‘What strange power made her half woman – half snake?’
The Reptile is a 1966 British horror film made by Hammer Film Productions. It was directed by John Gilling (back-to-back with The Plague of the Zombies) from a screenplay by John Elder [Anthony Hinds].
The movie stars Noel Willman, Jacqueline Pearce, Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel and Michael Ripper.
At the turn of the 20th century in the fictional village of Clagmoor Heath in Cornwall locals are dying from what is deemed to be the “Black Death”.
Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) inherits his late brother’s cottage and arrives with his new bride, Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) . The inhabitants of the village keep clear of the newly arrived couple, and only the publican, Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper), befriends them. Bailey explains that the hostility exhibited by local people is the result of many mysterious deaths in the community.
The sinister Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), the owner of the nearby Well House, is the only resident in the vicinity of the cottage, and he lives with his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce). The Doctor treats his daughter with cruel contempt, and she is attended by a silent Malay servant (Marne Maitland).
Hoping to learn something of the deaths, Harry invites the local eccentric, Mad Peter (John Laurie), home for dinner. After warning them that their lives are in danger, Mad Peter quickly departs only to return later that evening foaming at the mouth, with his face blackened and swollen. He dies within a few minutes. The Spaldings attempt to alert Dr. Franklyn, but Franklyn arrogantly states that Peter’s death is not his concern…
” …The Reptile’s production team obviously realised that when you’re lumbered with making a horror movie that has no distinctive stars, no attention-grabbing new concept, and a special effects budget that doesn’t stretch much beyond one questionable monster suit, your best bet is to fall back on more old fashioned virtues. Y’know – like tight scripting, solid acting, and that old chestnut… atmosphere.” Breakfast in the Ruins
“Muted in terms of on-screen action and horror, and ending conventionally with a cathartic fire, this movie may lack the blood and cleavage of Hammer’s better known works, but fine performances and beautifully nuanced direction mark it as a quality production all round. The effectively rainy, ambient backdrop proves perfect for a steadily unfolding plot full of strange deaths and gloomy exhumations.” Steven West, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969
“This isn’t a film simply about the gothic horror of the situation presented but is instead an interesting look at the dark and evil nature brought about by the unperturbed paternal love. The mystery and the goings on to do indeed surround the Franklyn’s but there’s really no doubt that all the action that ensues is down to the Doctor protecting his daughter.” Adam Scovell, The Spooky Isles
“In her few appearances as herself, Pearce offers a gloriously sensual performance which, together with Gilling’s controlled direction and alluring imagery, constitutes the highlight of the uneven, but cinematically seductive, picture.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror