BIFF12 - The Reptile - Cinema Review

'Polished in nature this isn't, although now, in appearance, it does have a certain sheen.'

Part of Hammer's bid to restore their older properties, this new restoration of The Reptile is as pin sharp as you could possibly hope from a film shot in 1966, with meagre means and the typical Hammer production values. Candles constantly provide a similar sort of illumination to your average lighthouse bulb, makeup melts in the rain and, at one point, a 'corpse' is placed ill-advisedly close to the camera, where it visibly breathes. Several times in fact. Polished in nature this isn't, although now, in appearance, it does have a certain sheen.

It's tempting to revel in the meagreness and, certainly, some do, playing spot-the-mistake and charting Hammer's litany of schlock but, really, when it comes down to it, the vast majority of the films really aren't that good, whether that be technically or artistically.

The Reptile, from director John Gilling, is no exception. You can get sucked along in a false romance with mediocrity but ultimately the acting is ropey, the script is awful and the atmosphere conspicuous by its absence. The village which protagonist Harry (Ray Barrett) and wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) move in to seems to be constructed of two houses and fails to create the dread you need in this sort of 'we don't like non-locals round here' fayre. Villain Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) is laughably poor and the casual racism directed at near-silent Marne Maitland (simply credited as playing 'The Malay') and his 'primitive Eastern religions' is clearly highly distasteful. Towards the end a main character could finish everything but instead stops to free some captive animals. Literally five minutes later he goes through a complete about turn and decides he's not so interested in killing the titular monster after all.

There is undoubtedly worth in Hammer's archive, and a place for them in film history, but neither of those facts changes the dubious quality of so many of their older offerings. This is hokey stuff, typified by the papier-mache-alike mask the gribbly wears. A bit like the film, it's off-kilter, poorly constructed and, with eyes that look in different directions, rather amateurish.

The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.

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