Reptilicus (1961) [REVIEW] | Danish Dragons

Denmark gave the world many things, despite what Shakespear told us, many influential painters and artists, many metal bands like King Diamond, Manticora, etc.

But you don’t exactly think Denmark when you think giant monster movies, and the only that still comes to mind is the old Reptilicus, a danish-american coproduction, with two existing versions, one completely shot in danish and the international release that was cut and changed by the screenwriters to make it more marketable (and american) by good ol’ American International Pictures.

While the movie it’s available in DVD fairly easy (and i do own it), i’ll mostly refer to a fansubbed copy of the original danish version. The international release, aside from a complete redub due to the cast very thick danish accent (kinda dumb how AIP didn’t expect that since the cast IS danish), cuts the scenes where Reptilicus flies… because the effects aren’t that great, but added the special effect of green poisonous saliva shooting out when the monster opens its jaw.

(This is a partial rewrite of the piece written in 2020 on the italian blog Wise Cafè )

Regardless of what version you’re watching, the plot it basically the same, and revolves around the discovery part of the frozen tail of some prehistoric creature. The part oddly still bleeds when accidentally hit by the drills, its brought in a lab in Copenhagen to be studied, and put in a refrigerated cell for that purpose.

However, due to an accidental overexposure to a warmer temperature and a thunderstorm, the tail regenerates incredibly quickly until the creature Reptilicus (as they dub it) is completely healed and reveals its form, that of a snake-like dragon that wrecks havoc in Copenhagen and its surroundings.

The try to kill him in some ways, until the army finally manages to shot him in the mouth. But a piece of Reptilicus lies on the bottom of the sea, hinting he may regenerate itself at anytime…. but 60 years after, no sequels have been made, so i think we’re safe.

They eventually tried again with some comics about the monster, but they didn’t do well so the project was dropped after a few volumes, to no one’s surprise.

And while i’m not “angry” a sequel never happened, i feel kinda bad that it didn’t, because i find Reptilicus to be a delightful little monster movie, one with a very light-hearted and merry tone about it, especially thanks to the Gamera style children song made up by the cartoony dumb, Lawnmower Man-esque janitor of the lab… and the fact the entire cast decides it’s not worth waiting in real time for this piece of a dinosaur monster to regenerate itself, so what the hell, it’s time to hit Tivoli Gardens and get some fun, maybe even Repticulus it’s up for some drinks and cabaret. XD

To be honest, i’m a bit disappointed they cut the “Reptilicus song” part from the international version, as the janitor-electrician is a hammy, cartoony delight, the best character in the movie, stat.

I don’t quite get, i mean, this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously anyway, i mean, not always, and even if you cut out the sillier bits you can’t sponge out the entire monster from a monster movie. And sadly here’s where the movie falters. Not on the concept of a flying dragon reptile-serpent, but you’ll get why the movie takes more than the usual 45 minutes to finally show more than its claws.

Because he’s a puppet on strings. A decent puppet on strings, and at least you can’t see them, but still, it’s hard to believe they couldn’t do better. I didn’t expect a Toho-quality rubber suit, but there are some decents miniatures and props for the close-ups (even if the monster size it’s inconsistent)… and then you get some cheap superimposed shots that wouldn’t look out of place from a Showa Era Gamera Film. Still better than the infamous – and hilarious – The Giant Claw, for sure, and it’s kinda goofy and adorable seen today, at least it may look that way for monster fans, but yeah, it’s kinda the big problem in a movie that still takes itself serious when it wants to.

On a side note, there’s also the issue of the third act being a bit drawn out AND rushed, as the script made Reptilicus too strong for them to defeat, so they just shoot a huge tranquillizer shell with a bazooka to put it to sleep and later kill him. How? None of your business, the main character have assumed the Spielberg Stance, and forgot they tore away one of Reptilicus’ arms, with the detatched limb of the monster on the ocean floor that is already regenerating… but again, who cares, FIN.

It’s no wonder Denmark never became the second major country to invest in monster movie cinema, but as far as Reptilicus goes, it’s a small, cute little monster movie, with a lot of levity, mostly likeable characters, decent pace, nothing special but the monster effects – while not the worst- do leave a lot to be desired, even for the time, and – alongside its other issues – stop this from being a decent monster flick, making thing more sillier than intended.

But it’s likeable and it’s titular monster will make it quite palatable to genre fans, ready to welcome Reptilicus and the strings that carry his dreams.

It’s not a good movie, but it’s quite cute.

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