Recently, I found myself in the mood to watch a giant monster movie, but not one that I had seen in recent memory. That left out most of the Godzilla and Toho films; most of the Asian monster movies in general. It also left out the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, King Kong, and most any American made one as well (and let’s not forget the British Gorgo, which just got reissued on blu ray several months ago). Then I remembered when I was a kid liking an old creature feature named Reptilicus. I couldn’t remember much about it, so I did a little searching and found it pretty easily.
Unfortunately, my childhood memories had failed me, as the best thing about Reptilicus was it’s name. Reptilicus himself is not a bad looking monster, kind of resembling Toho’s Manda (but more snake-like), with tiny little legs and wings that he never uses (well, in the U.S. version anyway- more on that later). Rather than using stop-motion animation or a man in a suit (like most monster movies of the time), Reptilicus was a marionette. His body is usually hidden behind trees or houses, and he raises himself up and sways back and forth while spitting out toxic green goo (very badly dubbed onto the film) and getting shot by stock footage tanks and soldiers.
The first quarter of the movie is very talky and pretty slow moving (and contains some groan-inducing attempts at comedy mostly involving a goofy security guard (played by popular Danish comedian Dirch Passer)).
A group of miners dig up a frozen but bleeding tail from a prehistoric monster, which scientists quickly confiscate and begin to study. When the tail (accidently) gets thawed out, it starts regenerating and quickly becomes Reptilicus, who begins making his way across Denmark causing destruction and gooey green death. An uncharismatic and annoyingly overacting general co-ordinates mostly useless attacks against him until someone accidently says something that gives him an idea on how to take Reptilicus down involving ‘a gallon of drugs'(?).
When I was a kid I didn’t realize how Danish it was. There were actually 2 versions of the movie made, with 2 different directors but using the same script and monster (kind of like the 2 versions of the 1931 Dracula, except with Reptilicus they used almost all the same actors as well). The Danish version was in Danish and had a different actress playing one role, and the American version was in English and produced by schlockmasters A.I.P.. The two versions were slightly different- the Danish version had more character subplots, and Reptilicus could fly (for some reason, A.I.P. cut the flying scene out, even tho it looked about as good as anything else in the movie. Those interested can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmurhZ0VE5I ). The American version added (badly) the green slime he shoots out of his mouth, and a scene where he eats a man (that is animated quite humorously, reminding me a little of the monster eating the man in the Cave of Death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
Obviously the intent was to make a rip off of Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, however this movie does not have the charm, talent, or money that one did, so it’s been regulated to the schlock bin of monster movie history, where it belongs. Watch it only after watching most of the much better movies I mentioned above.