When the *monsters on the loose* craze started in the 1950s and became a huge success in both the United States and in Japan, other countries wanted to capitalize on the market. They would either make monster movies in their own country, or the filmmakers from their country would come to the USA to make their creature feature. Such is the case with the latest Scream Factory double feature as they have paired an Italian giant octopus thriller, Tentacles with a giant monster from Denmark - Reptilicus.
Tentalces – 3/5
Tentacles, known as Tentacoli in Italy, is low budget thriller about a giant octopus being unleashed due to a construction company creating a giant tunnel in the ocean. The big octopus sets to devour the citizens living in a seaside California community. Probably being kind here, but this octopus thriller is just average with a lot of padding in this 102 minute film. The octopus effects are decent and there are some good effective horror elements, so it’s not entirely bad. The main concept of Tentacles is interesting but there are many scenes of padding which lengthen the film beyond what it needed to be. This, as a result, slows the movie down and gets in the way of a good time! There are some scenes during which one could lose some interest until the monster appears. One of the greatest mysteries of Tentacles is how the filmmakers were able to acquire the services of John Huston, Henry Fonda and Shelley Winters for this movie. John Huston was one of the best directors of his time, having directed some all-time classics movies including The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen and the Maltese Falcon. Henry Fonda was a brilliant actor who had starred in many terrific classics, to name a few 12 Angry Men, Fail Safe, The Grapes of Wrath and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. Shelley Winters also had a mighty fine career having some really great roles in Night of the Hunter, Who Slew Auntie Roo and Bloody Mama.
Reptilicus, Denmark’s answer to Godzilla, is a story of a monster that can grow and regenerate itself when exposed to water. The creature is first found by a group of miners who find the piece of a frozen tail attached their drill. The tail gets transported to a laboratory to be studied by scientists but inadvertently bring the monster back to life. Reptilicus could have been really a great monster movie had it not been for the really awful special effects. The monster is clearly a flimsy puppet that just is not convincing at all. Let’s not forgot that this movie was made in 1961 and there was no such thing as CGI. You had men in rubber suits; you also had stop motion photography and large mock up monsters that, depending on the budget and effort, the movie could either sink or swim. In the case of Reptilicus, it’s a little bit of both. There is some good atmosphere when watching the movie progress. The story is innovative, the cinematography is good; there are some good shots of the monster, but overall the film is done in by the lousy effects. This might have been a disappointment to the filmmakers themselves, Sidney Pink and IB Melchoir who had done such an incredible job with The Angry Red Planet a year earlier. This version of Reptilicus is the US version; despite some requests to get the original Danish version, Shout Factory was unable to license it. As with a lot of monster movies in that era, American versions of monster movies made in other countries were often altered. In the Danish version of Reptilicus there is a musical number and some really awful flying scenes, which is probably why it was cut for American audiences. Also, in the US version, Reptilicus spits out some green slime, ala Godzilla breathing fire. In its original version, Reptilicus does no such thing.
Reptilicus – 4/5
Im probably being generous, but to be honest, Tentacles looks just OUTSTANDING in HD. The DVD from 2004 also was really good, but in 1080p with an AVC encode the colors are extremely vibrant. Daylight scenes look fantastic, as do the night scenes, the black levels are just perfect. It’s just a beautiful letterboxed 2:35:1 print that just blew me away. Even the underwater scenes look terrific, as if the film had been made last year. Reptilcus, having a prior VHS release and having at least two to three DVD releases is also a massive upgrade. Previous DVD releases have always been a full frame presentation, but this blu ray release not only has the film in its original 1:66:1 aspect ratio, but it just looks terrific. Just as with Tentacles, Reptilicus is another gorgeous HD master from MGM in 1080p and AVC encode. It’s not quite as stunning as Tentacles, but this release from Scream Factory is a revelation. Colors look great, film grain is present meaning no DNR has been used for Reptilicus, or Tentacles for that matter. Both look better than I had a right to think they were. The two movies are on one blu ray disc
Tentacles – 1/5
Reptilicus – 1/5
Extras are basically nil for both Reptilicus and Tentacles, most likely due to the ages of the films. Some of the cast and crew may no longer be alive; others may not have been available. It is not much but both films extras include an original theatrical trailer, a radio spot and a still gallery.
Overall - 4.5/5 for both Tentacles and Reptilicus
For films over 30 years old to be released on blu ray from a label that mainly focuses on retro slashers and other gory horror movies from post 1980, this to me has been the biggest most welcome surprise of the year. While lacking in extras for some fans, this may be a disappointment, but there are those that are indifferent to that and are satisfied that the movies have actually been released on blu ray. Not only has Scream Factory has delivered two classic films that seemed unlikely to be released on blu ray, they both look just wonderful and will be welcome editions to those who enjoy films from this era such as Die, Monster Die and any of the films in the Vincent Price collection. There are still plenty of older classic films that hopefully Scream Factory will consider doing HD upgrades for including the Angry Red Planet, the Screaming Skull and the Brain That Wouldn’t Die.