By Kip Doto
MGM's Midnite Movies have been the DVD dumping ground for their old AIP Horror and Science Fiction titles for some time now. The lack of any noteworthy extras on the majority of their releases has been disappointing, to say the least. Particularly disheartening is the treatment they've given REPTILICUS, the much-maligned yet fondly remembered 1961 CO-production between producer/director Sid Pink and Saga Studio of Copenhagen that unleashed the monster of the title, regenerated from a prehistoric age, upon the Scandinavian Splendors of Denmark.
With all of its alternate versions, edited scenes, merchandising and subsequent post-production "enhancements" by AIP (that contributed to the legal entanglements which delayed the picture from general release until the following year), REPTILICUS would appear to be a prime candidate for some kind of special edition DVD -- wouldn't it? Not according to MGM, who even after being made aware of the existence and availability of supplemental materials chose to simply release it as just another "Midnite Movie."
"We offered to provide additional features to MGM [but] they refused. I don't know why, but in any event, that was their choice. I have seen the DVD. The detail is so great it almost makes a different picture out of it. Under the circumstances that I had -- no budget, no American actors -- I am proud of having made this film." -- Sid Pink
The Midnite Movies packaging is slick but kitschy. The front cover displays one of the most common shots of the monster, although now sporting uncommonly large dorsal fins. Pasted up miniature people fall from the monster's open mouth, which emits something resembling an acid slime effect, all of which echoes AIP's various post-production alterations of the film. The back cover includes a postage stamp-sized reproduction of the original movie poster accompanied by some "Fun Facts," halfhearted, often thoughtless attempts to provide some kind of background trivia on these films... often not all that fun or all that factual. For THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, they rather inappropriately recall how star Rosey Grier, after the assassination of Robert Kennedy had tackled the shooter to the ground. With REPTILICUS, it's theorized why clips of the monster appeared on that "hip TV series" THE MONKEES and other sitcoms of the time by citing the film's "popular cult following." AIP's licensing of REPTILICUS footage (as well as the comic book and paperback novelization) was more likely motivated by potential profit than by any sort of following, cult, hip or otherwise.
The Special Features on the REPTILICUS disc consist of mono English and French audio tracks with French and Spanish subtitles as well as the Theatrical Trailer, which has never looked better (it's usually presented off-color and choppy), but sadly omits announcer Art Gilmore's pulse-pounding voice-over: "From all corners of the Earth they gather... To study the mystifying Frozen Fossil... A Reptilian Tail that grows into a Giant of Terror! REPTILICUS! A Monstrous Massive Beast whose astounding appearance causes panic! REPTILICUS! An annihilating Mastodon immune to all-known weapons of warfare! Creating Chaos such as Mankind has never known before!"
Less than complete Theatrical Trailers have diminished the appeal of more than one Midnite Movie title. Check out the trailer on DIE MONSTER DIE, on which announcer narration is also absent. When all is said and done, MGM's REPTILICUS DVD is a marginal improvement over the Orion VHS release from several years ago. The few brief instances of dirt and light scratches on the new transfer can be easily forgiven since the disc also allows closer examination of the miniatures used to bring the beast to cinematic life, revealing color and detail not discernible in the film previously.
Despite its' many alleged shortcomings that for decades now have been the target of witless reviews that simply dismiss the film as inferior and/or relate the same old anecdotes (from participants of the film not present during its actual production in Denmark), REPTILICUS still continues to entertain. Even with its less than convincing title menace, the film's often overlooked production values (How many other Giant Monster Movies have had the Military Might of an entire country at their disposal?) along with its variant versions and behind-the-scenes brouhaha most certainly warrant a deluxe DVD release. For now though, the new and improved visuals of MGM's otherwise no-frills disc will have to suffice.
Kip Doto is author of REPTILICUS THE SCREENPLAY. To order a copy, send $22.00 (check or money order) plus $4.00 shipping to: Kip Doto, PO Box 8050, Coral Springs, FL 33075