Cast & Crew
Harry, a British Grenadier Guard, decides to investigate when he learns that his brother has mysteriously died in a Cornish village. Although the townspeople are secretive and hostile to Harry and his wife, Valerie, the two learn that the brother died from a snakebite on his neck. Subsequent investigation reveals that Anna, the daughter of Dr. Franklyn, the local physician, had been cursed by Malayan natives when she and her father lived in Borneo. As a result, Anna turns into a snake when exposed to intense heat. After Harry is lured to the house and bitten by the snake creature, Valerie also visits the house and a struggle ensues during which an overturned lamp sets fire to Dr. Franklyn's home. The blaze transforms Anna into a huge reptile, and she buries her fangs in her father before perishing in the flames. Harry manages to save Valerie, and the two escape from the burning house.
Charles Lloyd Pack
In many ways, The Reptile harkens back to the films of Val Lewton (Cat People, 1942) and the Universal horror pictures in both its atmosphere and tone. It opens with a grisly, half-seen murder; Charles Spalding (David Baron) is attacked and bitten by "something" in a dark room within the manor house of Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) and dies a horrible death, foaming at the mouth and turning a sickly shade of green. His brother Harry (Ray Barrett), accompanied by his wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel), soon arrive at the village to investigate the cause of death. What they find there is an inhospitable community that's suspicious of strangers and is obviously hiding some terrible secret. Harry eventually links his brother's mysterious death to Dr. Franklyn's unusual daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and a strange snake cult in Bornea that Dr. Franklyn was researching.
The Reptile was filmed on the Bray lot where many Hammer horrors were shot but director John Gilling was able to disguise that fact through inventive camera angles and exterior shots of nearby Oakland Court (a stand-in for the Franklyn manor). Jacqueline Pearce, who was the only Hammer actress to play two monsters (The Reptile and a resurrected corpse in The Plague of the Zombies, 1966), is best known among sci-fi fans for her role as Servalan on the British TV series, Blake's 7. In The Reptile, her dark, sensual beauty is used to chilling effect, particularly in the scene where she writhes on the bed in response to the strange chanting of Malay, her Indian manservant.
The title creature is something of a throwback to the fifties and may remind some horror buffs of Cult of the Cobra (1955) in which Faith Domergue played a shape-shifting snake woman who was stalking a group of G.I.s. But The Reptile has a visual elegance and sense of impending doom that lifts it high above its B-movie conventions. There's even echoes of Greek tragedy in the dark relationship between Dr. Franklyn and his daughter (her terrible curse is the result of her father's scientific curiosity). Andy Boot in his survey of British horror films, Fragments of Fear, called The Reptile "the ultimate sexual bad trip" for the way it equates a young woman's sexual awakening with her primeval urge to kill for food. And director Ken Russell even pays homage to this Hammer horror in his over-the-top adaptation of Bram Stoker's The Lair of the White Worm (1988).
Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys
Director: John Gilling
Screenplay: Anthony Hinds
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Film Editing: Roy Hyde, James Needs
Art Direction: Don Mingaye
Music: Don Banks
Cast: Noel Willman (Dr. Franklyn), Jennifer Daniel (Valerie Spalding), Ray Barrett (Harry Spalding), Jacqueline Pearce (Anna Franklyn), Michael Ripper (Tom Bailey), John Laurie (Mad Peter).
by Jeff Stafford
Roy Ashton's makeup for the creature included appliances created from a mold taken of real snakeskin.
Opened in London in March 1966. John Elder is a pseudonym for Anthony Hinds.