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Back to the Drive-in: Sssssss (1973)

May. 21, 2012by: JimmyO
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Back in the 1970’s, people sure were afraid of critters. Whether it be rats, spiders, ants, killer bees or even Ssssssssnakes. Yep, slithery, slippery, sinister snakes were all the rage in your finest PG horror films – yes folks, many a horror flick was PG back in the day. What is more terrifying than a snake? Well, possibly turning a human into some sort of snake man could be pretty creepy right? In SSSSSSSS, drive-in movie goers were treated to a schlocky mad scientist flick that also happened to be a man vs. nature morality tale with a hint of homoerotic overtones. So for this week’s BACK TO THE DRIVE-IN, let’s whip out our serpents and hiss away!

SSSSSSS (1973)

THE TICKET!

I’ve seen a bunch of weird ass flicks working for Arrow in the Head! Ssssssseriously! Yet I can honestly say that SSSSSSS is one of the oddest ones around the block. Generally when they went the man vs. nature route in the Seventies, it was just animals attacking and shite. Not here, this is closer to the TV movie “Curse of the Black Widow” in regards to a human being becoming whatever creepy crawly or slithery species the title suggests. The plot of SSSSSSS centers on Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin), a sort of mad scientist experimenting with snake venom and young male college students. His plan would make Edward D. Wood Jr. proud as Martin reminded me a little of Bela Lugosi in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. When Stoner gets his hands on handsome and naïve David played by Dirk Benedict (“Battlestar Galactica”, “The A-Team”) he begins his lunatic experimentation.

Things get complicated when David falls for Stoner’s sweet, clueless and super hot daughter Kristina (the exceptionally pretty Heather Menzies-Urich – even with large eyeglasses she is hot). The couple shares a painfully innocent, yet sorta sexy romance, one which is most assuredly doomed thanks to her crazy dad. When a few innocent – and not so innocent – folks catch wind of Stoner’s plan, they find themselves at the mercy of deadly snakes. The kills are especially fun since they use real animals for many of the shots. When a bullying jock gets his while he is naked in the shower, you almost feel bad for the guy. And of course what about poor Richard B. Shull who plays one of Stoner’s colleagues? His demise is pretty twisted - of course his character is a bit of a moron.

SSSSSSS would have been a perfect drive-in movie for many reasons. One being the worst transformations ever put to celluloid! This man to beast moment would best be viewed while slightly inebriated thanks to some truly dreadful special effects. The other would simply be the subject matter; you could always ask your date if she would like to see your own personal pet snake throughout the course of this here feature.

BEST SCENE TO GET YOUR DATE HOT AND BOTHERED!

It certainly helps when a b-movie about snakes features a couple as likable as Dirk Benedict and Heather Menzies-Urich. Both are good looking and each of these fine actors have a certain charm. Theirs is a fine romance that includes a skinny-dipping scene and another romantic interlude by the fireplace. In terms of nudity, you only get a brief glimpse of Heather’s lovely cleavage, and even a sneak peek at Dirk’s derriere. However they are so darn cute together it is sure to spark some back seat romance. And if you happen to be a guy who loves guys, there are more than enough homoerotic references throughout to get excited for.

SCENE THAT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGH SILLY

Seriously! That is what happens to some dude pumped with venom!!! Did I happen to mention this one is weird? Well, even if you think the proceedings beforehand are a little less than strange, just wait until the final moments. Even though I really enjoyed SSSSSSS, being that this is a pretty cool Seventies thriller, the ending sucks. The FX in the final scene is especially atrocious and the final battle is dumb, dumb, dumb… Really?!?

SCENE THAT WILL HAVE HER/HIM JUMPING IN YOUR ARMS!

For some, snakes are pretty damn scary on their own. And for me, I’ve always been freaked out about being in the shower and having some creepy spider or some other icky real life monster join me. Being naked and alone aside from a deadly snake might kinda suck. Poor Reb Brown has no protection from the slithering guest and one bite leaves him breathless. Not the most terrifying thing, but I’d venture to guess there are plenty that would be more than a little terrified of Stoner’s snake. Of course, the image of the good doctor sneaking up on Mr. Brown while he’s in the shower with his snake out would certainly give a little credence to the gay overtones mentioned previously.

GROOVE TO THE MUSIC!

The score by Patrick Williams may not be terribly memorable, but it absolutely served its purpose. With a heavy hiss of strings, it often added a little tension to this little ditty of a thriller. It makes me more than a little sad that horror films today so often go with rock music or the cheapie synthesizer route. There is something special about a score that utilizes violins and an effective keyboard to upgrade the eeriness factor.

AN IDEAL DOUBLE BILL WITH:

Since we are talking about reptiles and such, why not catch SSSSSSS with another one of nature’s finest creatures… FROGS! Sure it’s kind of a dumb, but Sam Elliott is badass in this tale of all God’s creatures taking revenge against a rich a-hole and his family. If you have a date that can’t deal with amphibians and reptiles, then this is a double feature that will either get you laid or get you stranded at the drive-in on a Saturday night where you will be playing with your eager viper alone.

GET SSSSSSS HERE!

Extra Tidbit: Are you afraid of snakes?

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10:00PM on 05/21/2012
Nicely Done !! This flick's always been a guilty pleasure for me . I dug Heather Menzies as well .
Nicely Done !! This flick's always been a guilty pleasure for me . I dug Heather Menzies as well .
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8:17PM on 05/21/2012

Special Effects

Actually, Jimmy, the effects--or more specifically the makeup--was excellent for a movie of this era. If I'm not mistaken some of the folks who worked on the Planet of the Apes makeup were working on this one. And though the Apes makeup seems dated by today's standards, people forget how groundbreaking it was for its time. Academy award worthy if I recall.
Actually, Jimmy, the effects--or more specifically the makeup--was excellent for a movie of this era. If I'm not mistaken some of the folks who worked on the Planet of the Apes makeup were working on this one. And though the Apes makeup seems dated by today's standards, people forget how groundbreaking it was for its time. Academy award worthy if I recall.
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8:31PM on 05/21/2012
You are right, the make-up for this is very impressive especially for its time. The problem I had was literally the final transformation where they used visual effects to change him (see the middle picture above). It just didn't look very good at all. All in all though, it is a good movie and highly enjoyable for quite a number of reasons, including creepy make-up effects;)
You are right, the make-up for this is very impressive especially for its time. The problem I had was literally the final transformation where they used visual effects to change him (see the middle picture above). It just didn't look very good at all. All in all though, it is a good movie and highly enjoyable for quite a number of reasons, including creepy make-up effects;)
10:08PM on 05/21/2012
Yes, the carnival scene where Benedict comes literally face-to- face with his future self is very well done.
Yes, the carnival scene where Benedict comes literally face-to- face with his future self is very well done.
5:30PM on 05/21/2012
Any movie that has Dirk Benedict aka Face turn into a snake is allllll good in my book!
Any movie that has Dirk Benedict aka Face turn into a snake is allllll good in my book!
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11:01AM on 05/21/2012
I remember that this movie gave me the creeps. Also, this movie should be double-billed with "Venom" - a 1970s thriller about snakes, I think.
I remember that this movie gave me the creeps. Also, this movie should be double-billed with "Venom" - a 1970s thriller about snakes, I think.
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