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After the mysterious death of his brother, Harry Spalding and his wife Valerie inherit a cottage in a small Cornish village called Clagmoor Heath. Despite a couple of veiled warnings they decide to make it their new home. However, people are dying from what locals are calling the Black Death, but on closer inspection appear to be large reptile bite marks. The couple soon encounter Anna, a beautiful and exotic young woman who lives with her unpleasant father, Doctor Franklyn, in a large manor house not far away. But Franklyn has a valid reason to be over-protective towards his daughter, for she endures a powerful and evil curse, and both are in the thrall of the only man who can help but is the least likely to...
As a money saving experiment Hammer Films made four movies back to back in 1965 at Bray Studios and on location in Cornwall. As it turned out only one came in under budget. However, what it means is that these Seven Arts productions were paired-up and as a consequence shared some of the same actors, sets and locations - particularly on The Plague of Zombies and The Reptile. It’s always great to see Hammer main-stay Michael Ripper, who actually appeared in more titles than either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing. Jacqueline Pearce also acted in both films; in this one she balances the personality of a woman who just wants to have a normal life, with an alluring but inaccessible quality which is rather beguiling. Her reptilian make-up for the snake sequences are well-handled with quick cuts and good (subdued) lighting. There is only one scene when the camera lingers and the suspension of disbelief times-out.
Whilst not reaching the heights in terms of quality and script of The Plague of Zombies, The Reptile remains an interesting chapter in the Hammer historic library. There is much to enjoy, and for film buffs many talking points, such the sexual intensity of the Sitar-playing scene, and the origins of the Snake Cult. Again, the restoration work for this Blu-ray release is exemplary. Other extras include another episode of World of Hammer (this time about Wicked Women), a trailer, and the excellent making of... featurette The Serpent’s Tale, which includes Jacqueline Pearce, film historian Marcus Hearn and the suitable enthusiastic horror fan, Mark Gatiss.
I look forward to the forthcoming Blu-ray releases of The Devil Rides Out, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and The Mummy’s Shroud.