Reptilicus (1961)

Reptilicus Title

Written and directed by Sidney W. Pink

Tagline: “A prehistoric beast born 50 million years out of time!”

Run Time: 81 min

To give you an idea of just how bad this movie is, consider that the film’s American distributor, the infamous American International Pictures (AIP) (who would distribute anything as long as they could make a buck), sued the director, Sidney Pink, over the overall low-quality of the film once it was sent to them from Denmark. Now that’s bad! Another bone of contention was the Danish actors’s accents. Although the Danish actors spoke English, AIP felt that the accent would be too distracting (in fact, test viewers didn’t even know the actors were speaking English until about 10 minutes into the film!). AIP forced Sidney Pink to re-dub all their lines. (Sidney Pink threatened to sue AIP in order to keep the original voices, but was eventually convinced to comply by other industry professionals who also saw the film and eventually agreed with AIP’s standpoint.)

The monster itself, Reptilicus, is truly one of the all-time worst ‘monsters’ in movie history. The ‘beast’ looks like a rubber snake, complete with stubby wings (scenes showing the monster flying were cut from the final release because they looked too ridiculous…considering how ridiculous the scenes look that were left in…I can only imagine how horrible they must have been), useless, tiny forearms, and driblets of saliva that are simply pieces of rubber glued to the corners of its mouth. The special effects are, to be kind, sub-par: the ridiculous, green, cartoon “acid-spit”, the horrible, cheap miniature ‘buildings’, the cartoon farmer that is hand-drawn into the monster’s mouth when he gets eaten…egads!

Oddly enough, a pornographic paperback book based on “Reptilicus” was published by a company called Monarch. (Kind of blows my mind.) The book tells the same story as the film except for some exceptionally hot sex scenes added into the plot in order to juice things up. Well, Sidney filed a lawsuit against the publishing company which was eventually settled out of court.

Now, let’s see what all this commotion is about: on to “Reptilicus”!

The Cast

The film opens with a narration by General Grayson, the man who eventually defeats Reptilicus at the end of the film. Grayson retells the story of that fateful day which began “somewhere in the forbidding Arctic tundra of Lapland” (2 points to anybody who knows where that is…). We are told that the opening scene does in fact take place “high about the Arctic Circle.” I find this geological discourse a bit odd because the next scene shows some Danish miners taking a core sample in a brightly lit deciduous forest while dressed in short-sleeves (!), but never mind.

ReptilicusThe crew chief, Svend, examines a fresh core sample and his hand comes away covered in blood. (Cue dramatic music and opening title credit. Thank you.) After pulling away some dirt, he pulls out a chunk of leathery skin that was wrapped around the drill bit. (Actually, pretty disgusting looking, I must say.)

Svend notices that bones are also mixed into the gooey mess, “…bones…fossil bones!”, he shouts. I have to wonder how Svend could think that the mess pulled up on the drill bit is a fossil. Fossils are of course petrified matter, while the goop he pulls from the bit is soft and bloody. If anything, it looks like they drilled into a giant worm, oh wait, that was “Tremors”…maybe I’ll just watch that movie instead.

Realizing that this is all a bit (no pun intended) unusual, Svend decides to report their findings, and to contact a paleontologist at the University in Copenhagen. He also asks an American co-worker what he makes of all this, since, “…as an American, you’ve drilled all over the world…” (?) (Yeah, I remember the good-old-days when Americans and Danes ran hand-in-hand high above the Arctic Circle in search of copper ore.) The American oddly suggests that since “it can’t be a living thing” they should just “let it be.” Svend, unconvinced, sagely notes that “There’s got to be an explanation.”

Well, yes Svend, I’m sure there is.

By the way, nobody is inclined to comment on the fact that the piece of bloody meat has started to throb and pulse…I personally would have found that noteworthy.

Our narrator further informs us that “within hours” two scientists have arrived to investigate. Wow! That’s a pretty good reaction time. The Copenhagen University Paleontology Department must have a 24-hour staff of on-call scientists if they could send 2 professors from Denmark to “high above the Arctic Circle” in just a couple of hours. Hell, it probably takes about an hour just to get to the airport!

ReptilicusWe learn that the scientists are in fact the esteemed Professor Martens from the Copenhagen Aquarium (!?), and his associate, Dr. Dalby. Tagging along with the scientists is Hans Carlsen, a newspaper reporter (!). (I never knew that finding a piece of skin on a drill bit would result in a front-page news story, but what do I know…)

The scientists cozy up to the fire and begin explaining their findings. It turns out that the prehistoric beast lies frozen in “a streak of icy muck.” (Prof. Dalby notes that this is “not unusual, really.” Huh?!)

But how to explain the blood and the thawed tissue that the drill bit pulled up? Prof. Martens conjunctures that the heat from the bit must have thawed it out. “Well, that explains it!” remarks a satisfied Svend.

Svend puffs on his pipe and is prepared to put the whole issue behind him but Prof. Dalby is a bit more excited about the find. Taking into consideration the fossil’s size and the characteristics of the skin sample, Dalby concludes that it must be a “giant reptile…and that is unique!” (Ummm…when you think about it, weren’t all dinosaurs “giant reptiles”?)

Anyway, Martens decides to ship the remains to the aquarium (??) where it can be studied. (Why he considers the aquarium a suitable facility to study the fossilized remains of a land-based reptile is beyond me.)

Ok, the trip to Denmark is simulated with some nice stock-footage of an airplane taking off, stock-footage of an airplane flying through the sky, and finally a nice stock-footage landing, all to the accompaniment of a nice violin concerto.

ReptilicusAfter arriving back at the aquarium in Copenhagen, Martens takes a walk through the various exhibits to admire the aquarium’s impressive collection of sea life. (I’m a little disappointed when he stops at the sea-turtle exhibit and startles them by rapping on the glass with his hand. I wouldn’t think that’s allowed, but he is the director…)

After irritating the turtles, Martens enters his office to a chorus of cheerful “Hello’s” from his underlings busily at work at their respective lab benches. Said ‘work’ comprises of looking at beakers of colored fluids and scribbling on clipboards, all in a very scientific manner, of course.

Professor Dalby is already at his desk, busily trying to reconstruct the fossilized animal from the recovered bone fragments. The two scientists exchange some Classic Lines while discussing the futility of trying to piece the creature together. Martens stubbornly refuses to believe what the bones indicate…that if they have in fact been put together correctly, it would be “unlike any other fossil creature ever found.” OK. I guess that could never happen, could it?

At that moment, the first of Martens’s daughters, Karen, bursts into the room wildly waving a telegram around. Hilarity ensues as she waves the telegram in the air while her father unsuccessfully tries to grab it so he can read it. Ha! Ha!

ReptilicusAs it turns out, the telegram is from “…that Svend…from Lapland”. Sven is personally bringing more bone fragments to the aquarium that very day, in fact, he’ll be arriving in an hour. (Isn’t it funny how that always happens in the movies? That people are “just arriving”…) Martens tells Karen that she is to pick Sven up from the airport, to which she teasingly asks if Svend is handsome. Ha! Ha! (So now we have established Karen as a flirt. I can only dream of what takes place in the Monarch edition of Reptilicus…)

Cut to Martens examining the new bone fragments while Svend and Karen watch. (I wonder how exciting it can be to watch somebody stare through a microscope. And really, what is Svend doing in all of this? He’s a miner; shouldn’t he just drop of the fragments and then get his butt back to Lapland?)

ReptilicusMartens is puzzled by the fragments, noting that they are “resiliant..yet very strong…almost like the cartilaginous bones of a shark.” If you say so, doc. Dalby excitedly informs Svend that the “frozen piece” has been freed from the “muck” (Is it just me, or does that all just sound a little un-scientific?). Furthermore, the “frozen piece” looks like a part of the creature’s tail. Either that or a moldy submarine sandwich.

Martens lets Svend peek through a window in the freezer door where he sees a, well, piece of a tail laying on a table. (It’s hard to tell how big this piece is suppose to be, but judging from the size of Reptilicus later in the film, I can’t imagine that this bit is from the same monster.)

While Svend, Martens, and Dalby exchange a bunch of silly scientific mumbo-jumbo, Karen pouts from the other side of the room because nobody is giving her any attention. Tired of all the talk of “frozen matters”, Karen offers to “…thaw [Svend] a little…”(!) by showing him around town. (Where can I get that Monarch paperback!?) to Karen’s great delight, Martens kindly offers to let Svend stay at his place while he is in town. (Once again, why is Svend needed at all? What would a drill-crew chief have to do with fossil research?)

At that moment, in comes Martens’s second hot daughter, Lise. She is there to introduce the new night watchman, Peterson, and immediately notices that Karen has corralled herself a new man. Lise slinks over to Svend and flirts a bit while Karen jealously clings to his arm. Offering to be Svend and Karen’s chaperon on the tour through the city, Svend is led out of the room by the sisters, each one eagerly taking him by an arm. (ho ho! My sides are killing me!)

As his daughters exit with the slightly overwhelmed Svend, Martens and Dalby watch from across the room with knowing smiles. Dalby wistfully mentions to Martens that he “envies that young man.” Martens nods and replies, “Yes…he will be busy now!” causing Dalby to chuckle and agree with a creepy “Oh yes!” (yuck! Dude! You’re talking about your boss’s daughters!)

At this point, the new night watchman, Peterson, strolls over and introduces himself to the professors. Peterson reassures Martens that he will do a good job by saying that he will be quick to investigate “…if anything fishy happens.” (Fishy..get it? Fishy. Aquarium. Ha Ha! Actually the actor who plays the bumbling watchman has appeared in over 100 films throughout the years. In fact, he was supposedly a popular comedian in Denmark, which helps explain his slap-stick performance in this film. Maybe he was funny in the right circumstances, but I just don’t think slap-stick comedy belongs in a monster movie.)

Dalby explains to Peterson that the most important responsibility that he has is to ensure that the freezer stays at a constant temperature. (Can anybody guess what’s going to happen? Dalby even notes that the freezer “runs electrically”…just in case you need a hint.) Peterson goes off to “get settled” and comes across an electric eel swimming in an open aquarium in the hallway (??). To remind us that he is a simple-minded, comical buffoon, Peterson says, “Everything around here runs on electricity.” (Har-dee-har-har!)

Cut to later that night where we see Peterson making his rounds. He enters the lab and taps on the thermometer dial to make sure everything is in order. (That was a pretty thorough check, I tell ya!). Dalby is working late that evening, staring through a microscope at…something… Dalby tells Peterson that he can watch over the remains since he’ll be working late anyway.

Cut to stock footage of a lightning bolt streaking across the sky. (Ed Wood, eat your heart out!)

We see by the clock on the wall that it is now about 3:30 am. An exhausted Dalby takes a break from his staring-through-a-microscope project he’s been working on and decides to go into the freezer and take a gander at the frozen tail. (Why does it seem that whenever a character is in a ‘freezer’ you can never see their breathe?)

Dalby approaches the tail, takes out a scalpel, and cuts a chunk from the frozen tissue (which is oddly quite thawed since he easily carves off a chunk of meat…isn’t this thing supposed to be frozen solid?)

More lightning, scribbling on a clipboard, and looking-through-a-microscope action commences, until finally, and I mean finally, something happens. Dalby puts his head down on the desk and takes a little cat nap. Of course, he hasn’t fully closed the freezer door, which now inexplicably creaks open on its own. (I have to wonder just how uneven the room must be for a heavy freezer door to swing open on its hinges…I’m surprised people are standing at a slant in that lab…)

Well, the clock now says it’s past 8:00 in the morning now and the tail has fully thawed while Dalby was asleep at his desk. (Wouldn’t somebody have shown up by now with such an important discovery waiting to be researched?)

Ok, yes, now somebody shows up for work. It’s Martens and his daughter Lise. (Why the hell is she always in the lab? Is she some sort of research assistant? Not that I mind, you see…she certainly is easy on the eyes…)

After they walk across the room and wake up Dalby, Lise notices the freezer door is wide open and that the tail has thawed out. (Doh!) Strangely, the end of the tail is hanging over the edge of the table, for some reason it has gotten bigger while it thawed out. Go figure. (And really, Lise and Martens entered the room via a door that faces the freezer itself, so how could they have not immediately seen that the freezer door was open?)

Now Martens is understandably pissed off. Seeing that the tail is ruined, Martens begins to chew out Peterson, thinking that it was him that has allowed this disaster to happen. Dalby steps in and admits that it’s his fault for dismissing Peterson and falling asleep at his desk.

While Martens continues to bitch and moan about the damage to the “tissue”, Lise notices that the wound is healing (bum! bum! bum!). (Maybe they should put her in charge of the project, she’s the only one that seems to notice anything around here…) On closer inspection, Martens realizes what has happened: “Granulation! It is alive!” (Mmmmkay…)

The next morning (I think), Martens is in his office talking to another hot woman (this movie may be stupid, but it sure is easy to watch, if you know what I mean). The visitor is none other than Connie Miller, an American delegate from UNESCO (a scientific branch of the United Nations). Martens leers at her and greets her by saying “We are not accustomed to such a beautiful woman connected to science!” (Don’t send angry emails to me…I didn’t write this movie) To reassert herself after this rather insulting remark, Connie informs Martens that she is “very confident in her field.” Ok, Connie. I’m convinced.

Reptilicus I guess somebody in the higher military echelons agreed with Connie’s assertion that “this could open up dangerous avenues of exploration (??)”, because the UN has also sent anotherAmerican to Denmark, none other than, drum roll, General Mark Grayson. (The Danish actor who plays Grayson hams it up pretty good in this movie. It’s damn near embarrassing to watch his portrayal of the squinty-eyed, hard-charging, American (with a capital ‘A’). )

Grayson is understandably a bit irritated at the whole situation seeing as nobody has told him why his was sent there in the first place. (The UN sends a Brigadier General on an international mission to watch over self-regenerating prehistoric tissue…and nobody bothers to tell him why he’s being sent?)

Martens reassures the cantankerous General that his questions will be answered at the news conference. The professor then introduces the General to Connie and Lise. (In a lovely example of terrible blocking, the Professor and the General walk all the way around the back of the desk in order to get back in a position to greet the women.)

Lise, wishing him a pleasant stay in Denmark, is greeted by the General saying “I believe the shorter the stay, the happier for me… offense.” (Hey, General, when a hot woman is trying to be nice to you, maybe you should try being polite in return.)

Dissolve into the, *ahem*, ‘press conference’ scene. We see that around 10 ‘reporters’, most of which look like they are maybe second-year college students, have gathered to hear about this amazing self-regenerating tissue. Martens drops the bombshell and informs the gathered press that the tissue is alive and has doubled in size…(these words are met with a great mumbling and murmuring from the press.) Furthermore, the tail is being held in a “nutrient tank” in an adjoining room. (That really just doesn’t seem like such a great idea to me, but what do I know?).

When the disbelieving General Grayson condescendingly asks if they have a name for it (a tail needs a name?), one of the reporters suggests “Reptilicus Martenus” (Hey! That’s the title of the movie! What a coincidence!) Martens then escorts the group out of his office, past the electric eel in the middle of the hall (!), and to a viewing platform where they can look into the tank and see the tail. The reporters gasp in amazement at what looks to be a tub of dirty bath water with something floating in the muck, er, I mean ‘nutrients’.

In order to remind us of what a sensational story this really is, we now get to see some ‘newspaper’ headlines from around the world:

Washington Gazette: Prehistoric Monster Growing In Huge Tank

il Popolo di Roma: Bestia preistorica nel acquario in Danimarca

Le Parisien: Reptilicus Est Regenerateur!

Berliner: Reptilicus Ungeheuer Lebt Und Wachst!

London Journal: Incubator Tank Feeds Monster From Past

So as you can plainly see, this is all pretty big stuff! I mean, “Reptilicus Ungeheuer Lebt Und Wachst!”, who can argue with that?!

Now we get a chance to catch our breathes after the exciting ‘newspaper headline’ scene. Grayson is reading the newspaper in his office (which looks a lot like Martens’s office but with slightly different furniture) and throws it down in disgust when he reads that he has been put in charge of “Protective Forces”. (Protection from what? A lizard tail?) Grayson reaffirms that he is a man of action, wait, an American man of action, sent on a bullshit mission “in command of two captains, three office boys, and a damn lizard!” (Well, don’t worry General, I’m sure you’ll be much happier when you’re sent to Viet Nam in a couple of years…)

We now fade to see Peterson, the night watchman, eating a sandwich and toying with a microscope. (Do they microscopes in the lunchroom? If not, did he just drop into somebody’s office and start eating?)

Now, just to remind us that Peterson is ‘funny’, we see him put a piece of his sandwich under the microscope and peer through the eye-piece (accompanied with playful, light music of course). Peterson sees a bunch of microbes or something swimming (!) around on his food and pulls his eye away in disgust (and then lets out a burp of indigestion). I want to remind you that this is all very funny. No really.

ReptilicusIn case you haven’t had enough of slapstick, we now see Peterson making his nightly rounds (which is odd since he passes a window which shows that it is broad daylight out, but never mind…). Of course, he happens to stop beside the bizarre electric eel display (‘hilariously’ marked by “High Voltage” signs, yet with no lid on the tank), and sticks his hand into the water. He is immediately shocked and begins to shout and make silly faces. Why is this funny? I don’t know, I’m not Danish.

Suddenly the moronic watchman hears a noise from the tail’s incubator room, panics, and sounds the alarm. Almost immediately everybody comes rushing into the hallway: Martens, Dalby, Grayson, Grayson’s military liaison to the Danish military, Captain Brandt, Svend (what the hell is he still doing there?!), Lise (!), and Karen (!). (It’s like a freakin’ cast party.) Martens peeks into the tank and calms the jumpy watchman by reassuring him that what he heard was merely “an involuntary embryonic movement.” Oh OK. I feel better already.

Fade away to see Martens back in his office, puffing on a cigarette, and reviewing his notes regarding the monster’s development. Apparently some time has passed, because now the beast has developed “huge, bony scales” and also has some sort of glands that secrete a slime with a “burning corrosive effect”. Despite these obvious warning signs, Martens orders that the nutrient flow be increased…and ominously notes that if reptilicus gets any bigger they will have to build a new tank…(cue ‘bum-bum-bum!’ music).

Back in General Grayson’s office, the bitter General is sitting at his desk grumpily reading another newspaper (somebody get this guy a life). He calls in his liaison, Captain Brandt, in order to bitch at him a bit. An observant Brandt, sensing that maybe what General Grayson needs is a little fresh air, suggests that he should get out and see the town a bit. (Which makes me wonder…has he been sitting in his office this whole time? He’s been there for days now…no wonder he’s such a grumpy SOB!)

Taking Brandt’s advice, Grayson takes a tour of Copenhagen, along with his new found American friend from UNESCO: Connie. (“…It was a bright move,” he stonily narrates as they drive through town, “she was a charming companion.” Boy, this guy is a real Romeo.)

We are now subjected to a long, long, sequence of scenes shot in Copenhagen. (If you ever considered visiting there, just watch this movie for a great idea of what Copenhagen is like. Seriously, this stuff is better than a lot of brochures I’ve seen at the travel agencies.) Of course, the charm of these scenes is somewhat tainted by the idiotic exposition between Grayson and Connie. (“….So many bikes! They say the Danes are born on bicycles!”)

ReptilicusTo cap it all off, we are treated to a cabaret show featuring none other than Birthe Wilke (Birthe was often featured in the popular European song contest called “Melody Grand Prix”). She charms us with a song entitled “Tivoli Nights”, so, if you are a big fan of Birthe Wilke, check it out. (It is rather odd how none of the restaurant patrons have a smile on their face. In a hilarious bit, one of the extras is temporarily blocked out by Birthe as she moves across the stage, so he remedies by leaning over in his chair in order to see the camera again…)

All of this would have been just wonderful except for one thing: I want to see a freakin’ monster movie! Not a travelogue!

After chewing up nearly 3 minutes (!) of run time with the tour of Copenhagen and the cabaret show, we return to our original monster movie: Reptilicus.

We now see that it is a stormy night: lightning flashes, thunder crashes, and the rain is coming down in buckets…which all seems a bit strange considering we just say Grayson, Brandt, and Connie strolling through the sunlit parks of Copenhagen. Hmmm, oh well.

ReptilicusProfessor Dalby is burning the midnight oil again, hard at work in the lab. This night we see that he has occupied himself not with squinting through a microscope but pouring some sort of colorful fluid from one test tube to another. Now that’s science!

As the lightning continues to flash, the lights begin to flicker in the lab. Alert viewers will now experience a nervous tension as they see a huge talon slowly rise from the sludge, sorry, nutrient fluid in the tank.

Time out. This incredible re-generating tissue that has made world headlines, and is now growing into some sort of never-before-seen prehistoric beast from just a bit of its tail (!), is nobody keeping an eye on it? I just can’t believe that there wouldn’t be some sort of around-the-clock monitoring of this historic event.

Anyway, the electricity finally goes out completely (show by stock footage of a fallen telephone pole). You would think that Denmark’s Aquarium in Copenhagen would have a backup power supply…wouldn’t you? We see a few quick shots of the darkened aquarium building (including a shot of the night watchman, Peterson, soundly asleep at his desk!), before the camera settles on a pulsating, snake-like creature, now having completely outgrown its tank.

Hearing something, the inquisitive Dalby goes out into the hallway to check on the tail. Seeing a huge shadow moving on the walls of the tank room, the (understandably) fearful professor runs back to the lab to call for help. The phone is dead of course (we see the same shot of the same toppled telephone pole…boy that is one multi-purpose pole!) and Dalby shouts for the snoozing Peterson to go to the police and get help.

After Peterson has left (on his bike…all Danes are born on bicycles you know), Dalby pulls out a pistol (!!) from his desk (A pistol? What kind of an aquarium is this?) and returns to the tank room. Just as the blaring horn music reaches its crescendo…

Cut to the police station where a soaked Peterson has just arrived in order to fetch help. The goof-ball watchman and the goof-ball police sergeant exchange some ‘zingers’ before the policeman finally realizes that Peterson is telling the truth. (I’ll spare you the ‘funny’ lines.) We do get a quick shot of reptilicus which is now as big as the entire aquarium building (!!). Man, that increase in nutrients really did the trick!

Back at the ruined laboratory, we see Martens, Grayson, Connie , and Lise (!) are gathered around looking for clues. Martens picks up Dalby’s crushed glasses from the floor, and a sad moment of silence ensues. (You will never see Reptilicus together with an actually actor during the whole film because, well, Reptilicus is a puppet, so any interaction with normal-sized people would look rather silly, even sillier than Reptilicus already looks.)

Ah yes, now we find out how Reptilicus grew so big so fast…Martens explains everything for us: “…maybe the electrically charged air of the thunderstorm…maybe the increased nutrient flow…” Yeah well, whatever it was, you sure screwed up this time, pal!

A stunned Martens takes his leave along with Connie, while Brandt appears out of nowhere to announce that they found reptilicus’s tracks and they “lead to the water…then they disappear.” (Wowyou found the tracks of a building-sized monster all on your own? Give this guy a medal!) Grayson enthusiastically announces that they now “have a fight on their hands!”, while he and Brandt go on to discuss where to set up a base of operations, and where else, the barracks of the Royal Guards. (This location gives the filmmakers the opportunity to insert stock-footage of said tourist destination in another travelogue moment…boy, they just don’t miss a beat, do they?)

Inside the, *ahem*, command room, we see a huge map covering a table in the middle of the room, while military officers discuss tactics and shout orders over the phones to their field units. All of this is observed by none other than Svend, who is standing at the head of the table chatting with General Grayson. (Not to beat a dead horse, but what the hell is he doing there? What possible constructive input could he provide?)

Grayson quiets everybody down and delegates responsibility to the appropriate personnel (Naval activity, crowd control, scientific advisers, and so on). All their preparations pay off as a phone suddenly rings. Grayson picks up the receiver and relays the news that, <gasp!>, Reptilicus has been spotted by a “small farm on the coast!”

Well this seems like a perfect opportunity for some stock footage. Soldiers pile into trucks (tossing blankets and sleeping bags (?) into the back), jeeps, and motorcycles. Artillery pieces are hastily mounted to their transport vehicles and rushed into position. You know, all that cool military stuff that is made even more exciting via stock footage.

ReptilicusMeanwhile, on the coast, a farmer looks down in shock at the severed head of a cow. At that moment, Grayson, Brandt, and yes, Svend (driving Grayson’s jeep!!!), pull up and pump the farmer for information. The farmer complains that Reptilicus ate 14 of his cows and “destroyed my barn!” (Your barn, you say? This means war!) Svend and Grayson jump back in the jeep and rush off to deal with the menace.

We now see various military units taking positions around the beach in order to find Reptilicus and blow him away. Said maneuvers are often executed with somewhat ‘non-military’ sounding orders, for example, “Cars seven and nine, follow me! The others…go that way!” Well, they get the job down in the end, I guess.

Brandt drives around a while and suddenly spots a gigantic (puppet) tail slithering out of sight behind some (obviously miniature) houses, and reports this to Grayson. As Brandt describes what he saw, he stops in mid-sentence, his mouth opens in amazement, and he mutters “My God!” in amazement at the sight of Reptilicus (which is of course not shown to us. It’s also pretty funny how the military ‘extras’ sitting in the jeep still look just as bored as they have throughout the whole scene. I guess they couldn’t be bothered to even try to act scared.)

Well, after over 40 minutes of waiting, we finally get to see the mighty Reptilicus. What a let down.


Reptilicus in all its glory

Need I say any more? Reptilicus screams and roars while he shakes his head back and forth in not-too-threatening manner. (It’s now that I would have loved to have seen the removed scenes showing Reptilicus flying through the air…that would have made for some great screen shots)

Meanwhile, Grayson orders the assembled military forces to open fire on Reptilicus; a command that they eagerly obey. (One can imagine the relief the ‘extras’ must have felt at finally being able to fire their weapons after appearing in some many boring scenes.) Feel like some more stock footage? Ok, you get a good wad of it here…plenty of people firing tanks and machine guns while scenes of Reptilicus-puppet are interspersed with the ‘action’. We even get to see Reptilicus spit some of his deadly cartoon-acid-spit in the general direction of the soldiers.

Grayson sees the mighty beast withstand barrage after barrage of fire-crackers, I mean, artillery rounds, yet it stands its ground. (Grayson says to Svend that he better be “ready to get out of here in a hurry!”, something I’m sure theater-goers were in complete agreement with.)

Apparently getting bored with all the stock footage, Reptilicus turns around and slithers off towards the beach. An exasperated Grayson can only shake his head in amazement, noting that they “didn’t even dent it! Those bony scales are like armor plates!” The eager American General seems very pleased that they may now require more firepower, but at the last moment, he has a light-bulb moment and decides to try and intercept Reptilicus at the beach.

Svend and Grayson jump into the jeep and drive off only to pull up and stop in what looks to be the exact same spot they were just at (but that couldn’t be, because Grayson helpfully informs us that “Well…we’re here!”). Suspending disbelief and accepting the fact that they are now in position to cut off Reptilicus (really, again, how can you lose track of something that enormous?!), Svend and Grayson scan the horizon, looking for a sign of the onerous creature.

There it is! Reptilicus is attacking a farmhouse and has eaten the farmer! In probably the lamest special effects ever, a cartoon farmer is drawn into the puppet’s mouth. My Lord, this is a bad movie:


How often do you see a puppet eat a cartoon?

As the tanks, jeeps, machine guns, and other equipment finally arrives (including a car with Connie and Lise inside !!), Grayson jumps out of his jeep, runs over to tank and dons a flame-thrower (!!). (Lead by example, I guess.) Grayson has the tank move into position and then lets loose with the flame-thrower. Reptilicus, engulfed in flames, screams in pain and slides off into the sea to recover…

Back at headquarters, Grayson and Martens are going over what little information that they have. Grayson, pointing to a picture of a brontosaurus that looks like it was torn out of a child’s ‘dinosaur book’, says that Reptilicus is a cross between “one of these and an amphibious reptile.” Martens sagely adds that he believes “Reptilicus is an attempt by Mother Nature to bridge the gap between reptile and mammal.” (Exactly which mammal would you be referring to?) To make a long story short (but not short enough!), Grayson wants to install a camera on a Navy patrol boat and scan the area around the beach. Fair enough.

This seems like a great opportunity for some stock footage of the Danish Navy. Sure enough, we see various ships cruising the sea, while officers scan the horizon for any signs of Reptilicus.

Once again, we see Svend and Grayson back at headquarters, exchanging some Classic Lines (lines that make me glad not to have read the paperback version of ‘Reptilicus’…). We learn that it has been a week since Reptilicus retreated to the safety of the ocean. (Wow! A week’s worth of Navy stock footage…you have no idea how exciting that is!)

Finally, one of the boats spots the monster lounging on the sea bottom. Grayson orders them to execute Plan A (Oh man, I wish he would have said “Plan 9”! Wasn’t meant to be…). Plan A appears to consist of firing depth charges on the slumbering monster. (Reptilicus is quietly taking a nap beside a toy ‘sunken ship’…I’m surprised they didn’t have one of those ‘skeletons’ in a deep-sea diving suit that you see in aquariums at the pet store.)


Reptilicus sleeps nearly as soundly as the viewer

While all this ‘action’ is taking place, Martens, working in his lab, hears the explosions. (Good ears for an old man.) He runs outside the aquarium’s front doors and looks over to see the Navy ship dropping the depth charges. (He’s got pretty good eye-sight too!) Realizing that if they blow up Reptilicus each piece will grow into a new monster, Martens sprints down to the seaside in order to stop the attack. (The beach is full of people lounging on the beach…so much for crowd control!). Martens runs across the beach, jumps up into a Navy boat, and promptly has a heart attack (!!). (Doh!)

At headquarters, Connie also warns Grayson of the dangers of such an attack (I wonder why Martens, Grayson’s designated ‘Scientific Adviser’, never mentioned the fact that Reptilicus shouldn’t be blown up before…seems like it’s a little too late to mention it now, eh?), but she is quickly told to stay out of it and let the military do its job. Connie sticks to her guns, and finally gets it through Grayson’s thick skull that he must stop the bombardment.

ReptilicusSeeing the folly of his ways, Grayson radios the boats and orders them to stop dropping depth charges on Reptilicus. Unsurprisingly, it is too late, as we see one final bomb explode right beside the monster, then see a bloody ‘claw’ floating down to the bottom of the fish tank, er, sea bottom.

Grayson abashedly admits that he just wanted to get Reptilicus while he was weakened…an admission which is met with understanding looks from Svend and Lise. At that moment, the phone rings and Svend answers it. (Just make yourself at home, Svend…). With a concerned look, he hangs up and informs Lise that her father has just had a heart attack and is at the hospital. (Somebody called ‘Reptilicus Battle Command Headquarters’ to report that the aquarium director has had a heart attack??!! I would think they would want to keep the lines clear for more important calls, but anyway…)

Grayson offers to take the distraught Lise to the hospital, but suddenly realizes that he has “work to do”, and instead asks Connie to take her. (Gee whiz, General, you mean you might have more important things to attend to at the moment? How in the hell did this dope ever make General?)

Later that night (or is it? It’s not clear how much time elapses from scene to scene…another sign of a ‘good’ bad movie), we see Grayson, still at headquarters, wearily filling out paperwork. (Exactly which forms does someone fill out in a situation like this?) Svend, asleep at his desk (?), doesn’t awake when the shapely Connie returns from the hospital and suggests that Grayson take a break since it’s been “over two weeks”. (He’s been filling out paperwork for 2 weeks?!) Grayson agrees that maybe he should call it a night, and happily mentions that they have finally emplaced a ring of observation posts so there is no way Reptilicus can move without being seen. As they are leaving, Grayson suggests that they let the exhausted Svend rest since he’s been “knocking himself out” for the last 2 weeks. (What in the hell has he been doing? He’s a freakin’ miner for cripes sake!)

Suddenly Brandt bursts in and reports that “a skipper of a Swedish trawler” has been attacked by Reptilicus! Let the games begin!

We cut to stock footage scenes of capsized boats while Grayson exposits via narration that “Reptilicus was on the rampage…we never saw him…but we saw the trail of death and destruction that he left behind.” (Umm…what about the ring of observation post you were bragging about earlier…have they made any…um…observations?)

Next we see a beach somewhere on the Danish coast. The beach is packed with bathers, which seems rather unusual considering the fact that a gigantic, acid-spitting, prehistoric monster is lurking in the waters destroying entire villages and sinking ships nearly every day.

ReptilicusTwo young bathers standing beside a back-projection shot of a tank of water (this scene is really, really, poorly done.) exchange amorous looks when, suddenly, Reptilicus’s head pokes out of the water! (How could somebody not see a 200-foot tall monster from a distance of 20 feet?)

Reptilicus shoots some green-cartoon spit on them and they are killed (I guess, the results the acid spit are never shown). Seeing the monster rising from the water, the bathers panic and flee, and military headquarters is informed of the attack.

In response to Reptilicus’s reappearance, the residents of Copenhagen are ordered to stay indoors and maintain a “complete blackout” (?). These news announcement are of course accompanied by military stock footage of tanks and artillery being positioned throughout the city. (I actually remember reading somewhere that the Danish military actually spent the time ‘setting up positions’ on various locations exclusively for the filming of ‘Reptilicus’…a generous gesture to say the least…especially considering the overall quality of the final product.)

After over a minute of watching men sitting in position looking for Reptilicus (and believe me, watching people who are themselves watching is not terribly exciting…) an anxious soldier finally (finally!!!) spots Reptilicus poke his head up over a hill top in the distance. Grayson responds to the threat by giving “all units” the command to “fire at will”. (Even those that don’t see Reptilicus? Can they fire if they just want to have some fun?)

Suddenly we see that Reptilicus is actually at the outskirts of Copenhagen itself! (I suspect some ‘flying’ scenes were mercifully removed from this sequence.) Soldiers open fire on the beast with all manner of weapons while scenes of panicked citizens are interspersed with the ‘action’. (Weren’t people told to stay indoors? I mean, the streets are packed with people in these scenes!)

I will give the filmmakers credit for rounding up an impressive number of extras. There are literally hundreds of people running around in ‘panic’. It’s too bad that several of them are noticeably smiling and looking into the camera while they run by…

Anyway, a frustrated Grayson realizes that they can not use heavy artillery because of the potential for collateral damage to Copenhagen (but isn’t Reptilicus destroying the city anyway? So what if you blow up a few buildings by a stray artillery round?) Grayson instead relays the order to use flame-throwers (!). Grayson is quickly told by Svend (who is manning the radio!) that the field commanders can’t get close enough to engage Reptilicus with the flame-throwers because of the “acid slime”! Grayson quickly orders the others to “take other measures!” and they scurry from the room in order to carry out the command. (Wow! Thanks for clearing that up, sir!)

Reptilicus, in the mean time, has been busy making his way deeper into Copenhagen. In fact he has now reached a huge-draw bridge in the middle of town across which a rush of desperate refugees are fleeing. The bridge controller turns around and sees the approaching Reptilicus and starts raising the bridge.

I have to question the utility of that decision…what is raising the bridge supposed to accomplish? I can only assume the bridge operator is trying to hinder Reptilicus’s further advances into the city. However, Reptilicus can fly and swim, so what’s the point? The only thing the operator does is cut off the refugees’ escape route across the river.

ReptilicusOnce again, I will give credit to the makers of this scene…this shot was obviously filmed for this movie, and actually shows people jumping across the ever widening gap between the 2 halves of the bridge, and even some brave cyclists plunging over the edge at least 50 feet down into the waters below! Those Danish extras certainly have balls!

Luckily Svend and Grayson have driven to the bridge, rush up the tower and take over the controls from the operator who is cowered against a wall with his hands over his eyes (!!!). Luckily, Svend is there (remember he is the drill chief who can do just about anything). Svend takes over the bridge controls and sets the bridge back into place, allowing the sea of extras to continue onward.

Grayson looks out the window of the control tower and sees that Reptilicus has plunged down into the river and is hiding under the water. (Why we still see machine-gunners firing into the air is unexplained. Well, actually, Grayson did give the order to “fire at will”…so maybe they just wanted to fire.)

Grayson and Svend rush back to headquarters and storm into the war room (if you ever see this movie, notice how Grayson literally throws open the door with all his strength, just barely avoiding bashing the door into an extra standing just inside the door way…) He suggests that they flush Reptilicus out of the city and into the open where they can pulverize him with heavy artillery. (Just a minute…didn’t they just blow him up with depth charges about a week ago? Have they already forgotten that each bit of Reptilicus will grow into a new monster? Stupid movie.)

ReptilicusWell, Reptilicus has had other ideas: namely to attack the Danish Stock Exchange! While Grayson directs the artillery fire onto Reptilicus, the beast topples the huge bell tower on top of the exchange building (and directly onto its own head…a scene that doesn’t do much to re-enforce the idea that Reptilicus is anything more than a doofus.)

OK, this is all starting to get a little tedious actually, which is not a good sign when this sequence is supposed to be the big ‘pay-off’ action scene that the entire film has been building up to…

Anyway, Reptilicus continues to bash down cardboard houses and buildings using his head as his primary mode of attack (I bet he suffers from a lot of migraines). All these ridiculous scenes are intercut with stock footage of guns firing and soldiers running around doing assorted things, all of which don’t seem much related to the action on the screen.

Ok, we hear over the radio (because they filmmakers didn’t dare try to show it) that Reptilicus has left the city and is heading out to the suburbs. Back at headquarters, Grayson rescinds his command to “fire at will” and instead forbids anybody to fire on Reptilicus unless he, and he alone, gives the order to fire. (Why? And by the way, doesn’t Denmark have an air force? Couldn’t they drop fire bombs on it? What’s taking so long to kill this stupid thing?)

Reptilicus pops his head up again, somewhere out in the suburbs (how in the world does the military lose track of Reptilicus? It’s not like he can just put on a dark pair of sunglasses and melt into the crowd…). Of course, a pair of nervous soldiers open fire on the monster and get covered in acid-slime for their efforts. Their gunfire also has the detrimental effect of attracting Reptilicus’s attention, thus turning him back towards the city. (Oh brother…can we just get on with it already?!)

An exhausted Grayson, surrounded by his advisers, is now at the end of his rope and considers bombing Reptilicus to bits with “a bomb”. (Very good, General, yes, I suppose a bomb would be in order if you wanted to blow something up.) Just as he is about to give the order, in limps Martens, helped along by his daughter Karen. Martens has apparently recovered from his heart attack and returns just in time to stop the insane order of trying to kill Reptilicus with a bomb. (“I’m a soldier, Doctor Martens, not a scientist…that’s the way I know how to kill!” Grayson remarks.)

This scene plays out for a while…as with every monster movie of this period there has to be the inevitable showdown between ‘Military’ and ‘Science’. Martens and Grayson exchange icy remarks until Grayson, listening to the sounds of screams from the radio, dejectedly says, “How long do you expect me to continue this hell?” (I agree, I’ve been watching this movie for a little over 70 minutes, and I too have had a enough…) Martens nearly collapses from the strain, and is lead out of the room by Lise and Karen.

While the ‘drama’ unfolds in war room, Reptilicus is busy crushing cardboard houses and basically making a nuisance of himself. Lise returns to headquarters and mentions that her father has received an injection and is recovering from the strain. With the help of a oh-so-witty remark from Svend, Grayson hits upon the idea of drugging Reptilicus! Connie says that they would need “about a gallon” of the drug (what drug it actually is, is never mentioned).

ReptilicusWhatever. Everybody heads over to the University Lab (Copenhagen University has only one lab?) in order to get as much of this “stuff” as they can. They find out that there isn’t enough “stuff” at the lab, so Connie and Lise get busy mixing colorful fluids in test tubes and beakers. Yes, they are whipping up the drug right on the spot. You go, girl!

To say that this scene looks a little unbelievable is a slight understatement. Not that because they are women, but, come on, they just run into the first lab they find and start whipping up a freakin’ gallon of some sort of reptile tranquilizer from scratch? Give me a break!

Ok, suspending disbelief now, the batch is finished and Grayson pours the liquid into a bazooka shell. Yes, he is going to inject the drug into Reptilicus by shooting a bazooka shell into its mouth. (We find out that Sven has contributed to the effort by removing the explosives from the rocket head to make room for the tranqualizer…man, that guy can do everything!)

On the way out of the University, Grayson bumps into Brandt and explains his plan. Brandt agrees that it might work, but to shoot the rocket into Reptilicus’s mouth would require somebody to fire the rocket “…point blank! At very close range!” (Isn’t that a bit redundant?) They agree that it must be attempted, so they rush off to intercept Reptilicus in the town square.

Ok, they reach town square and line up to fire the rocket into the gaping maw of the beast. (Who do you think fires the rocket? I expected Svend to do it, but it’s actually General Grayson. I also can’t explain why Connie and Lise came along, it seems like pointlessly putting them into danger…)

ReptilicusJust as Grayson is about to fire, an ambulance comes racing across the square, distracting Reptilicus and drawing it back into the city…and out of range of the bazooka. Damn! Brandt, desperate to lure the monster back into the square, jumps into a jeep and drives straight up to Reptilicus. The ruse works, but Reptilicus crushes Brandt in the process (his heroic sacrifice lives on to this very day in Danish legends..)

Grayson takes aim and fires the rocket directly into the beast’s mouth. The drug takes effect, Reptilicus wobbles, and eventually topples to the ground unconscious. (I’m a little curious about what they plan on doing from here…and by the way, if this battle was so dangerous, maybe the director could have stopped people from riding their bikes in the background of the shot while the filmed it…)

As triumphic music swells in the background, Connie and Grayson stand and stare into the distance. Safe for the time being Grayson remarks, “It’s a good thing that there’s no more like him.”

Yes, and it’s a good thing that they’re aren’t any more films like this one either.

But wait!

We see a shot of the sea bottom, something is laying there, something pulsating…it’s a claw! A claw from Reptilicus! bum!-bum!-bum!

The end.

Dennis Grisbeck (May 2005)

As noted earlier in this review, the scenes with the extras were impressive and well coordinated, but somebody should have told them not to smile as they passed the camera.
What is with this Svend dude? He’s a copper miner, working up in Lapland for God’s sake, who happens to stumble across a fossil in the muck. Instead of just delivering the fossil to the University and getting back to work, he spends weeks in Copenhagen doing…what? I can say that I saw him:
Serving as a radio operator in the war room.
Relaying orders from Grayson to the field commanders.
Driving Grayson around in a jeep from battle to battle.
And finally, removing explosives from a bazooka warhead to make room for reptile tranquilizer.
Go Svend, go!
One other thing I noticed: They were terribly concerned with ‘bits’ of Reptilicus growing into new monsters (which in fact they did after Reptilicus was blown up by the depth charges). Yet, the first bit of Reptilicus was grown in a nutrient tank and required \”electrified air\” from a thunderstorm in order to get some final \”growth spurt\”. These seem like special conditions indeed, which makes it seem unlikely that a ‘bit’ of the monster could just grow out of nothing.
By the way, just what type of ‘dinosaur’ is Reptilicus? Good grief! What a freak!
Yeah, ok, I could point out more things. Just see the movie if you dare, if not for the crappy special effects than at least for Professor Martens’ daughters. (Give me a break! I have to have something to enjoy while watching these crappy movies!)”);


2 comments to Reptilicus (1961)

  • RIck Sherman

    I think I was around eight years old when I saw this movie. It was the first monster movie I ever saw and I LOVED it. I was hooked. I had not seen anything with special effects before so I wasnt deterred but I have to admit that I thought the cartoon farmer being eaten was a bit hokey. I was doing an image search for deep sea diving suites and stumbled on to this site. I will be wasting an inordinate amount of time entertaining my inner preadolescent.

  • guts3d

    …Well, Reptilicus has had other ideas: namely to attack the Danish Stock Exchange! While Grayson directs the artillery fire onto Reptilicus, the beast topples the huge bell tower on top of the exchange building (and directly onto its own head…a scene that doesn’t do much to re-enforce the idea that Reptilicus is anything more than a doofus.)

    Priceless! Nice review, Dennis! We can all take a page from Svend’s book and be a true Jack of all trades!

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