BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Sssssss is a magnificent B-movie whose appreciation starts with the fact that you actually have to hiss its title. It is a mad scientist movie about snakes; real snakes mind you. I can’t stress that aspect enough. While it might be fun enough for some to watch Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck transform into a cobra right before their eyes, Sssssss real achievement lies in its ability to wind up the serpentine fears of its audiences.
Filmed in 1973, the venomous snakes used in the filming of the horror flick were not defanged and ranged from 10 to 15 feet in actual length. When you see the actors interacting with these deadly King Cobras, there is a legitimate thrill that runs through you. It's hard to deny this feeling of danger. The filmmakers must have been insane to put these actors in harm’s way. There is even a title card announcing this fact. It's alarming, for sure, but plays as a strength is the fun flick from the 1970s. Starring Dirk Benedict, Heather Menzies, and Strother Martin as Dr. Carl Stoner, the mad scientist determined to turn a man into a snake, Sssssss is definitely not for those deathly afraid of snakes as it will only make matters worse.
It is a horror movie that is ripe with a series of subplots that don’t exactly instill a sense of confidence. There is a loical small town football star with eyes for Menzies (who already has eyes for Benedict) and tries to pressure her into sex before being thwarted by the family snake, Henry. There are two cops that are “aw-shucks” about everything until the final minute of the mysterious disappearings sprinkled throughout the film and then suddenly become expert sharp-shooters. And then there is the tepid romance between the lab assistant and the doctor’s daughter. It’s the stuff of afterschool specials.
Fortunately, Dr. Stoner and his collection of King Cobras and Black Mambas eclipse everything else.
Even if it is a low-grade flick, Sssssss is still a chilling tale tht pre-dates Kevin Smith's Tusk. It is peppered with enough interesting character actors and – as economical as it is – plays to the strengths of the point-and-shoot direction by Bernard L. Kowalski. Say what you want about this hurried approach to filmmaking but Kowalski got Martin – an established and aged actor – very, very close to some deadly snake action and those scenes play out as authentic as possible, even if the movie is limited in its overall appreciation.
Written by Hal Dresner and Daniel C. Striepeke, watching a very-determined herpetologist turn his unsuspecting lab assistant into a venomous snake for the betterment of human evolution is more than a tad unsettling. Martin as the mad Dr. Strother is indeed a B-movie revelation; he is unsuspecting, quiet, and very determined. It’s damn spooky how intent he is at his single-minded intention and, even when it involves his sheltered daughter, how unwavering his conviction remains. This is some spooky stuff and Martin sells the performance without EVER coming across as insane. It's glorious how he does this.
Oh, yes. There will be snakes. Sssssss, released by Scream Factory, makes it blu-ray debut with a triumphant HD handling from the esteemed company. It does not disappoint.
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 99 mins
Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
Writer: Hal Dresner
Cast: Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict, Heather Menzies-Urich
Genre: Sci-fi | Horror
Tagline: Once this motion picture sinks its fangs into you, you'll never be the same.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You are a real and a bona fide genius. First one I ever met."
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: July, 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: April 26, 2016
Synopsis: A college student becomes lab assistant to a scientist who is working on a serum that can transform humans into snakes.
Available on Blu-ray - April 26, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A
A noticeably vast improvement over the standard DVD, Scream Factory’s 1080P/AVC transfer has superb detail and bright colors with a good amount of pop to them. The snakes are effectively detailed and the optical effects are solid, too. The elements show some dirt from time to time, and a few brief scenes are a tad soft, but this looks to be inherent of the original cinematography and not a deficit of the transfer. It doesn’t appear that the picture has been tweaked or modified in any way, and the grain structure is well maintained. The DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio mono soundtrack does its job with increased range and fidelity and showcases the creepy score by Patrick Williams.
If you make it through the film, you’ll want to treat yourself with the special features. Included for its blu-ray debut are two NEW interviews with Benedict and Menzies, both stars of the movie. Each share their memories from the production but it is former A-Teamer Benedict who spills the most with rambling stories from the shoot.
- My Reptilian Past – an interview with actor Dirk Benedict (18 min)
- The Herpetologist's Daughter – an interview with Heather Menzies-Urich (15 min)
- Photo Gallery (4 min)
- Theatrical Trailers (4 min)
- Radio Spots (2 min)