The 1970s were a crowded field of horror movies, but it namely had environmental horrors swooping in and slithering in the grass, of course the biggest monster came from a great white in the form of Jaws (1975), although to be very fair Alfred Hitchcock did release likely the first animal attacking movie in 1963 entitled The Birds. It is true that the first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970 and when significant days or issues occur the, cinematic world pounces on it, namely the horror or sci-fi markets work to exploit it, and herein the filmmakers wanted to explore both the mad doctor concept and the eco-systems effected by man’s madness. Most interesting though for this movie are the producers involved and their first pairing, namely David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck who would only two years later create the world’s first summer blockbuster. The concept of the plot was to use a very watered down version of H. G. Welles’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was first slated in 1932 as Island of Lost Soul and the novels lead to five more films, however this movie is not directly from the book, rather Daniel C. Striepeke created the main story and screenwriter Hal Dresner penned the final product. Bernard L. Kowalski stepped-up to helm the director’s chair for perhaps his most successful horror flick, as compared to the one in the 1950s when he made the ridiculous movie Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) upon its release by Universal it shared as the studios final double feature with The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973) and later earned a Blu-ray distribution from Scream Factory.
Clearly the film attempts to play on Ophidiophobia of the audience who fear snakes, sadly it never ideally translates that well, it isn’t for lack of trying, in fact the movie does carry some similar traits from The Reptile (1966) of people transforming into snakes. When the average horror fan thinks of snake invested movies often they’ll note first Anaconda (1997) and the Snakes of a Plane (2006), other filmmakers have tried to use the species more as a home invaders such as in Silent Predators (1999) but for some reason it never seems frighten anyone too long.
A scientist and snake expert Dr. Stoner (Strother Martin (The Brotherhood of Satan )), who’s conducting outrageous experiments involving snakes and resistance to disease, his practices equally frowned upon by both lecherous Dr. Ken Daniels (Richard B. Shull (The Pack )) and the local university which gives very little funding. Most of his funds came from displaying his wrangling skills with various venomous snakes such a King Cobra, which 99% were real snakes used in the scenes showing how he researched snakes to make it happen. The doctor has now acquired a new lab assistant, David (Dirk Benedict (Cruise Into Terror ))), who quickly becomes attracted to Stoner’s daughter Kristina (Heather Menzies (Piranha , though most known for her role in Sound of Music); which does upset the dear doctor on multiple levels. The first hour of the film, sadly drags, the verbal dialogue is thoroughly uninteresting while true and informative it becomes a steady bore, the scenes strung together are all made to work on one’s fears of snakes, by showing how they feed and fight. It is also during the second act, that Kristina and David share some alone time including skinny dipping, a visit to local freak show witnesses a Seal Boy (Felix Silla aka Cousin Itt from The Addams Family television series) and dealings with aggressive stereotypical jock named Steve (Reb Brown (Night Claws )). It’s by the final 30-minutes that everything comes full circle, and while the special effects are thoroughly dated the audience witnesses the madness of the doctor and the horrid monstrosity creation.
One needs to note there are plenty of issues with the production, namely the usage of animals, and how it could never occur onscreen or on-set in today’s climate. This issue happens when a King Cobra is placed in the aquarium with a mongoose the only animal it’s truly afraid of, and these animals engage in a fight which is filmed on camera, and finishes with real blood, otherwise throughout the film the snakes had no interest in performing, they often lay or slither away causing a breakdown of emotion from the actors and extras in general. As previously mentioned, the film has a skinny dripping scene, and yet obtained a PG rating, wondering how – simply using some carefully placed leaves, branches and soft unfocused lenses and presto no problem, oh come on, it was the early 70s. Aside from that it does contain atrocious plot holes, never explaining why the experiments are occurring the reasoning is all left behind, however there are unintentional comedic moments that likely having you forget why you ever started watching this flick in the first place.
One might have heard of the “it’s so bad it’s good” well that fittingly describes this movie, that contains a few types of monsters, one in a freak show, actual snakes, a creature monster and the ultimate form as human monster namely Dr. Stoner who has made plans for society and his daughter. Sssssss is often very silly, but the saving grace it uses real snakes almost throughout most of the production.
- Terror is ready to strike!
- Right Before Your Eyes, See a Man Turned Into a Cobra!
- You’ll never be the same after…
- Once this motion picture sinks its fangs into you, you’ll never be the same.
- For them there is no esssssscape
- (Don’t say it, hiss it)
IMDb Rating: 5.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10