Halloween Havoc!: REPTILICUS (AIP 1962)

Are you ready for some Danish horror? Well, don’t get too excited; REPTILICUS is a giant monster flick that doesn’t really deliver the goods. The monster itself is on a par with THE GIANT CLAW , the film’s stuffed with stock footage and needless padding, the acting and dialog are way below average. Yet I’ve always liked this loopy movie; it has an endearing charm of its own, and is entertaining in spite of its limitations.

“High above the Arctic Circle”, copper miner drilling into the Earth’s crust hit flesh and bone. Scientists are called in, and sample’s are sent to the Copenhagen Aquarium. A piece of tail is kept in a refrigeration unit, until a sleepy scientist forgets to lock the door tight. The tail begins to rapidly regenerate, and turns into a giant prehistoric lizard dubbed Reptilicus. The giant lizard gets loose and begins to wreak the usual giant lizard havoc! How can the military stop Reptilicus without blowing it to bits and creating a shit-ton more giant monsters??

Two versions of REPTILICUS were made, one for Denmark and one for America. Producer/director Sid Pink, the man behind such classics as THE TWONKY and the 3-D BWANA DEVIL (both written and directed by Arch Obler), the Spaghetti Western THE CHRISTMAS KID (with Jeffrey Hunter ), and the sexy spy comedy THE MAN FROM O.R.G.Y, turned in a version that AIP honchos Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson absolutely hated. They turned to the film’s screenwriter Ib Melchior to make major changes. Melchior was a science-fiction writer who once claimed Irwin Allen ripped off his unproduced script SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON for the TV show LOST IN SPACE (which is probably true). The writer did the best he could do to turn REPTILICUS into something watchable, but I can just imagine how bad it originally was if this is “the best he could do”!! Anyway, Melchior had better luck writing and directing THE ANGRY RED PLANET, and providing the screenplays for ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and Mario Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. His short story “The Racer” was later turned into the cult classic DEATH RACE 2000.

Unless you’re familiar with Danish cinema (which I’m not), you won’t recognize any Familiar Faces here. I’m pretty sure the actors are grateful for that! The guy playing the American General overacts, and so does the guy who dubbed his voice! The handyman Petersen is just a total doofus, characters seem to appear having no bearing on the plot (what there is of one), and the women are just there for window dressing, basically Danish pastry to droop over. There are some nice touristy shots of Copenhagen in the early 60’s however, and an interlude in a nightclub where we get to hear the jazzy bossa-nova number “Tivoli Night”:

…which again has nothing to do with the plot. It’s just padding! REPTILICUS is slow going at first, and… what am I saying? It’s slow going all the way, except for the all-too brief appearances of the giant lizard.

Somebody over at Charlton Comics must’ve like the movie though, because they made a comic book version of REPTILICUS that lasted two issues, until their copyright ran out. They then changed the title’s name to REPTISAURUS, which continued another six issues. The latest incarnation of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 300 featured REPTILICUS as their debut episode, and it’s easy to understand why. There’s loads of unintentionally funny stuff going on in this flick, and you can have a ReptSILLYcus good time watching it all unfold.

2 Replies to “Halloween Havoc!: REPTILICUS (AIP 1962)”

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