Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 4 - SSSSSSS (1973)


- Originally rated PG but would most likely be PG-13 today for distrubing images, violence, sexual content, partial nudity and some language.
- Starring Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict, Heather Menzies-Urich, Reb Brown
- Story by Daniel C. Stiepeke;  Screenplay by Hal Dresner
- Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski
- Running time: 1hr 38min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!)


This low budget horror film tries to feed off of everyone's fear... SNAKES!  Character actor extraordinaire Strother Martin plays the mysterious Dr. Stoner, a snake expert.  He hires a new assistant, a college kid named David, because his old assistant "went on leave".  While there David is trained in on how to handle all the different kinds of dangerous snakes (Black Mamba, Cobra, etc.), but Stoner also injects him with an experimental serum.  The doctor has a young daughter who David grows fond of as well.  But just when everything is looking up for the college boy, he begins to go through some serious changes, like turning into a reptile himself.  That crazy Dr. Stoner!

Now, by that description, this should've been a wild and crazy B-movie.  Unfortunately, it's neither wild, nor crazy.  It's boring.  After a promising pre-title sequence that has Stoner selling a crate with a strange creature in it to the circus it goes down hill fast, because we must meet the characters, and boy are they a drag.  Especially David.  Neither the character nor actor Dirk Benedict have likability.  The daughter is probably the most interesting in the cast as Heather Menzies-Urich tries to give this nerdy chick an adorable quality, but the script just doesn't offer the actors anything worthwhile for them to do.  The biggest disappointment is seeing Strother Martin here.  I am a big fan of his (mostly because of his work in Sam Peckinpah films) and I was looking forward to a rare leading man role for him.  He's not bad.  Not at all.  But the character is just to low-key to have any fun with.

In fact, that's the movie's biggest problem.  It's too low-key.  A movie with a premise this ludicrous should have gone all the way.  I would've loved to see larger than life performances, overacting, and acid induced direction.  But no.  Director Kowalski helms the movie like it was made for television (which makes sense since that's where he spent most of his career).  The last act attempts to crank the tension when snakes start killing and eating people.  But it's neither scary or amusing.  And David's transformation was something of a disappointment too.  There's just no energy here.

I've seen worse films, but maybe if it was just balls-to-the-wall awful, I would've been hootin' and hollarin', instead of yawnin' and snorin'.  It's just plain forgettable.  Actually, it hasn't even been a week since I watched it, and I couldn't even tell you how it ends.  That's how memorable it is.

*1/2 (out of ****)

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