The Reptile, today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, comes from Britain’s Hammer Films horror factory that produced scores of Frankenstein, Dracula and Mummy movies. The monster in this 1966 feature is a little different — a she-devil who can transform into a venomous Queen Cobra snake. Her victims turn sickly green and begin foaming at the mouth before succumbing to what local villagers euphemistically call “the black death.”
It all takes place, circa 1900, in Clagmore Heath, a remote town nestled among the moors of Cornwall, England. This is prime, howling-at-the-moon werewolf territory, but here the monster is instead an Oriental occult freak. Her father, a doctor of theology, had traveled to India, Java, Sumatra and Borneo to study secret Asian religious sects. After he got too close to a deadly snake cult in the jungles of Borneo, its high priests put a curse on his family — transforming his winsome daughter into the killer snake woman.
Horrified, the doctor has returned with her to England, hoping to break the evil spell and find a cure for her malignant condition. She is actually quite beautiful, kind and artistic — for instance, she plays a mean sitar. But when temperatures rise, better not go walking out on the moors or you might slither into her hideous, scaly alter-ego. Her presence mortifies the locals, who are already a cold and suspicious bunch, shunning all outsiders. As the village idiot, Mad Pete, blurts out, “This is an e-e-e-evil place, corrupt and e-e-e-evil.”
The Reptile has a few gaping plot holes and doesn’t contain a lot of gore, but it’s got chilling atmosphere to spare, and is well-mounted by director John Gilling, especially considering that, in a cost-saving measure, he was simultaneously shooting Plague of the Zombies at the same time, using the same locales, sets, props and many of the same actors. Australian Ray Barrett plays the obstinate newcomer who goes poking around to solve the mystery of the moors. Noel Willman is the creepy Dr. Franklyn and Jacqueline Pearce his ill-fated daughter. This film later served as one of the many inspirations for Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm. Enjoy and return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the full movie has been removed from YouTube. Until or unless it is reposted, here is the trailer.