:27s

Extra Extras:
  1. World of Hammer: Vamps
Extras Review: Anchor Bay provides The Reptile with a generous 23 chapter stops, simple text menus, and a reproduction of a poster from the film's double-feature theatrical release with Rasputin—The Mad Monk on the keepcase insert card. Other supplements include:


The Reptile's original theatrical trailer is presented in a nice 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, though the source print is scratched throughout, the trumped-up narration oversells the film, and the ending cuts off a bit abruptly.

TV Spots:

Of more interest are two black-and-white TV spots used to promote the U.S. double-feature release of The Reptile and Rasputin—The Mad Monk, presented with windowboxed 1.33:1 anamorphic images. These twenty- and sixty-second promos are hilarious, promoting a "Free Rasputin Beard!" giveaway "for guys and gals alike!" at participating cinemas. The thought of a theatre full of boys and girls wearing fake beards and pretending to be the notorious Rasputin had me rolling in the aisle—big bonus points to Anchor Bay for this hilarious bit of nostalgia!

The World of Hammer: Vamps:

The most substantial supplement is yet another 24-minute episode of The World of Hammer, the 1990 "Best of British - " TV series narrated by Oliver Reed that seems to be a standard component of Anchor Bay's "Hammer Collection" releases. This episode is entitled Vamp and focuses on female vampires with clips from several Hammer productions, including Brides of Dracula; Dracula; Dracula, Prince of Darkness; Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter; The Kiss of the Vampire; The Vampire Lovers; Lust for a Vampire; and Twins of Evil. This episode isn't particularly enlightening, consisting solely of film clips with occasional voice-overs by Reed, and it gives away some of the best moments of the films involved; oddly, The Reptile is not mentioned in the program, though its inclusion here is a reasonable thematic fit. Note that there's a brief bit of nudity in this program, as is generally acceptable on British television.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The Reptile is a relatively minor and predictable Hammer effort, though the bug-eyed title creature provides for some memorable imagery. Anchor Bay's DVD suffers from some bizarre image problems, though the supplements help make up for it. An acceptable rental if you're looking for a relatively kid-safe horror movie; otherwise recommended for Hammer completists only.


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