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Monday, March 15, 2010

Reptilicus

The prehistoric monster-on-the-loose was no longer fresh in 1961 when Reptilicus was released in Denmark. Yet, it seemed several cultures wanted their own Godzilla story. This is the Danish kaiju, brought to you by Sidney Pink and Ib Melchior, the team that gave you Angry Red Planet ('60) and another Dano-American production, Journey to the Seventh Planet ('62). Shot in two versions, Danish and English, in 1962, the English version was delayed until January of 1963 to "fix" some problems. The science in the fiction is pretty scanty in Reptilicus. There is a bit of biology and a touch of paleontology, but the story is essentially the customary giant prehistoric creature rampaging through a modern city, being blasted by massive military firepower.

Quick Plot Synopsis
An oil drilling crew find blood and bits of leathery flesh on their bit. Later, a six foot tip of a tail is unearthed from the tundra. It is flown to the Copenhagen Aquarium for study. Due to neglect, it is allowed to thaw. They discover that it's healing itself. It is alive again. Dr. Martens lecture that the original dinosaur must be able to heal like a lizard that can re-grow a tail, or a starfish re-grows an arm. The new find is named "Reptilicus". No one notices that the tail has grown into a full beast. It eats a sleepy scientist and breaks out of the Akvarium. Reptilicus eats cattle and terrorizes the Danish countryside. The army cannot kill it due to its tough armor scales. A flame thrower does hurt it, though, and it flees to the sea. The navy tries to depth charge it, but are told to stop. All the blown up bits would become separate beasts. Reptilicus recovers and comes to terrorize Copenhagen. Screaming crowds run through the streets. The pretty scientists cook up a gallon of knock-out drug, which is placed in a bazooka shell. General Grayson fires the shell into Reptilicus' mouth. He drops slowly to the street. Presumably, the scientists destroy the beast without scattering bits, so the world is saved. Except for a severed arm on the sea floor, blown off by a depth charge. It begins to twitch. Fade to black. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
The monster-on-the-loose trope is usually fun. The model cities, toy tanks, screaming crowds: all fun viewing. The venue of Denmark adds some variety, and gives Los Angeles a break.

Cold War Angle
Unlike others in the giant monster sub-genre, Reptilicus is not linked to radioactivity. As such, he isn't developed as any kind of analogy for nuclear war, etc. Instead, Reptilicus is more of a monster movie.

Notes
Comic Relief -- The man who plays the night watchman, Peterson, is the Danish comedian, Dirch Presse. To uninitiated American audiences, Peterson was clearly the bumpkin-ish comic relief character. To Danish audiences, he almost upstaged the rest of the story. It would be akin to having Leslie Nielson or Robin Williams in a bit role of some other B monster movie.

Double Speak -- The english version looks, at times, like it is a dub of the Danish version. At other times, the words and lips line up perfectly. The reason is that the movie was shot in two takes. In one, the actors spoke Danish. In the second, they spoke English. Trouble was, they spoke it with a pretty obvious Scandinavian accent. A.I.P. couldn't accept that, so native english speakers provided the American-accent voice talent for the dub.

Ignore Monster, Visit Denmark! -- A fairly blatant secondary motive for the film Reptilicus is to promote Denmark as a tourism destination. General Grayson, Connie Miller and Capt. Brandt tour Copenhagen, making sure to hit all the key tourist sights. Ample use is made of Tourism Board stock footage. A swanky nightclub scene is inserted with Denmark's answer to Doris Day, Birke Wilke, singing "Tivoii Nights" about the charms of Denmark.

Better Bad Puppet -- The monster is clearly a marionette on a model landscape (or cityscape). While this "special effect" was pretty meager, even by the standards of the day, it was a far cry better than the most infamous marionette monster -- the atomic bird in The Giant Claw ('57). At least Reptilicus had some ferocious dignity.

A Tale of Two Dragons -- The Danish version and the American version are essentially the same, but with some notable differences. The most famous difference is that the Danish version has a small scene in which Reptilicus uses his little dragon wings to fly. This got cut from the American version. The Danish version has a more developed romance between Sven and Connie. The Danish version has a cute-comic scene with Peterson singing to children in a park. The American editors saw no need for that scene, since Presse had no American following. The American version added that the monster spewed green acidic slime. The Danes did not. The slime was added in post-production and does look rather pasted on. The American version also has the poor farmer father get eaten. The Danes did not. He, too, looks rather badly pasted in via post-production.

Bottom line? Reptilicus is member of the famous sub-genre of monsters ravaging cities. It is a low-budget version, but has the requisite elements. Fans of 50s kaiju will find entertainment value. Modern viewers jaded by CGI will probably laugh, or moan.

1 comment:

John Drake said...

Howdy,


This movie is a hoot.

The plot line is about as shallow as a kid's wading pool.

Except for Petersen, the acting is flimsy.

The monster and "special effects" have plenty of giggle power.

The "tourism board" scene where the song "Tivoli" is sung is probably
the best scene in the movie.

It does drive home what your Mom always said,"Be sure to close the door on the fridge.

It is worth watching at lease once.


Have a good time and don't make a mess throwing popcorn at the tv.

John