Reptilicus
Director: Sidney Pink. Cast: Carl Ottosen, Bent Mejding, Asbjørn Andersen, Marla Behrens, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heinrich, Poul Wildaker. Screenplay: Sidney Pink and Ib Melchior.

“One of the most exciting horror films of all time!” advertises the box for the digitally- remastered video reissue of Reptilicus, a gleefully ultra-cheapo creature feature from Denmark. Produced in 1962, Reptilicus the movie has come to resemble exactly the miraculously “soft-frozen,” even more miraculously regenerative beast who causes all the trouble in its story. The movie is just as much a fossil as Reptilicus, a relic from a past age of moviemaking whose survival into the present day can only be marveled at. Who exactly was it who clamored for this, of all movies, to be digitally remastered?

Still, you can’t help but get caught up in the flick, even share its ersatz delights with friends who unwittingly pop in your living room. It’s the movie equivalent of that cafeteria mystery meat that makes you say to your friend “This is sooo gross – taste it!” Of course, Reptilicus is a bad movie, a terrible one, but it’s that rare kind of turkey that becomes all the more enjoyable for its own awfulness. There is a wonderful innocence, an easy charm to the casual but uniform wrongness of every performance, every point of plot. What’s not to enjoy? This is the kind of movie where someone pulls a fire alarm and every other character comes running into the building.

The story is exactly what’s advertised in the title. You have a large beast, a “cross between this”—and here the speaker holds an illustration of a Brontosaurus—“and an amphibious reptile!” (There is no point contending that a Brontosaurus is itself an amphibious reptile.) The picture’s writer-producer-director, the indelibly named Sidney Pink, puts Reptilicus first in the hands of some oblivious mineral extractors who cannot figure out what they have discovered beneath the Laplander tundra. When they dig up their findings, revealed to be a long segment of prehistoric tail, they fly it to a Copenhagen laboratory. Once there, the eminent Dr. Martens amasses enough other bone fragments, tissue samples, and “skilled assistants” that he can make the most authoritative and scientifically sound of judgments. For your consideration: “From the size of that tail, we have calculated that the size of the creature must have been—gigantic!”

As with most films of this ilk, the dialogue is, quite unintentionally, one of the key treats. The American Brigadier General Grayson, who is enlisted to supervise the scientific research (!), offers up a slew of choice double entendres that could as easily refer to actor Carl Ottosen’s disgruntlement with appearing in this picture as they do to the monster- mashing scenario. “Transfer me out of this damn place!” he screams, and then later, “Get me out of this hell!” The personnel of the Danish Army, charmingly ragtag outfit that they are—they buggy off into battle before anyone in the script bothers to specify who they’re fighting—accept the leadership of an American general with lovely, unquestioning aplomb

My favorite character, though, is Svend, the Where’s Waldo? figure of the piece. First he is the driller who happens upon the specimen, then a driver for the military leaders, and he eventually pops up in nearly every scene performing the sorts of tasks—operating the Copenhagen draw-bridge, scouting out a general in the field, reading municipal maps and oceanographic surveys—that only photogenic stars of action pictures can intuitively master at a moment’s notice. His best moment? It’s a toss-up: either the whole scene he plays as a Naval officer with face averted (so we hopefully won’t recognize it’s the same old actor!) or the hilariously overripe moment when, exchanging a nice long gaze with Ottosen’s General Grayson, he assures his colleague, “Many people are stubborn—I am firm!” Who could leave such a subversive second meaning to rest? Not me, pal.

Meanwhile, that indefatigable Sidney Pink, either trying to prove his multi-generic mettle or else just trying to be all things to all people, devotes a whole ten-minute sequence to a thinly-disguised survey of beautiful Copenhagen (which laudably extended the citizens of Tokyo a one-film break from their role as Designated Giant-Lizard Victims.) This travelogue portion of Reptilicus ends with an even more wildly unnecessary, full- length nightclub act by a performer whom the end credits advertise as “Birthe Wilke, as Herself.”

You can’t help wondering about the pitch meeting that produced this movie. “What if we made a monster movie that doubled as foreign-travel propaganda, entertainment showcase, and beauty contest?” This last acknowledges the trio of tenuously-relevant Scandinavian women who circulate through the zany plot, usually as fawning bookends for a flattered military man or in the reverse position of the grinning gamine in between two older-men chaperones. Then there’s good old Birthe Wilke As Herself, who sings her ditty while the nearest customer stares squarely at her bosom. Welcome to Sidney Pink’s vision: Godzilla meets the Ice Capades meets I Am Curious (Yellow).

But, you know what? God bless people who make movies like Reptilicus, which could only be made because, doggone it, these folks just loved the idea of making a movie—and which exists in digitally remastered form in 1998 because we love watching movies, even at their cheesy worst. After all, no amount of technical touching-up can obscure the fact that the monster’s first human victim is a crinkly paper cut-out. No wizardry of any sort can stave off the realization that the easiest way for this melting pot of a military to defeat Reptilicus would be to sever the puppet-wire that holds up his head.

There’s nothing to admire here, but much to love, if the game good-sportsmanship of the performers and the producers strikes you in the right giddy mood. And unlike its modern- day equivalents like Independence Day, you know that no great sums of money were spent on this schlock, and no one’s strong-arming you into buying the attendant Happy Meals and action toys. Reptilicus is the most wonderful, horrible, papier- mache community theatre show you’re likely to find on the “Horror” shelf. It’s ineptitude you can laugh with. D


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