Directed by TOY STORY 3’s Lee Unkrich, COCO is a stunning vision of beauty and life. This 2017 Pixar picture is the stuff of cinematic wonder, with a screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich. It weaves a timely and timeless story that explores the Mexican Día de Muertos and notions of memory, family and life. It is an expressive and sometimes dark movie, with confident humour and warm voice performances.
The story focuses on 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), an aspiring musician living with his shoemaking family in Santa Cecilia. His grandmother (Renée Victor) is upholding a familial ban on music and prohibits Miguel from playing his guitar. The boy is undaunted and wants to be like the famed Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a captivating idol revered the world over notwithstanding his untimely death. Miguel’s journey to understand his family and his love of music reveals the truth about his hero and takes him all the way to the Land of the Dead itself.
COCO thrives with gorgeous music and colour, celebrating the worlds of the living and dead. The early images of Miguel’s home are profuse with flavour, with Pixar’s animation team paying careful attention to the slightest of details. There is always food and movement. With the Day of the Dead approaching, there is also festivity and tradition. Miguel’s family is, like so many fabled clans, reverent of traditions and yet in need of revelation.
At the heart of COCO is what could be termed a misinterpretation of events. The grudge against song is unspoken in a broken heart, in a mislaid life. Gael García Bernal gracefully draws Héctor as the hinge of this fallacy and his affection for Miguel leaps for joy. The title character, a woman (Ana Ofelia Murguía) slipping away, is characteristic of how the living maintain a grasp on the lost and how the lost are left with a place in the here and now so long as they are remembered. And in the face of doubt, sorrow and despair, COCO’s message is beautifully important.
To say that THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, the ninth and final movie in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series, differs from the rest would be the ultimate understatement. This 1974 outing is a joint production between Hammer and the venerable Shaw Brothers Studio. Roy Ward Baker is credited as the director, but Chang Cheh had a hand in things as well. The screenplay is the work of Don Houghton.
The movie opens in Transylvania circa 1804, with a shaman (Chan Shen) summoning Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson). This pisses off the vampire, but he inhabits the body of the shaman and heads for China. A century later, Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is trying to convince the Chinese intelligentsia of the existence of vampires. Only Hsi Ching (David Chiang) believes him. Ching tells Van Helsing about vampires in his village and the fight is on.
THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES is about as good as it has any business being. It manages a rather sophisticated meshing of worlds and cultures, with the Westerners admiring the martial arts displays of Ching and his siblings and the Chinese surprised by the starchy brainpower of the Brits. One character, the well-heeled Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), seems to straddle the line. She eschews the anticipated “fragility” of the Western woman while craving adventure.
Also shunning the notion is Mai Kwei, played by Shaw Brothers stalwart Shih Szu. She draws the eye of Van Helsing’s son (Robin Stewart) and holds her own against the vampires and gangsters of the unknown. She is as tough as the rest of the characters, which leads things back to Cushing and his brain. He delivers the final blow, both to the Count and to the series, and his command is as assured as ever. It’s a remarkable conclusion to a remarkable series.
Hammer Film Productions takes a swing at a franchise with CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER. This 1974 outing was written and directed by Brian Clemens, who made a lot of hay in the 1960s with THE AVENGERS on television. In many ways, CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER is suggestive of the TV show, with its handsome hero and sexy sidekick and know-it-all buddy. But in many other ways, this movie is a bore.
Things begin in a village where people are being drained of their life essence. Dr. Marcus (John Carson) summons Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), an old pal with a specific set of skills. Kronos shows up with his hunchback Hieronymus Grost (John Cater) and it is determined that a different sort of vampire is responsible for the terrible events. Kronos, Grost and the gypsy Carla (Caroline Munro) get to work at overcoming the profound, youth-loving evil.
While CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER has the pieces to function as a brisk, pulpy vampire movie, it’s a tough sell. The biggest problem lies with the title character and Janson, who occupies the role with negligible charm. He’s a granite-carved dope, a mimbo with wooden delivery. He lacks the swashbuckler appeal his character requires and the film blunders around him. Even Munro’s Carla fails to slog much out of his tank.
There are some decent details on the periphery. Munro is nice to look at for those so inclined, while Grost is an entertaining character with a love for chess and esoteric knowledge. Clemens isn’t afraid to pop in a droll line or two and there’s some good stuff involving the village tormenter (Ian Hendry). The vampires come together in the context of the Durward’s youth obsession, but the circle drifts back to the Captain. Thusly considered, it’s probably a blessing that the franchise hopes for CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER withered on the vine.
There’s something decidedly far out about DRACULA A.D. 1972, a movie so hazy and nebulous that it feels out of time. The Hammer Film Productions effort from director Alan Gibson tries to resuscitate the DRACULA legend in a modern context, with Don Houghton’s screenplay providing the foundation for Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to renew their classic enmity. But this picture is far removed from their bloody good HORROR OF DRACULA smackdown in 1958.
After a brief introduction that illustrates a skirmish between Count Dracula (Lee) and Van Helsing (Cushing), the action flings forward a century. A group of London “teens” is seeking a new thrill and they turn to Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) for help. He drags them to a shadowy castle, where he performs a ritual to summon Satan or a reasonable facsimile. The sacrament brings Dracula back to life instead. Meanwhile, Van Helsing’s relations are battle-ready.
DRACULA A.D. 1972 is very much about ritual. The film exists in a ceremony of the 1970s, with the teenagers focused on partying and causing mayhem. They throw a party in a mansion. One of them dresses up like a monk and Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham) is doing her best to get along. Alucard, along with hoping nobody pays attention to how his name reads in reverse, is dreams of distant, gloomy power.
The rituals draw on a Count Dracula who, like the rest of the picture, is out of time. Lee’s intimidating aura is a perfect blend with Mike Vickers’ wacky score, which is likewise out of place. The gallant rancour that spills from the lead vampire is thrust upon the world and patent as a man waiting around for teenagers to provide his nourishment, like a rapacious agent without the will to go outside. Van Helsing is likewise stuck, at least until the end, and the promise of final peace is again thrown to the wind.
BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel THE JEWEL OF SEVEN STARS, which revealed some of the author’s fascination for Egyptology. This cinematic outing from Hammer Film Productions features a screenplay by Christopher Wicking and was mostly directed by Seth Holt, at least until he died with a week left in production. Michael Carreras helmed balance, while Hammer staple Arthur Grant is billed as the cinematographer.
The star of the show is Valerie Leon, who is a young woman named Margaret. She bears a likeness to Queen Tera (Leon), an Egyptian of antiquity, and she’s given a ring by her father Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir). The ring belonged to Queen Tera and her power begins to saturate Margaret, who finds her nightmares getting worse. Her suitor Tod (Mark Edwards) tries to hold the fort, but Professor Fuchs has some foul colleagues from the expedition and ancient history is finding its way back.
The scenario of BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is standard. The principal villain is restricted to her sarcophagus and her reach is less perceptible in that she occupies Margaret’s mind and grants her detached power. Death moves through the air, scratching out throats and leaving bodies in the bloody expanse. There is an expedition gone wrong, just like Tod’s shrieking car ride, and Queen Tera’s trickling fingerprints are everywhere.
Lest this lack of tangibility wound BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB’s chances at the material, there’s Leon. Along with possessing many of the qualities admired by those so inclined toward such ambrosial manifestations of the flesh, Leon is a doe-eyed contestant in the mystic elsewhere. She occurs between time, lying in Tera’s tomb and reaching Margaret’s soul and sharing evil essence. Her lot is the exhibition of unseen ferocity, the inevitability of death, the blasphemy. And when she goes to hell, we’ll still remember her.
On paper, Hammer Film Productions’ TWINS OF EVIL seems gimmicky and gaudy. But in practice, this 1971 picture from director John Hough is loaded with detail and complexity. Considered the third film in the so-called Karnstein trilogy, TWINS OF EVIL follows LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS by trading on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s pre-DRACULA yarn CARMILLA. In the hands of Hough and screenwriter Tudor Gates, this movie has plenty of fangs.
The action begins with the arrival of twin orphans Maria (Mary Collinson) and Frieda (Madeleine Collinson) to live with their uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing). He’s involved with the witch-hunting Brotherhood and is a violent dogmatist with a good heart. Or something. The twins aren’t fond of their uncle’s airless ways and Frieda takes a shine to Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who lives in a castle and conducts Satanic rituals.
TWINS OF EVIL may seem like exploitation cinema with the use of Playboy Playmates as the title characters, but the Collinson sisters are game. They take to the Hammer horror iconography with aplomb, personifying the skirmish between innocence and sin with elusive flashes of tooth and nail. They arrive in the “plumage” of birds of paradise, so to speak, and have already grown weary of mourning their dead parents. This immediately sets them apart in Gustav’s stale village.
It’s only natural that the twins would collide with their uncle’s fanaticism. He leads a group of men who stomp through the woods and yank out witches, burning them alive. That these men fail to contend with the Satanic Count is a matter of economics. He’s rich and the locals are frightened. Such capital affords the Jimmy Fallon lookalike the option to hold blood rituals, but his devilish tourism goes a step further. And that sets up the central incitement of TWINS OF EVIL: the fervent suspicion of Gustav and his cronies is, at least in Karnstein’s case, vindicated.
Pride goeth before destruction in COUNTESS DRACULA, the 1971 horror picture from Hammer Film Productions. Directed by Peter Sasdy from a screenplay by Jeremy Paul, this movie is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory and takes sure delight in the remarkable mythology surrounding the Hungarian noble/serial killer. But where Sasdy’s production really hammers things down is in its exploration of what drives her actions. She is a frenzied ruin, a wretch clinging to youth’s tender treachery.
The widowed Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt) is living a discontented existence despite the company of her lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green). She dreadfully seeks youth, which leads her to the discovery that she can be young again with the help of the blood of fledgling women. She sets off on a crime spree, which involves the slaughter of several women and the kidnapping of her own daughter (Lesley-Anne Down).
Captain Dobi is a compelling piece of work as the acquiescent part-time lover of Elisabeth. He is hideously aware of her lust for Imre Toth (Sandor Elès) and his impeccable moustache. By hook or by crook, Dobi slogs on and seems capable of actual gladness and even some inadvertent compassion. He supplies the Countess with her supply of young flesh and blood, but he’s sure to tip the fated blonde (Andrea Lawrence) a little something extra before she meets her end.
Captain Dobi permits the Countess’ behaviour, which stems from a lack of self-worth. The ensuing trail of blood logically settles at a wedding, with the eager woman and her followers getting what’s coming to them. This must be the ultimate indignity for Pitt’s Nádasdy, but it’s hard to argue that her vicious exploitation of the poor is something that can face adequate retribution. Sasdy is sure of this, exposing her horror for what it is and making sure her craven enablers see their share of the crossbeams as well.
LUST FOR A VAMPIRE comes on the heels of Roy Ward Baker’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and forms the middle portion of the so-called Karnstein trilogy, which contends with the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella CARMILLA. This 1971 entry from Hammer Film Productions differs from the more orthodox DRACULA series in many ways, but it does maintain a certain Gothic receptivity in the hands of director Jimmy Sangster.
The action returns to Styria, where novelist Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) is hanging around. He receives word of some odd events and comes across a finishing school for girls, which is run by Miss Simpson (Helen Christie). A new arrival named Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) catches Richard’s eye and he works his way to a position as an instructor. He is subsequently led around by his libido, but there is trouble afoot as Mircalla may or may not be associated with the infamous Karnstein clan of vampires.
LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is less intriguing than THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, but there is some interesting material. Richard’s actions belie a greater sense for the rapacious, in that this finishing school serves as a veritable henhouse for the movie’s many foxes. Gender has little to do with it, although Giles Barton (Ralph Bates) is a more than suitable creep. Mircalla likewise sets herself up as a fanged invader, seeking nubile necks upon which to nosh.
There is plenty of flesh, often in the form of young women changing in their rooms, and that provides the requisite eye candy for those so inclined. There is a minor bit of substance when Richard arrives about he doesn’t believe the mythology of Styria’s working class and repudiates the vampire business, but this disperses quickly. Most of LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is spent rummaging through the basics, with a banal cast and an unremarkable wisp of a leading vamp.
While other pictures in the Hammer Film Productions canon have contended with the nexus of sex and horror that seems a necessary element of the vampire movie, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS wastes little time on refinement and goes straight for the jugular. This 1970 outing is based on the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella CARMILLA, which precedes the Bram Stoker novel and introduces the vampire as a woman capable of exploiting social mores.
After an introduction that involves Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) and the decapitation of a beautiful vampire, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS swings to the manor of General Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing). He is having a big party and winds up taking care of Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt), the daughter of a new neighbour. Marcilla takes a liking to the General’s niece Laura (Pippa Steel) and their relationship turns deadly. Some time later, Marcilla resurfaces as Carmilla and takes her act onward to the Morton family.
While some mystery wafts through the events of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, the flesh is laid bare. Marcilla/Carmilla is a huntress of sorts and she targets her quarry with every weapon in her toolkit, exploiting emotions and loneliness where she sees fit. She is sexual, introducing a world of pleasure to her innocent victims. And she seems capable of blending dreams with reality, which causes dizzying confusion for Laura and Emma Morton (Madeline Smith). It is only when bitemarks are revealed that the sinking feeling sets in.
Marcilla/Carmilla is a member of the Karnstein clan, which includes a maternal figure (Dawn Addams) and a man in black (John Forbes-Robertson) who appears on horseback at all the right moments. There is an attempt at crafting a modest mythology, especially when the General retrieves the Baron to take care of business in the final act. What’s more interesting is the procedure of the Karnsteins, which involves exposing young women to the charms of the gorgeous Marcilla/Carmilla. There is little left to the imagination and Hammer’s approach is thankfully without shame.
SCARS OF DRACULA is among the most visceral of the outings in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series and that leaves it with its own distinction, even as the deeper narrative is rather threadbare. There are some neat tricks in this 1970 picture, which is directed by Roy Ward Baker and features a screenplay by Anthony Hinds, and the title character is less a loiterer and more a palpitating but civil thing of the damned.
Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is once more brought back to life. Inhabitants of the surrounding area are troubled by his crimes and attempt to burn down his stronghold, only to find their women and children butchered by bats. When Paul (Christopher Matthews) finds himself in the Count’s castle, he too is set upon by its dweller. That sends Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to find out what happened. Simon’s fiancé (Jenny Hanley) is in tow, which only gives Dracula more insidious incentive.
SCARS OF DRACULA takes some time to get its motor running, with Paul’s story cruising through a few bendy sidetracks before reaching the main event. There is an untrue and disappointingly comic allegation of rape, which ostensibly establishes Paul as a bed-hopping libertine. This, in turn, seemingly founds his justification for bonking Dracula’s mistress (Anouska Hempel) and afterward serves to contrast Paul with his more lucid and moral brother.
Whether or not that sets up some sort of reason for the violence that follows is in the eye of the beholder, but the Count is magnetic. SCARS OF DRACULA finally lets us into his castle and we see what goes on behind bolted doors. His servants are explored in frightening detail and Klove (Patrick Troughton) is tortured for disloyalty. This insight is welcome, but the collaged plot is less absorbing than previous entries and the heroes are as milquetoast as the law allows. In the end, SCARS OF DRACULA is mostly notable for its graphic, lavish approach and its giant quaking bats.
Peter Sasdy’s slushy TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA picks up where DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE left off, with the titular Count (Christopher Lee) a veritable puddle of essence. The 1970 picture from Hammer Film Productions tackles another side of the series’ sweltering sex, with a theme familiar to anyone with a mind on how the most sanctimonious among us often carry the murkiest of secrets. The screenplay by Anthony Hinds features plenty of cruelty at the hands of rich, jaded men.
After Weller (Roy Kinnear) comes across a fading Dracula (Lee), he takes a keepsake for himself. A while later, a trio of English gentlemen seek thrills in the underbelly of society. They meet Weller through a sinister young lord (Ralph Bates) and buy some of Dracula’s desiccated blood with intentions on performing a shady ritual. Something goes wrong and the men kill the young man. They flee back to their lives, but the ritual has turned up Dracula and he’s got revenge on his mind.
The main thrust of the tale involves William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen). He hates the fact that his daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) is in love with Paul (Anthony Corlan), who happens to be the son of one of his friends. William prohibits his daughter from seeing her beau, but she’s intent on marriage. There is a multitude of issues at play, the most compelling of which is William’s pretence. He seeks the company of whores, yet considers his own daughter a harlot because she grins at Paul in church.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA contends with duplicity, the way the men coil under weight of social norms while hiding their base cravings. They are distressed at Count Dracula’s imposition, upset at the blood on their hands. They like the darkness sustained, even if they’ve become bored by conventional sin, and the vampire’s robust overtures impend the oblique social order. Lee’s Dracula defies their worldview, a façade marked by muffled religiosity and suppressed by drink and domestic violence. But when the shade falls and love’s full beam is allowed, the darkness dies once more.
The magic is black and Baphomet is grinning in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, a 1968 horror movie from the mighty Hammer Film Productions. Terence Fisher is the director and Richard Matheson is the screenwriter for this outing, so the pieces are in place for a thrilling bit of wicked business. Based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel of the same name, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT pits good against evil in no uncertain terms. Satanism is on the menu and the poor goat is just the appetizer.
In England circa 1929, the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is looking into the activities of Simon (Patrick Mower) on behalf of a friend. It turns out that Simon is hanging out with some pretty bad people, namely a group of Satanists led by Mocata (Charles Gray). Simon is set to be an initiate along with Tanith (Niké Arrighi), but the Duc ain’t having it. Together with his pal Rex (Leon Greene), he aims to stop Mocata and his immoral doings before the devil takes his due.
THE DEVIL RIDES OUT doesn’t beat around the bush: the Duc is going to take on the devil himself. And it lays its intentions further bare when the fiend himself shows up to sit on a rock at a wild-ass bacchanal. All hell is literally breaking loose and the Duc is trying his best to sew it all up. He contends with Rex’s stuffy disbelief and the brain-snatching ways of Mocata, who has a psychic connection with his pledges and gets Tanith to do his malevolent bidding.
In Fisher’s hands, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is never grave. It is oiled with plenty of humour and light, especially as Rex’s incredulity is lifted and his affection for Tanith is apparent. And late scenes at the manor of the Eaton family make for top entertainment, especially as the good guys form a circle and fend off everything from a giant spider to the angel of death on horseback. There’s some neat material involving illusions and the ways evil presents its trickery. Things are a bit broad from a philosophical standpoint, but the rewards are vast and Lee’s stellar hero kicks the devil right square in the teeth.
Full of sex, blood and religious zeal, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE is a heavenly horror picture from Hammer Film Productions. This 1968 outing is directed by Freddie Francis and is the fourth entry in Hammer’s DRACULA series. It surges with Gothic inclinations and is surely the most iron-rich of all the DRACULA movies, which is saying something. Francis’ command of the aesthetic pares to the heart of the matter, pinpointing the intersection of the sacred and the deliciously profane.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE opens with Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) presumably destroyed by the events of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS. The villagers are still terrified, however, so it falls to Monsignor Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies) to incite a faithless priest (Ewan Hooper). Dracula’s castle is exorcised, but there is trouble as an accident leads to the revival of the Count. The vampire sets his sights on Mueller’s niece Maria (Veronica Carlson) and it’s up to her beau Paul (Barry Andrews) to save the day.
Sex is everywhere in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. The camera dawdles around a tavern, where Paul keeps a room and where women like Zena (Barbara Ewing) show a fair deal of flesh. The plunging necklines are just the thing for the ogling men, but they also denote the lifeforce sought by the Count. Arthur Grant’s lensing makes this clear later when he zeroes in on Maria’s jugular vein, a throbbing bit of business that sends Lee’s Dracula into a frenzy.
This world of churning desire is further explored with Francis’ bloodlust, which literally splashes the frame. He tinges his world crimson and seems to derive existential pleasure from the sight of a gigantic stake plunging into Dracula’s chest. This is the stuff of sacred awakening, especially as Paul’s feeble atheism has to go through its paces in order to appropriately destroy the villain. There is redemption of sorts and a return to the cross, but not before a cathartic act of violence turns the dark to dust.
It’s relatively easy to find redeeming qualities in even the gloomiest of horror outings from Hammer Film Productions, but THE MUMMY’S SHROUD presents unique challenges. This 1967 picture is directed by John Gilling, who helmed THE PLAGUE OF ZOMBIES and THE REPTILE. Those outings had flashes of inspiration and delight, but THE MUMMY’S SHROUD is as sluggish as its uninspired tagline. The caution to “beware the beat of cloth-wrapped feet” is as laughable as it is insipid.
The story begins with a flashback to ancient Egypt. The tale of Kah-To-Bey (Toolsie Persaud) is told and we learn that the boy king is buried after a coup. Flash-forward to 1920 and Sir Basil Walden (Andre Morell) and Stanley Preston (John Phillips) have found the grave. Ignoring a warning from the locals, as British archeologists tend to do, the duo hauls back home with their discovery. There’s a snake bite and some double-dealing from Preston, while the mummy of Kah-To-Bey’s manservant gets to the business of revenge.
The Hammer MUMMY movies kind of blend together and THE MUMMY’S SHROUD struggles to bring something new to the tomb. While the FRANKENSTEIN series expands into unique territory with its many entries, this swathed and marked set can’t quite get the job done. The repetition is evident as the Gilling and Anthony Hinds screenplay runs though its laborious paces, while Arthur Grant’s cinematography tries to do something with the dreary setup.
If there is a silver lining, it can be found in the fact that this mummy does some damage. There are some violent sequences as stuntman Eddie Powell bumbles around and the finale is showy, with a linguist (Maggie Kimberly) uttering the magic words. But really, THE MUMMY’S SHROUD is a monotonous bore. Notwithstanding some fine work from the effects artists and Don Mingaye’s sumptuous art direction, Gilling doesn’t put any muscle on his lumbering monster tale and the film just lurches into dust.
THE REPTILE has all the trappings of a Hammer Film Productions horror flick. There is a village with hushed citizens suffering a cruel turn of fate. There’s a couple arriving to check things out. There’s a doctor. There’s an ancient curse from a far-off culture. And there’s a decadent abode that contains all sorts of bizarre events. The picture is directed by John Gilling and is fresh on the heels of his THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, with many of the same sets used in the production.
The action takes place in Clagmoor Heath, a village in Cornwall. People are dying of something called the Black Death and Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) arrives after the passing of his brother. He brings his new bride Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) along and they move into the deceased’s bungalow with hopes of starting afresh. The locals are unfriendly and the neighbours aren’t any better, with the enigmatic Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) keeping to himself. He has a daughter (Jacqueline Pearce) he doesn’t seem to like much and a servant (Marne Maitland) with some immoral secrets.
THE REPTILE is pretty overt stuff, at least when the secrets are revealed, but Gilling allows for a slow burn. The action is thoughtful and the plot unfolds with inaudible mystery. There is death in Clagmoor Heath and people are turning black and frothing at the mouth, but Gilling never quite gets to the heart of the matter until he’s good and bloody ready. That allows distinctive dread to settle over Cornwall like a fog, which in turn settles THE REPTILE to a careful, creeping sort of crawl.
Distilled to its essence, you could argue THE REPTILE becomes very much about a father and his daughter. Dr. Franklyn is destroyed by the affliction his daughter Anna suffers and he is beside himself, convicted to a curse from a foreign land. Willman does a great job revealing these sentiments, but Gilling’s direction keeps the rest of us at arm’s length. The villain(s) of the piece are contrasting in their allowances for empathy, with unusual beauty meeting dismaying fate in the comprehensive, odd heat.