What's green, scaly, shoots acid slime from its mouth, can regenerate at a moment's notice and can fly (at least in the Danish version) from one Scandinavian metropolis to another? If you answered REPTILICUS, then obviously anyone reading this is familiar with this 1962 Danish/American co-production which was released in America under the auspices of that leader of drive-in classics… American International Pictures. Now Scream Factory pairs the film with TENTACLES for a giant monster Blu-ray double bill of the “so bad they’re good” and dodgy special effects variety!
The plot is very simple and manages to throw in every monster movie cliché possible, plus find a couple of new ones in the process. While drilling through the frozen tundra in Northern Scandinavia, Svend Viltorft (Bent Mejding) discovers the fleshy and bloody remains of what scientists Dr. Martens (Asbjorn Andersen) and Dr. Dalby (Poul Wildaker) determine to be of reptilian origin (hence the name "Reptilicus" or "Reptilicus Martentius" as one clever newspaper reporter puts it). Of course, scientific curiosity leads Martens and Dalby to fly the specimen to The Denmark Aquarium in Copenhagen where they have "the facilities for study."
Since this is a giant monster-on-the-loose "epic," it isn't long before the frozen Reptilicus begins to thaw out (through human carelessness) and regenerate itself a new and improved body. In addition, the ravenous reptile also develops such superpowers as the ability to shoot projectile green acid slime at its hapless victims as it makes a virtual shambles of Copenhagen, Denmark. It isn't until General Mark Grayson (an American general played by Danish "actor" Carl Ottosen) arrives on the scene that the battle between man and monster becomes personal as Grayson makes it his business to wipe out this slithering menace once and for all.
REPTILICUS is not the worst monster-on-the-loose film as some critics may have it, but it is one of the most entertaining “bad” films you'll see, and that makes its charm all the more appealing. The wooden acting (and I'm being kind) is made all the more silly by the dubbing. According to Samuel Z. Arkoff in his 1992 autobiography, Flying Through Hollywood By the Seat of My Pants, when Sidney Pink showed him a rough cut of REPTILICUS, Arkoff couldn't stop laughing at the ridiculous "sing-song" Scandinavian accents. He demanded that Pink hire American actors to re-voice the Danish actors. After a variety of lawsuits, Pink gave in and hired such familiar voices as Robert Cornthwaite (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD), Janet Waldo (THE JETSONS), and J. Edward McKinley (THE ANGRY RED PLANET) to provide the voices for the characters of Dr. Martens, Karin Martens, and General Grayson, respectively. Even co-writer Ib Melchior provided his voice for a variety of characters.
The special effects themselves are of a primitive nature lacking the technological advances of today, but more importantly, it's lacking a decent budget. Reptilicus himself is nothing more than a marionette which plows through a miniature Copenhagen on what looks like a ping-pong table with a painted backdrop and miniature buildings. Also, budgetary concerns forced the special effects crew to eliminate any blue screen effects which would put the characters and Reptilicus on the screen at the same time. The one scene in which this is tried is where Reptilicus pops out of the water behind two beachgoers. Unfortunately, the screen with Reptilicus moves while the two people remain still and the effect is noticeable. Also, Arkoff eliminated all scenes (for the U.S. release) in which Reptilicus flies over Denmark because he found them laughable. REPTILICUS holds a special place with monster movie fans not because it's a great science fiction film, but simply because of how hard Pink and his cast and crew tried to be convincing. They don't always succeed, but they do give us genre fans 81 minutes that’s pure cult classic.
TENTACLES, is an Italian production released in the U.S. (where most of it was filmed) by AIP. One of the sillier JAWS rip-offs to surface in the 1970s, the story concerns the residents at a beach community in California and the sudden, mysterious deaths that occur there. First, an infant in a stroller is seized from the top of a cliff and into the sea, and then a sailor is found as a horribly mutilated corpse. The sheriff (Claude Akins, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) is at first bewildered, but it's soon believed that a giant octopus is responsible. In the meantime, over-aged reporter Ned Turner (top-billed John Huston, DE SADE) is trying to track down a story and get to the bottom of things at the same time. His sister(!) Tillie (Shelley Winters, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?) makes the mistake of letting her boy and his best friend enter a sailboat contest where, naturally, the title creature has a field day. Heroic marine biologist Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins, THE WILD BUNCH) is brought in to investigate and takes things personally when his beautiful wife (Delia Boggardo, HIGH CRIME) and her equally stunning sister (Sherry Buchanan, who later suffer an even grislier fate in ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST) fall victim to the enormous eight-tentacled menace. Good old Will devises a far-fetched scheme (which involves his ability to communicate with two intelligent killer whales) to triumph over the terrorizing sea creature!
TENTACLES is a very dumb piece of cinema but it still can be fun in a road accident of a bad movie kind of way. Most of the monster attacks lack any suspense, with an obviously small octopus smothering toy boats that look like they were left over from a Tidy Bowl commercial. Lots of prominent Hollywood names were thrown in for marquee value, and the scenes with Shelley Winters (whose plump appearance is repeatedly poked fun of) are just silly fluff, and try to imagine Huston (almost old enough to be her father) as her "little brother!" Cesare Danova (whose distinct voice has been dubbed over by an American-sounding actor) and Henry Fonda (who literally looks like he phoned in his performance from his backyard) are the corrupt businessman behind "Trojan Construction" who may be responsible for the underwater terror. Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (here using his Americanized "Oliver Hellman" pseudonym) was a prolific schlock movie director/producer best known for 1975's BEYOND THE DOOR, and he was executive producer on a fish that smelt even worse than TENTACLES: PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING.
MGM first released TENTACLES on DVD in 2004 as part of a “Midnite Movies” double feature with EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory). The DVD transfer looked great to begin with, but Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation is marvelous, delivering the film in 1080p in its original 2.35:1 Technovision aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and nicely saturated, looking stunning and crisp. Contrast is excellent with great picture detail, and the transfer is very clean except for some fleeting speckling. The audio is presented in a LPCM stereo track with good range; dialogue is clear, sound effects are distinct and Stelvio Cipriani’s very Euro-sounding score has a nice punch to it. Like MGM's previous DVD, this transfer actually represents the longer Italian version, running a good 12 minutes more than what was released in U.S. theaters. Optional English subtitles are included.
MGM first released REPTILICUS on DVD as a “Midnite Movies” in 2001 in a 1.33:1 transfer. More recently, as the film was licensed to Shout! Factory, Timeless Media crammed it on to their MOVIES 4 YOU—MORE MGM SCI-FI CLASSICS with three other titles, in an improved (and still 1.33:1) but still flawed transfer. Scream Factory uses a new HD transfer for this Blu-ray, presenting the American cut of the film in 1080p in a fitting 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and the film has never looked better, especially considering that the film was shot on shoestring budget with the photography and color processing not of the caliber of most Hollywood productions of the time. Colors are now distinct and bold, and fleshtones now appear more realistic. The image is well-detailed and clean with the expected instances of built-in film dirt which surfaces during the optical effects scenes, as well as a light sheet of filmic grain. The LPCM stereo English language track is fine, with dialogue, music and sound effects all playing through clearly. Optional English subtitles are included.
Extras for both REPTILICUS and TENTACLES include an original theatrical trailer, a radio spot and a still gallery for each film. (Joe Cascio and George R. Reis)
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