Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) moves into his late brother’s cottage in a village in Cornwall with his new wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel). The village’s inhabitants are all on edge due to the odd deaths that are plaguing the place and only the local pub owner (Michael Ripper) is friendly to the newly arrived couple.
The nearest place to the Spalding’s cottage is Well House, which is owned by Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), who lives there with his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and a moody Malay servant. As the deaths continue to occur the horrific truth is eventually revealed, involving curses and bodily transformation.
THE REPTILE was shot back to back with THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES by John Gilling, shares some of that film’s sets, and several actors appear in both of the films (Ripper & Pearce). It was released on a double bill with RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK.
Jacqueline Pearce is affecting as the tragic daughter in this Hammer horror tale about a woman cursed by a cult to become a murderous snake creature – and the look of the reptile woman that Pearce turns into is quite striking, I think, despite the low-tech techniques used to bring her to life. Roy Ashton created the makeup, which entirely covers Pearce’s head, and only the unblinking eyes detract somewhat from an otherwise memorable creation.
Ashton’s treatment of the faces of all the victims bitten by the creature involves turning them green/black and adding foam that dribbles from their mouths. One of these unfortunates is Mad Peter, played by John (DAD’S ARMY) Laurie.
Hammer regular Michael Ripper is likeable in his role as the helpful local publican and Noel (KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) Willman plays Dr. Franklyn, who tries to keep his daughter’s condition secret, as someone who is equal parts sinister and guilt-ridden. There’s an effective moment when Franklyn, full of revulsion and impotence, lashes out at his daughter’s shed snakeskin lying on her bed.
If there’s a problem with THE REPTILE it’s the fact the film treats its story as something of a mystery, despite the poster showing us what is causing all the deaths, resulting in the reptile woman attack scenes feeling a little too rushed in the latter parts of the movie.
But, hey, this is a Hammer film about a were-snake-woman and I will always be fond of it!