Reptilicus is perhaps the damndest thing your eyes will ever behold. I mean that in the nicest possible way. This is no mere bad movie. This is the bad movie to end all bad movies. It is one of those cinematic experiences where you spend most of the picture wondering, “What the hell were they thinking?” On the other hand, if it was any good, it would hold almost no interest whatever — just another giant monster movie. As it stands, it’s a virtual encyclopedia of very bad ideas strung together into something vaguely resembling a motion picture.
It exists because Pittsburgh-born shoestring schlockmeister decided to make this really dumb monster movie and went all the way to Denmark to do so. Since his primary interest was the U.S. market, he shot the damned thing twice — once in Danish and once in English. That sounds fairly reasonable, I guess, except it meant American characters who sounded like El Brendel impersonators. It didn’t matter, though, because American International Pictures dubbed the already English-speaking film into English. That’s why the mouth movements match, but it still sounds like a handful of people did all the voices in a sub-standard sound studio. AIP also cut the film by about ten minutes.While this was mostly to cut down on the strained comedy of Dirch Passer (popular in Denmark, but rightfully unknown in the U.S.), but it also involved the removal of scenes of flying Reptilicus. You will notice that the creature has wings (sort of), but they’re never used — in the U.S. prints. The idea that AIP removed these scenes because they might draw laughs is…quaint considering everything else about the monster.
The idea of the movie is that some copper mining outfit uncovers the tail — the tail, mind you — of some prehistoric creature and call in the scientists, who take the lump of frozen meat back to Copenhagen. Cutting to the chase, the tail is like the tiny acorn from which the mighty oak grows. That is, they accidentally grow an entire creature from this slab of meat. Naturally, it goes on a rampage. But what a rampage it is! You see, the monster is some kind of ill-defined mixture of dragon, serpent, dinosaur, winged reptile, and the nightmare of a rarebit fiend. It’s also one dopey looking puppet. Yes, puppet. Oh, I know, you’re objecting that so — in some shots — is Godzilla. This is much more hokey than that. This never, never looks like anything but a puppet. In addition to this, it spits up some kind of green slime that looks suspiciously like someone has scratched through the film emulsion with a pin. Worse, there’s never any real payoff to this. We sometimes see a really bad optical effect of green goo cover the screen, but we never see what effect is has. It’s all quite remarkable, but also perhaps unique in that it’s a movie even eight-year-olds will feel superior to. And in the bargain, it’s pretty funny.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Reptilicus Thursday, Sept. 25, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.