The Reptile is one of Hammer's odder ventures. By the mid-Sixties the studio, which had done so well from reviving Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, and the Mummy, mid-Sixties Hammer was struggling a bit. But they had to keep churning 'em out for their American distributors, so producer Anthony Hinds (under the name John Elder) bashed out this low-budget drama about colonial curses.
This is one of those films in which a sensible chap takes his new bride to a country cottage in a neighbourhood where people die horribly for no readily apparent reason It's not difficult to figure out what's going on, but the nature of the horror is interesting. In a way it inverts the conventional vampire theme, with the monster of the title arguably as great a victim as any of the hapless folk found frothing in the foliage. There's a distinct touch of Conan Doyle about some plot developments, and an interesting subtext about Victorian attitudes to women as well as a more obvious comment about the dark side of colonialism coming back to bite Britannia on the bottom (or very nearly).
The cast is rather good, too. The statuesque knockout Jacqueline Pearce might seem miscast as the put-upn Victorian daughter, but she has real presence and imbues a tricky role with pathos. It's a pity she only did two Hammers (she was also in Plague of the Zombies, which was made back-to-back using the same location). The supporting cast is reassuringly solid - anything with Michael Ripper issuing dire warnings is fine by me, and John Laurie (Private Fraser from Dad's Army) does his level best to make everyone feel totally doomed. Arguably the absence of the two big-name Brit horror stars makes this a well-balanced film, as Hammer was sometimes inclined to use Cushing, in particular, on roles that didn't make much of his talents.
Anyway, let's all clutch our necks and collapse down a flight of stairs. It's either that, or smash the sitar.