Harry George Spaulding (Ray Barrett) inherits his brother Charles’s(David Baron) small home in a Cornish village. When he arrives he receives a chilly reception, the cottage is ransacked, and he begins to believe that Charles did not die from a heart attack. Former sailor and bartender Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper, The Devil Ship Pirates) becomes his only ally, slowly feeding him information about what is going on. Villagers are dying from what they call “The Black Death” but what their medical examiner is calling heart attacks. Spaulding’s neighbors-unpleasant theologian Dr. Franklyn (Noel William, Kiss of the Vampire), his tightly watched daughter Anna (The Plague of the Zombies), and their Malay manservant (Marne Maitland, Shaft in Africa)-seem involved. Can Harry, his wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel, The Kiss of the Vampire) and Tom get to the bottom of things before they, too, fall to The Reptile?
Roger Corman is hardly the only low-budget film maker to shoot two movies at the same time, or closely together, to allow reuse of sets, props and cast members, making a second, smaller film at a much cheaper cost at the same time as a bigger budgeted one. Hammer Studios’ The Reptile is one example of this practice, shot on the same sets as The Plague of the Zombies, and reusing some of the same actors. In contrast to that film, which used a (for Hammer) large supporting cast, The Reptile has a single monster, and few sets-the bar, the Spaulding cottage, and a couple of rooms in Dr. Franklyn’s mansion-and most scenes feature less than four actors at one time. The small-scale works with the story, which is fairly intimate, but at times the film is padded with scenes of characters wandering around in places the menace might be, but without generating suspense. The monster costume is a bit goofy, but the actors, excluding Barrett (who is a bit bland), are quite good, and it is nice, for once, to see one of Ripper’s bar men stop warning the heroes and get directly involved. The Reptile is an enjoyable efficient, if formulaic, Hammer film, worth a look for fans.