Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reptile (The) (Blu-ray) (1966)

A deadly epidemic is spreading through the remote Cornish village of Clagmoor Heath. As darkness falls, its victims are found foaming at the mouth with savage wounds upon their necks. After his brother becomes another fatality, Harry Spalding travels to Clagmoor to investigate his sibling's mysterious death. With little help from the superstitious locals, Harry follows a trail of macabre intrigue that leads him to the sinister Dr Franklyn, his strange but beautiful daughter and a truly horrific family secret. Released in 1966, The Reptile is Hammer Horror at its most nightmarish and bizarre.


The Reptile (1966) was filmed back-to- back with The Plague of the Zombies and used many of the same sets, including the main Cornish village set, which was constructed on the back lot of Bray Studios, Berkshire, i.e. the production went nowhere near Cornwall! Interestingly, though filmed together, they weren't released together. The Reptile was released on a double-bill, with Rasputin: The Mad Monk, while The Plague of the Zombies was partnered in a double-bill with Dracula: Prince of Darknessand had been released 3 months earlier.

In a similar manner to my earlier review of The Plague of the Zombies, I'm not going to give a full blown analysis of the film. If you want that, there are plenty of other film reviews available on the internet already. Instead, I'm simply going to list a few points which I found of particular interest:

- The pre-credits sequence is nicely mysterious and really pulls you into the film

- I loved the first time we enter the pub: they don't like strangers in these parts. It reminded me of The League of Gentlemen!

- The storyline is very similar to The Plague of the Zombies. A man dies under mysterious circumstances. His relative arrives and ends up digging up the corpse in an attempt to find out the truth.

- John Laurie (probably best known for his portrayal of Private James Frazer in Dad's Army) is great as Mad Peter Crawford.

- Despite the fact that the same sets were used for The Plague of the Zombies, it certainly looks like director John Gilling purposely chose different shooting angles for each. I particularly noticed this in the cemetery and Franklyn's home.

- Something Anna Franklyn (Jacqueline Pearce) says of her Father in the past tense really threw me off the mark as I sought to work things out before the final reveal. To say any more though would spoil it though!

- I loved the big reveal of The Reptile.

Studio Canal will release The Reptile on 18 June 2012 as a Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray Double Play. I was only provided with a Blu-ray screener for this review but assume the DVD, if it is the same as on other Optimum/Studio Canal Double Play releases, will only include the film with an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack.


Video
The film has been released with an AVC 1080p encode at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and has a running time of 90:05. The picture looks fantastic with only an occasional shot showing any sign of print damage, although the shots which cover the two sets of opening credits are noticeably more grainy and a number of cross-fades are duller in tone. These are very minor quibbles though and certainly didn't distract from my enjoyment of the film. See both the The Serpent's Tale documentary and the Restoration Comparison extras to truly appreciate the work which has gone into repairing the film.


Audio
There is just one audio track available on the Blu-ray: English LPCM 2.0 Mono. It does the job just fine with speech always clear and reproduces a great, dramatic score by composer Don Banks.

There are also English HoH subtitles.


Extras
First up is a retrospective documentary entitled The Serpent's Tale (21:50) which is a great little companion piece to the film with some interesting anecdotes and thoughts from those directly involved with the film - Don Mingaye (Art Director) – and those with a passion for Hammer Horror in general: Marcus Hearn (Hammer Films Historian, Producer and Director of the documentary), Mark Gatiss (Actor and Writer), Jonathan Rigby (Author), David Huckvale (Author) and Wayne Kinsey (Author). There is was also a very short interview with Jon Mann (the Technical Restoration Manager at Pinewood Studios) who comments on the film's restoration. Again, like the extras on The Plague of the Zombies, it's a shame the interview wasn't incorporated into a longer featurette with the Restoration Comparison.

Like many of Studio Canal's Hammer Film releases, they have included an appropriate episode of the World of Hammer TV series, in this case we get Wicked Women (24:50), which is a different episode to those included on the various DVD releases of the film – see our comparison here for further details. It's narrated by Oliver Reed, himself a star of a number of Hammer productions, and plays more like an extended advertisement than a meaningful documentary of the films it features:
- Countess Dracula (1971)
- Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971)
- Stolen Face (1952)
- The Nanny (1965)
- The Anniversary (1968)
- The Black Widow (1951)
- The Witches (1966)
- Fanatic (1965)

Next up is a short Restoration Comparison (2:17) which presents a number of silent shots from the film, comparing before and after the restoration. It's clear that the noticeable differences in the quality of the cross fades mentioned above is due to the superb restoration of the scenes around them. What were extremely dull and washed out scenes are now vibrant and colourful.

And finally the extras are rounded off with the Theatrical Trailer (2:02).

Overall
Another great Hammer film and a great companion piece for The Plague of the Zombies. Buy both!

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