After the successes of Godzilla and other Japanese and American giant monster movies in the 1950’s it seems that a few other countries wanted to get aboard the money train and come up with their own flicks featuring mutated reptiles or other gigantic beasts. Now, Denmark is the absolute last place I’d think of when I think “giant slimy lizard terrorizing the masses!”, but it seems that a combination of national pride and the over-eagerness of its Danish producers to make a big splash onto the scene brought the world Reptilicus … and TWO versions of it, to boot.
If you were a kid growing up in the US in the late 60’s and 70’s, this one was a staple on a few TV channels across the country, popping up either in the afternoon or evening and sometimes late at night to not scare you at all. In fact, I can recall seeing this as a kid and being baffled, then bored, then amazed at how bad and cheap the movie looked, but still watching it to the very end each time…
The film hits the right genre notes by introducing its titular monster in the usual “Oops, look what we dug up!” manner as a frozen tail is found by some miners and then shipped off to a research lab. Of course, that tail doesn’t stay cold for long, as even in Denmark, important science labs hire the worst night janitors who haven’t a clue about paying the merest hint of attention to simple instructions. Anyway, the tail soon grows into a big lizard-thing that looks like it popped out of a tapestry and fell into a vat of shiny plastic that pissed it off some more because it now needed wires and a lot of editing to get around and kill off a bunch of fleeing Danes without discrimination.
There’s the usual square-jawed army guy, the lovely gal he courts, assorted science folk, and so forth and so on, but everything’s skewed through a Danish lens. I’ve always thought that lead actor Cartl Ottosen was a bit old to be playing his part and I recall seeing the film at a friend’s house and falling off the couch laughing after he called the guy “the homeliest hero” he’d ever seen. Ouch. That’s spoiled the movie for me even more ever since, but the film’s bizarre saving grace comes out of nowhere in the form of a travelog scene all about Denmark’s nightlife. It’s as if the Danish tourism board heard there was a film being made, didn’t care what type and asked the producers to insert a long section that takes viewers around to see assorted Copenhagen locations and even a performance of Tivoli Nights that’s entertaining in its own way:
(thanks, David Brady!)
Anyway, once the chaos begins, the film is a mess of incredibly bad special effects cut in with screaming citizenry, parts of the monster shown in assorted scales (as if it can grow and shrink in size) and a flying sequence that was cut from the US version (below) for good reason. Well, the dark lighting helps with the mood setting, but you know it’s dark because the effects team was trying to hide the wires and fact that the model is stiffer than an actual fossil as its zips and dips (note the scary use of a slide whistle in that clip – that’s probably the best thing about this “lost” scene). As awful is this scene is, the American version cuts in a few shots of Reptilicus “spitting” badly animated green venom at the screen, something which certainly doesn’t help the already woeful effects look any more convincing.
The again, the original Danish version seemed geared more towards being a fun fairytale mixed in with a giant monster flick for the entire family. Granted, most of these flicks were for kids, but here’s a case where the target audience was IN one scene. As you’ll see below, there’s another scene cut from the US print where the dopey janitor who gets the whole thing started with his carelessness sings a song about the beast with a bunch of kids in a park. Yikes. Granted, this is far from the first song popping up in a genre film (“Festival of the New Wine” from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man anyone?) and hell, we’ve had (and still have) Broadway shows based on classic horror flicks. This, however… is pure comedy GOLD:
Er, despite the musical interludes and travel guide, the film proceeds fairly predictably along the usual lines of the big, bad monster being “unstoppable” until a way is found to stop it. Naturally, the ending hints that all is not well as there’s something still afoot (pun intended). Unfortunately for the producers (but fortunately for some giant monster fans), that sequel never got made. As I noted above, while this isn’t the best monster flick out there (and yes, that’s an understatement), there’s a certain earnestness to the film that makes it somewhat… charming. Yeah, it’s definitely no Ray Harryhausen flick in terms of the “special” effects, but you get the feeling that Denmark is a nicer place because its big deal monster wasn’t so frightening after all…
(Thanks much to the assorted YouTubers I used clips from in this post: poisondart, Grindhousefan, David Brady, oldhollywoodtrailers and horrormovieshows).
Hey! If you’ve read this far, congratulations! Now you have MORE reading to do, as this post is actually part of The Accidentally Hilarious Classic Movie Blogathon hosted by Movies, Silently. I’d expect you to be popping over there soon enough (as in NOW) to check out the other posts by some fine and talented writers, but don’t tell them I sent you because the films I’ve written about are so terrible that maybe I’d be embarrassed to admit I actually like them to some extent.
Let’s just keep THAT a secret now, shall we? SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
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Ha! I always love movies where you can tell a tourism board has had their mitts on it. “As we flee from the zombie apocalypse, please notice the lovely frescoes dating from 1453.” Thanks for bringing Denmark to the party!
Oh, take a way the monster and army stuff, add a few more travel scenes and you have a GREAT documentary on Denmark of the era. All that seems like an afterthought added in to rope in the monster crowd. In a way, this is the “nicest” monster movie you’ll see because it makes you want to by plane tickets (and a venom-proof slicker)… 😀
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Fabulous writeup, this movie is a hoot and the horrendous FX are just the beginning. Loved the drawbridge guy who lifts it, watches people falling to their deaths and just turns away! The nutty exchange between the janitor and police–“there’s no power, even the electric eel went out!” Lots to ridicule/enjoy!