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Danish engineers drilling for minerals in Lapland find the tail of a prehistoric beast and send it to the distinguished Professor Martens in Copenhagen. The door of the refrigerated room in which the remains are stored is accidentally left ajar, and the rise in temperature enables the tail to grow new tissue. American Gen. Mark Grayson of the United Nations arrives in Copenhagen to maintain an alert on the creature, which continues to regenerate itself and grows to an enormous size. Though the general undertakes the mission reluctantly, he becomes attracted to the professor's daughters, Lise and Karen. One night, the monster escapes into the forest and begins to terrorize the countryside. The armed forces fail in their efforts to combat the monster with conventional weapons. A flamethrower forces the creature into the ocean, and a depth charge severs one of its feet, but the creature returns to wreak destruction on Copenhagen. As a last resort, a deadly narcotic is fired into its mouth with a rocket. Though the monster appears to have been destroyed, its severed foot begins the process of regeneration.
Børge Møller Grimstrup
Edith Nisted Nielsen
J. H. Zalabery
Danish miners working in Lapland dig up a piece of giant reptile tail from the frozen ground. It's taken to an aquarium in Copenhagen to be studied. The door to the chamber where the tail is kept frozen is carelessly left open, and the piece begins to thaw. Displaying a complete misunderstanding of the regenerative abilities of reptiles, the screenwriters have the appendage grow into a fully formed giant monster that goes on a tear through the Danish countryside and the streets of Copenhagen causing widespread panic and destruction of famous landmarks. The colossal fiend is finally killed with poison, but the team of scientists and military units who take it down neglect to destroy its foot, which sinks to the bottom of the ocean, setting up the possibility for further regeneration and a hoped-for sequel.
Yeah, that was probably never going to happen. Although it eventually developed something of a cult following in its home country, Reptilicus was held back from stateside release for nearly two years, even with the backing of American International Pictures, the studio that was exploitation central for the period, churning out low-budget drive-in movie fodder for the youth market, encompassing juvenile delinquent melodramas, rock-and-roll pictures, and monster movies.
AIP entered into a co-production agreement on this project with Denmark's Saga Films, and two versions were shot with many of the same cast members performing in both Danish and English. The Danish version was directed by Poul Bang, known primarily (and aptly) for comedies, including a version of the old American stage and screen cross-dressing standby Charlie's Aunt.
The American version of Reptilicus was directed by Sidney Pink, who had just scored a hit as producer of The Angry Red Planet (1959). Pink hired that production's director and screenwriter, Ib Melchior, a Dane and son of famed Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior, as his co-writer on this "terrifying" tale of what the trailer ineptly called "an annihilating mastodon," completely ignoring the fact that mastodons were vegetarian mammals hardly big enough to destroy Copenhagen's Langebro bridge as the reptile does in this movie.
When Pink brought his cut back to AIP, studio executives found it appalling and unfit for release, which is saying quite a lot coming from the company that brought us The Astounding She-Monster (1957) and The Diary of a High School Bride (1959). The studio turned the film over to Melchior, who reworked the script, shot new scenes, and over-dubbed the Danish actors' sing-songy English dialogue. An angry Pink took legal action but soon dropped his lawsuit.
The redone version jettisoned the scenes involving Danish comedian Dirch Passer, star of ten other comedies directed by Bang and one of the country's most popular performers of all time. His appearance here as a comic-relief lab assistant can only be chalked up to his long and fruitful relationship with the director and an astute calculation with an eye on the Danish box office. The same reasoning was likely behind the inclusion of popular singer Birthe Wilke, who appears in one scene as a Tivoli Gardens nightclub chanteuse.
A comic book based on the film was published in 1961, ahead of its theatrical release, by Charlton Comics but lasted only two issues. Charlton tried to revive the story (aka rip it off) by renaming the monster Reptisaurus the Terrible, but that fared only slightly better, running six issues until its demise in late 1962.
After the big-budget remake of Godzilla (1998), Pink wanted to re-do his monster epic but failed to get it off the ground before his death in 2002. But Reptilicus has achieved a kind of dubious immortality as a source of humor with a clip incorporated into an episode of South Park and as the featured movie in the first episode of the 11th season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Director: Sidney Pink
Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Sidney Pink
Screenplay: Sidney Pink, Ib Melchior; original story by Sidney Pink
Cinematography: Aage Wiltrup
Editing: Sven Methling, Edith Nisted Nielsen
Visual Effects: Kai Koed
Music: Les Baxter
Cast: Bent Mejding (Svend Viltorft), Asbjorn Andersen (Prof. Otto Martens), Poul Wildaker (Dr. Peter Dalby), Ann Smyrner (Lise Martens), Mimi Heinrich (Karen Martens)
By Rob Nixon
Sidney Pink (1916-2002)
Born in Pittsburgh in 1916, Pink graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He began his film career as a projectionist in a theater owned by his wife's family. Moving to Hollywood in 1937, Pink was hired as production budget manager for Grand National Pictures, where he worked on the Tex Ritter musical western series. He later moved to Columbia and worked as a budget manager on Lost Horizon (1937) and many small scale westerns. After a disagreement with Columbia studio mogul Harry Cohn, Pink returned to the theater side of the business as the owner of a circuit of theaters in Los Angeles where he imported foreign films.
He soon hooked up with Arch Oboler for the production of two films, Five (1951), an offbeat feature about five survivors of a nuclear war and the irredeemably strange The Twonky (1953) about a professor (Hans Conreid) whose TV set becomes possessed by a spirit of the future and takes over his household.
Pink and Oboler would strike gold with their third film, the first full-length 3-D picture, Bwana Devil (1953). With television' popularity on the rise, a movie gimmick that advertised "A lion in your lap" or "A lover in your arms!" were promotional tag lines that came on like a carnival barker in a sideshow. The story about British railway workers in Kenya falling prey to two man-eating lions, and a head engineer (Robert Stack) bent on killing the lions before they feast on his entire crew might have been routine; but the movie, which required audience members to wear cardboard 3-D glasses as lions were jumping into your laps, spears were flying and people were coming toward you in hordes was a real hot ticket. The process, which was shot in Hollywood with two enormous cameras with polarized lenses, one for the left eye and one for the right, proved to be a surprising hit; enough so that Jack Warner came out with his own 3-D production at Warner Bros. with House of Wax (1953) starring Vincent Price and dozens of 3-D films followed in the ensuing decades.
After the success of his sci-fi cult hit The Angry Red Planet (1959), Pink found himself in a quandary. By the 1960s, Hollywood was having union problems, making it difficult for an independent producer like Sid Pink to be hired by the studios. Ever resourceful, he relocated to Denmark to produce and direct Reptilicus (1962 about a pre-historic monster that comes back to life and terrorizes Copenhagen! It may have not been high art, but it proved to be popular fare at drive-ins and its success allowed Pink to pursue film production in Europe throughout the remainder of the 1960s, including one of the earliest spaghetti westerns, Finger on the Trigger (1965) starring Rory Calhoun. Pink had one more fascinating footnote to fame when he discovered Dustin Hoffman in an off-Broadway production and cast him in Madigan's Millions (1967) as a U.S. Treasury agent sent to Italy to recover money that had been stolen by a murdered gangster (Cesar Romero). Pink soon retired from the film industry and eventually returned to the United States in the mid-1970s where he settled in Florida. He is survived by his wife, Marion, his son, Philip, a daughter, Helene Desloge and four grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Sidney Pink (1916-2002)
Although it was shot in Denmark, producer Sid Pink had the dialog spoken in English. When the finished film was turned over to American International, Pink was informed that the dialog would be re-looped. Samuel Z. Arkoff felt that what he called the "sing-song Scandinavian accents" would have U.S. audiences laughing. Pink objected and threatened to file suit. After Pink had other industry professionals view his version of the film, the lawsuit was dropped and AIP released the film in an edited and re-dubbed version.
Filmed in Copenhagen; Copenhagen opening: February 1961. U. S. sources credit Pink as producer-director and Mehling as editor, while a Danish source credits Bang as director and Nielsen as editor. Actor Poul Wøldike is credited by U. S. sources as Poul Wildaker.
Released in United States 1961
Released in United States 1961