When you think of pioneers in the field of sci-fi feature films, only one nation springs to mind: Denmark. No, really. Verdens Undergang (1916) and Himmelskibet (1918) are two of the earliest examples and they’re both from the people who brought us LEGO. They’re pretty good too: Verdens Undergang is a comet-induced end-of-the-worlder while Himmelskibet still seems uncannily like Star Trek to this day. In fact, Himmelskibet is essential viewing and they’re both on a single DVD if you have a root round the ‘net. But after this glorious-yet-silent start, the Danes left the genre alone for 43 years only to return at the back-end of the ‘50s creature-feature era. But once more they went for it with aplomb. The world would be a slightly duller place without Reptilicus.
The Danes are mining for copper in Lapland (and we know that’s not in Denmark) but dig up the tail of a giant lizard-thing instead. Although they assume it’s a fossil it clearly isn’t as it’s actually bleeding when they bring it to the surface. So they take it to Copenhagen, chuck it in a freezer and then accidentally defrost it by forgetting to shut the freezer door properly. Well it’s more plausible than the electric-blanket fiasco in The Thing from Another World (1951). As it turns out, this lizard-thing has the power to regenerate like a starfish (we don’t like those) so they actually let it grow before it escapes and does to Copenhagen what the Big G normally does to Tokyo.
Along the line we get a comedy caretaker (Dirch Passer), the chief scientist’s slightly terrifying daughters (one looks like a she wears her doll’s clothes) and some woeful special effects. Seriously, while the Americans had been favouring Ray Harryhausen for this sort of caper and even the Brit’s Gorgo (1961) used Japanese-style suitmation, what we have here is a puppet. A rubbish puppet, at that. Which is strange as a bit of cash was clearly spent: this is in colour. Perhaps that’s because they were trying to make Copenhagen look tourist-friendly (hence it being in English) although the guy in charge of the swing-bridge who panics, opens it, and sends hundreds of fleeing Danes into the water (with their bicycles) would put most people off. And for fans of our NATO allies we get to see the Danish Army turn up with Centurion tanks (so that's who we sold them to) which might even be a sci-fi first. Throw in the Danish Navy on manoeuvres and you’ve got enough to keep this reviewer happy. Just a shame the movie’s only female scientist (Marla Behrens) points out that blowing a regenerating lizard into a million pieces with a depth-charge might be a bit dumb. Oh, and Reptilicus is a triphibian (it has wings) but, mercifully, we never see it fly.
Actually, while it’s a bit silly, Reptilicus is great fun and a must-see if it’s your mission in life to see every mid-20th century monster movie ever made. Everyone needs a hobby.
Special Features: None
REPTILICUS (1961) / CERT: PG /DIRECTOR: SIDNEY W. PINK / SCREENPLAY: IB MELCHOIR, SIDNEY W. PINK / STARRING: CARL OTTOSEN, ANN SMYRNER, MIMI HEINREICH, ASBJØRN ANDERSON, MARLA BEHRENS, POVL WØLDIKE, DIRCH PASSER, OLE WISBORG / RELEASED: JULY 4TH