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Film / Reptilicus

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The Danish theatrical poster

Reptilicus is a 1961 Danish Kaiju movie, in the vein of Godzilla, notable for being the first and only of its kind. A Danish-American co-production, an English-speaking version was filmed simultaneously with the Danish one, which led to the frequent misunderstanding that the two versions are the same except for language, but in practice there are quite a few differences between the two versions, as the two projects each had their own separate director attached (Poul Bang for the Danish version, and script co-writer Sidney W. Pink for the American version) and a couple of differences in cast. Notably, the American version also went through a somewhat heavier post-production and editing process than its Danish counterpart, due to demands from studio executives, resulting in it first getting released in 1962.

A section of a giant reptile's tail is found by a Danish mining company in the frozen grounds in Lapland. The section is flown to the Danish Aquarium in Copenhagen, where it is preserved in a cold room for scientific study. But due to careless mishandling, the room is left open and the section begins to thaw, only for scientists to find that it is starting to regenerate. Eventually having grown back to its full size, the monster goes on an unstoppable rampage from the Danish countryside to the panic-stricken streets of Copenhagen.

Had a short-lived adaptation from Charlton Comics, but because they bought the film rights from the American distributor and not the Danish creators, they had to drop the title after issue 2. The story continued, however as Reptisaurus.

Long considered a Cult Classic by kaiju fans, especially in its home country. The film would gain notoriety again in 2017 when it was featured in the first episode of Netflix's revival of the popular movie-riffing series Mystery Science Theater 3000. For tropes in that episode, see here.


  • Aesop Amnesia: When General Grayson is trying to blow up a submerged Reptilicus with depth charges, Ms. Miller implores him to stop, reminding him that every piece blown off the monster could, given time, regenerate into another full creature. Not that much later, Professor Martens has to remind him of the same detail when Grayson (who is admittedly getting rather desperate at that point) plans to blow Reptilicus up with a bombing run.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Adaptational Badass: The U.S. version portrayed Reptilicus as being able to spit globs of bright green acid, a power which was absent in the Danish version. On the other hand...
  • Adaptational Wimp: Reptilicus can't fly anymore in the U.S. version.
  • Artistic License Military: Zigzagged. The movie was backed by the Danish military and featured many actual Danish soldiers with authentic uniforms and equipment, but General Grayson's ribbon bar is missing several medals which he would have been awarded for his service in World War II.note 
  • Chick Magnet: Svend enters the aquarium and leaves not five minutes later in A Lady on Each Arm situation with Dr. Martens's daughters.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The opposite of the usual version of the trope. Leaving the door to a walk-in freezer set to twenty below freezing ajar overnight does not noticeably cool the room next to it, but does allow the contents of the freezer to completely thaw in a matter of hours. For that matter, storing Reptilicus' tail in there should have frozen it solid, but a scientist is able to scrape off some tissue samples to examine with a scalpel rather than needing a hammer and chisel.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster art for the U.S. version showed a gigantic draconic monster ripping San Francisco apart, destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, and laying waste to US Navy ships. The Danish poster art was comparatively much more honest.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "We'll have to shoot it point blank, from very close range!" Ah, yeah, that's what "point blank" means, dude. To be fair, Grayson is explaining this to a group including scientists, who might not necessarily know what "point blank" means.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: In-universe, Reptilicus is identified as a surviving member of a hitherto-undiscovered prehistoric reptile species. However, its design is clearly based after a classical Norse dragon (right down to the wings and serpentine body shape).
  • Driving a Desk: During the sightseeing of Copenhagen part. As the old review of the movie put it...
    This is followed by a charmingly inept front projection shot of Grayson and Connie touring the city in a convertible. How bad is the effect? We half expect the couple to exit the car and reveal that they were in an arcade ride of some sort.
  • Dub Name Change: Dirch Passer's comedic relief janitor character is named Mikkelsen in the Danish version and Peterson in the U.S. version.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Yay! The army made Reptilicus swallow a poison missile, and now it's dead! Denmark can now go back to normal life! Except that the piece of Reptilicus severed by a depth charge is now twitching...
  • From a Single Cell: The whole of Reptilicus regenerates from its tail (though downplayed in that the scientists initially have to keep the tail on a nutrient I.V. to supply it with biomass to regenerate with). This is also the reason why the scientists claim that the Army can't just blow Reptilicus up—if they fail to police up all of the pieces, in a few months they'll just have several more of them running around. And The Stinger implies that this does in fact happen...
  • Godzilla Threshold: Averted. The Danish army refuses to break out its more powerful ordnance while Reptilicus is in urban areas: First to avoid civilian casualties, and later out of fear that blowing Reptilicus up will cause pieces of it to scatter and eventually form more monsters.
  • Harmless Freezing: Despite being frozen to -20º C, Reptilicus is able to come back to life after thawing out.
  • Healing Factor: Ridiculous amounts of it — Reptilicus heals from extreme wounds in record time.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Captain Brandt driving his jeep towards Reptilicus to get its attention again after being distracted by a siren.
  • Hollywood Tactics: The army is stymied when Reptilicus learns to stay out of range of their flamethrowers. Apparently the Danish Army has never heard of napalm or incendiaries.
  • It's All My Fault: Svend feels responsible for all of the lives taken by Reptilicus because of his initial discovery of the monster.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: General Grayson is introduced as an unpleasant sourpuss, and his friendliness level never really makes it past "brusque" (though he does hit it off with Svend fairly well). At heart, however, he's a good man trying his best to handle a terrible situation.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: In the U.S. version, the Danish characters speaks English with a supposedly Danish accent, though to anyone familiar with the typical Danish-English accent, the attempts by the dub actors sounds more broadly German than Danish.
  • Large Ham: Mikkelsen (Peterson in the U.S. cut). Practically a requirement for any character played by Dirch Passer.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything:
    • Svend is originally just the copper prospector that found the monster. For some reason he then spends the entire movie hanging around the lab for weeks on end, despite explicitly saying that he has no relevant training. He then gets to be the guy who remembers poison is a thing at the end.
    • And the American general is the one who delivers the death blow with the rocket launcher. In real life, if a general is firing a rocket launcher at the enemy, something has gone very, very wrong.
  • Monster in the Ice: Reptilicus is discovered frozen in the permafrost of Lapland. A chunk of its tail is dug up, transferred to an aquarium in Copenhagen, and placed in refrigerated storage for study. Of course, mishandling allows the tail to thaw out and it resumes cellular activity, eventually regenerating into a full-blown kaiju that goes on a rampage.
  • Novelization: Written by Dean Owen, who also did the novelization for Konga. Owen adds in numerous sex scenes between the characters to spice things up.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: The army learns in their first battle that Reptilicus is pretty vulnerable to fire. Yet in their second attack, they find excuses not to use flamethrowers again.
    • The American version at least offers the excuse that Reptilicus's slime attack prevents the soldiers from getting close enough to use flamethrowers. But the monster didn't even have slime in the Danish version.
  • Psycho Electric Eel: Played for laughs when dim-witted Mikkelsen decides to stick his hand in a tank with a electric eel and comically overacts as he gets shocked by said eel.
  • Red Herring: In fairly rapid succession, the film introduces Dirch Passer's dull-witted janitor/night watchman character, calls attention to the fact that the freezer the tissue specimen is in runs on electric power, and shows us that there's an electric eel in an open fish tank outside the lab that Passer's character has a fascination with. It seems to imply that Passer's character will do something dumb, probably involving the eel, that will cause a power loss and allow the sample to thaw. Shortly after, the movie gives us a late-night thunderstorm, providing another possible source for a power outage. In fact, it's Dr. Dalby leaving the freezer door open in a bout of fatigue-induced carelessness that sets the events of the plot in motion. (Although a second electrical storm later in the film does provide an opportunity for Reptilicus to escape the lab.)
  • Same Language Dub: The film was shot with the cast phonetically speaking their lines in English to make it easier to sell in America, but the cast's thick accents forced its American distributors to re-dub the entire film.
  • Scenery Porn: Well, an attempt at it — there are several scenes of various Danish landmarks and cultural events early in the movie (cut from the MST3K episode), presumably inserted to attract tourists who saw the movie. Based on the film's obscurity for many years, it likely it didn't work.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The comic relief Mikkelsen completely disappears in the second half of the film.
  • Technicolor Science: That's a rather interesting laboratory in the Akvarium.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: In the Danish version, Dirch Passer's character, Mikkelsen, gets a completely unmotivated and random comedic song number featuring a children's choir in the chorus, in the middle of the film, apparently solely because the producers thought the film needed a bit of musical relief.