Filmed back to back with The Plague Of The Zombies, this Hammer horror movie not only shares many of the same sets with that movie but also treads quite similiar ground when it comes to the actual plot. There are some major main differences, but it actually makes for a nice companion piece alongside the lone zombie movie to be released from Hammer studios in the 20th century.
Ray Barrett and Jennifer Daniel play Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, respectively. The two end up inheriting a cottage in a small country village after Harry's brother dies in mysterious circumstances. Finding out just how his brother died, and dealing with unfriendly locals, becomes the focus for Harry as he and his wife gets used to their new surroundings. A local innkeeper (Michael Ripper) offers some advice, despite the fact that his inn always empties out whenever Harry walks in, and a large finger of suspicion seems to keep pointing at the brusque Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), a man who spends most of his time being quite harsh to his beautiful daughter (Jacqueline Pearce).
John Gilling is the assured hand in the director's chair, working from a decent, lean script by Anthony Hinds, and there's nothing about this movie that looks or feels cheap. Sharing some of the sets between numerous movies, as they did quite often, was a great move on the part of Hammer, allowing them some more money for practical effects and some impressive set-pieces. At least, thats how it appears to this particular viewer (with the ending of The Reptile being just as enjoyable, as, and quite similiar to, the ending of The Plague Of The Zombies).
All of the cast do well in their roles, with Barrett and Daniel being a likeable pair of leads. Michael Ripper brightens up any Hammer horror movie (just ask any of his fans if you don't believe me), Noel Willman is the standard, snippy gentleman with a possible dark secret and Jacqueline Pearce is sweet and lovely enough to add some real pathos to the final third of the film. Marne Maitland is also very good, and John Laurie steals his few scenes as Mad Peter, a man who may not be as mad as locals like to make out.
This remains one of my favourite Hammer horror movies, and I hope that many others feel the same way about it.
N.B. Anyone who enjoyed the film as much as I
did should check out the episode of "Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible" entitled Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom. Not only is
it hilarious but it's often spot-on too.