Reptilicus

I love movies with dinosaurs and giant monsters and can find something to like in most films, however dated or low-budget. “The Amazing Colossal Man” has a sympathetic hero and a monster origin good enough for Stan Lee to borrow for “The Incredible Hulk.” “The Giant Claw” overcomes its silly creature effects with good acting and witty dialog. “The X From Outer Space” features a monster goofy and energetic enough to be lovable. But even by my forgiving standards, “Reptilicus” is execrable. Compared to this Danish debacle, “The Amazing Colossal Man” stands proudly alongside “Citizen Kane.”

The irony is that the movie gets off to a good start, introducing likable characters, generating suspense, adding humor. All this potential evaporates, however, as soon as we encounter the two main characters: Carl Ottosen, portraying (if that’s not too strong a word for what he does) a hero you love to hate, and the title monster itself. While the other actors give believable, if stilted, performances, Ottosen shouts or snarls nearly every line. I suppose this is to indicate what a tough guy he is, but it makes his war veteran character the ugliest of Ugly Americans. The only events that could have redeemed this situation would have been to have Ottosen’s character eaten by the monster or to have pitted him against Abbott and Costello. Sadly, neither of these well-deserved fates befalls him.

Reptilicus can best be described as the hand puppet from Hades. The film never shows the entire creature at once. Either we catch a glimpse of its snaky tail sliding behind a miniature building, or we see its head and neck writhing above a toy skyline, its tiny forelegs dangling uselessly. It isn’t that Reptilicus is a bad hand puppet. Many a B-movie has remained enjoyable despite its cardboard monsters. The problem is that the creature never interacts with the Copenhagen it is supposedly terrorizing. The film utterly fails to create the illusion that the writhing puppet and the fleeing Danes occupy the same real estate.

The movie shows stock footage of capsized vessels, but we never get to see the monster actually attack a ship. We see terrified citizens scrambling across a suspension bridge but regrettably the exciting movie poster image of the beast attacking such a structure never occurs, even in miniature. The Danish soldiers fire their weaponry manfully but since there is no action-reaction between what they do and what the monster does, we’re not surprised when their shots have no effect. Worst of all are the monster’s attacks. When the monster supposedly devours a frightened farmer, we’re treated to yet another stock shot of the puppet opening and shutting its jaws with a Monty Python style animated figure superimposed over its mouth. The least they could have done is had the puppet shake a floppy doll, or something. When Reptilicus supposedly dissolves its opponents with acid spittle, we see animated green squiggles superimposed near its mouth. Then we see a scene of soldiers over-wiped with the same glowing green shade. But we don’t get to see the results, no melted tanks or fallen bodies. It took a couple instances of this before I figured out what was intended.

All in all, “Reptilicus” is the dullest, least engaging giant monster flick I’ve seen since “Monster From Green Hell.” Save your time and money and buy the movie poster instead. Or rent “Destroy All Monsters,” in which the serpentine Manda encircles and crushes a suspension bridge. Manda’s cameo is more fun than the whole of “Reptilicus.”