Sssssss (Arrow Recommends)

Sssssss (Arrow Recommends)
7 10

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT:  A crazy Doctor (aren’t they all) & snake expert (Strother Martin) hires some poor schlep (Dirk Benedict) under the guise of needing an assistant. What the schlep doesn’t know is that good old Doc has every intention of turning him into a snake-man. Hey, we all have our hobbies!

“A scientist cannot afford the indulgence of guilt. And after all, if God doesn't want me to continue, means of my disposal are always at his command. " - Stoner

LOWDOWN: I’ve been hearing about Bernard L. Kowalski’s 1973 creature feature Sssssss forever  (executive produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown who did Jaws right after). And in light of the fairly recent Scream Factory Blu-Ray release of the film, I figured it was about damn time that I gave it a hiss. So did it live up to its mad rep? Well, yes and no… but yes!

You see on the one end, I got sucked into the story from the get-go. Sure the premise in itself was preposterous, but I don’t watch B Horror Movies for realism. The Doctor had a plan and I liked his plan and the logic behind it. The chain of events was a tad slow but always engaging. Throughout, I was mucho curious as to what the outcome of the experiment would be and the more the clock ticked forward, the more anxious I became. It should be spat that the use of snakes in this film was probably the most frightening snake footage I’ve ever seen in a horror picture. The varied shots of that King Cobra in particular; standing upright, eyes dark as night, afraid of nothing, sent a chill down my crotch. Word has it that the cast/crew had it rough during the shoot.  There was no CGI in them days hence these crazy basterds used real snakes and had cast members be bit for real to get a shot. Only in the 70’s. At least having real snakes and bites added a genuine sense of terror to the proceedings. 

Visually, the film had its moments with the LSD fever-dream montage overlapped by another montage, which was overlapped with yet another montage being my fav. You don’t see whacked out and bold shite like that today! Product of its times. Loved and respected it. Beyond that, Kowalski made the most of his low budget and delivered film that managed to evoke an off-putting vibe the whole way through. NOTE: The Adam and Eve references spread throughout hit my spot. They were not too heavy handed, but present enough for me to get the parallel they were going for. END OF NOTE.  What about the make-up effects you may ask? On the money.  Although dated by today’s standards, they were still pretty impressive! Props to FX dudes John Chambers and Nick Marcellino for their fine work! No small feat!

On the acting front, this was Strother Martin’s show first and foremost as the demented yet cool as a cucumber Dr. Stoner (Get it, stoner? Ti-hi)! He gave a gripping, charismatic yet frightening performance. The fact that he was so likeable made the messed up shit he pulled even scarier. Heather Menzies was also brilliant as the daughter and obligatory love interest. She took a 1,2,3 role on paper and made it count via her vulnerable, grounded and human show.  She sold the “serve the plot” love story for me all by herself. In fact the entire supporting cast was pretty much solid all around, bummer that I couldn't say the same thing abot our lead mook played by Dirk “Face” Benedict. Now he wasn’t awful by any stretch but there was something “off” about him. I’m not sure if it was due to Benedict being a tad wooden (it was his first film role) or because his role was written in such a DUH manner that he came off all wrong. One thing was for certain: that was one hell of an oblivious, and dense character. Damn.

Which brings meto the major faults at play which popped at me left and right but didn’t necessarily work against the film too much: the thing was by the numbers and fairly stupid. The chain of events was predictable (love story included), the cops were of course complete idiots (yeah leave a witness alone at the station with all the guns out for her to grab, great idea), the token bully character went so freaking far with so little motive that I was laughing my ass off at his psychotic antics and some of the dialogue/behavior by the side players (like that hussy wanting some love... okay...) came off as inane. But what really got to me was the ending.

I’m gonna try not to spoil it for ya. Again, the Doctor had explained his plan and his motive early on. Hence all along I was expecting one thing to happen to our lead duder at the end. But during the last act, the film went in a complete direction than expected, avoided any semblance of logic even within its crazy plot-line and took a ridiculous path instead. So when it was all said and then done, my jaw dropped for all the wrong reasons. I felt a mix of anger and bafflement in terms of the final outcome they served my way. I mean that was the Doc’s plan all along? Really man? How the f*ck does that even work? THE WORST PLAN EVER. And to make matters worse, after all that build-up, that's how they ended it???!!! Wow. I was stumped. It was only after the end credits rolled and that I had some time to pipe down & digest what I just saw that I got to esteem the conclusion in all of its absurd glory. 

So yeah, Sssssss worked in two ways for this jerk. 1- It was a solid throwback to them old 50’s Mad Scientist B Horror movies. 2- It was transparent, filled with dumb characters/moves to serve the plot and with such an utterly ridiculous finale that it gave me a bad case of the giggles. It's good when it's good and it's good when it's bad! They surely don’t make them like this anymore for better and for worse! Get blitzed and give the film with 7 Ss’ a try! It may do the trick for ya!



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