Monday, February 12, 2018

VENOM [1981]

This movie has NO business being as good as it is!  One would be forgiven thinking this is just one more "deadly snake on the loose" movie -- until, that is, you get a look at that cast!  Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed:  three of the biggest hellraisers in movie history all together in one film.  Mix together the superb Nicol Williamson, Susan George, Sarah Miles and a genuinely vicious-looking black mamba snake and this is my kind of party!  

Directed by Piers Haggard (who brought us BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW), VENOM is the story of an English Peter Billingsley clone with asthma left alone by his twitchy mother with his grandfather and a couple of servants.  The boy loves animals and has his own menagerie/zoo in the house.  Ex-gamehunter grandpa (Sterling Hayden) soon discovers the faithful maid (Susan George) and chauffer (Oliver Reed) are in league with an international criminal (Klaus Kinski) to kidnap the boy and hold him for ransom.  Naturally as these things go, the boy has just been to the pet shop to pick up the pet snake he's ordered; however, he is accidentally given the most poisonous snake in the world that had been ordered by the local toxicology laboratory.  Nobody knows this, of course, until the box is opened and the truly vicious-looking black mamba leaps out and bites Susan George.  After Oliver Reed impetuously blows away a police constable who's come by to inquire about the snake, the local cops show up led by Nicol Williamson.  The street is cordoned off an toxicologist Sarah Miles is sent for to bring anti-venom in case something nasty happens with the snake.  From here on out, you've just gotta watch the movie.
Merlin wants his cup of coffee!

This is the second time I've watched VENOM and I enjoyed it even more this time around.  The cast is just so darn good and watchable and the film moves along at a nice clip.  The shots (many in close-up) of the beautiful but frightening black mamba snake are exemplary and the cinematography is top notch throughout. 
With all the acting fireworks going on inside the house with Kinski, Reed & Hayden, it's easy to forget how wonderful Nicol Williamson's performance is; with his tetchy acidity and Scots burr commanding the street outside.  Oh yes, and good ole Michael Gough also has a small role as another snake expert/toxicologist who is called to the scene when . . . . ah, that would be telling!  Truthfully, the only interest I had in this film is that Sterling Hayden stars in it (I try to see every movie of his and he's even top-billed) as well as the presence of Kinski and Reed --something that doesn't happen every day.  Imagine my surprise at how great the film turned out to be!  VENOM is just so much fun to watch and it's one I'll revisit again and again.  Oh yeah, terrific poster too!   I seriously can't recommend this one highly enough.  A great popcorn-muncher!

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