Red touch yellow, kill a fellow!
Year Released : 1973
Director : Bernard L. Kowlaski
Cast : Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict and Heather Menzies-Ulrich
If there is one thing that I have felt very guilty of since I started reviewing films on this blog in 2014 it is definitely that the vast, vast majority of the movies I have reviewed are from this decade. Infact, I think I’ve only reviewed four from before I was born in 1984 (The 300 Spartans, Jason and the Argonauts, The Thing (1982) and Rehearsal for Murder), so I’m going to try to review some older films on a more regular basis (well, to be fair I’m only averaging one a year at the moment so that wouldn’t be hard).
So I’m going to start with a movie that I’ve known about for some time and have actually seen a lot of clips for, including vaguely knowing the ending before actually watching the movie. Now, you may be wondering how I came across this film and I’m one for sharing unusual stories. Well as I’ve previously mentioned on this site, my favourite film is “Willow” and one scene towards the end of that film sees an entire army turned into pigs, and I was watching that specific scene on Youtube one day whilst I was procrastinating. One of the links on the side was a clip from this and it just went from there.
I suppose procrastinating isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.
Dr Stoner (Martin) sells a mysterious creature to a local entertainer and the next day goes to recruit a new assistant, claiming that his previous one left town without telling anyone where he was going. He eventually decides on David (Benedict) to join him as a lab assistant. Stoner introduces David to his daughter Kristina (Menzies-Ulrich).
Stoner starts giving David some shots, claiming it is to help immunise him against the venom of several snakes in the lab. Soon after David starts feeling ill and his skin starts peeling. As time goes on his condition gets worse and Kristina decides to investigate what truly happened to her father’s previous assistant.
Was procrastinating a happen accident in this case?
Before I begin this review, it’s hard to put into words what a good job the cast did with not only working with live snakes (and it is obvious that they are live and very real snakes), but also handling them safely to make sure that they aren’t hurt. If you read articles from the time the cast were nervous working with live snakes (understandably), so if nothing else you have to give them credit for not only doing it, but making it look so easy.
If the film was to be remade, or even a similar film, then it would definitely be all CGI and there wouldn’t likely be a real snake in sight, but you couldn’t do that in those days as, don’t forget, this film is 45 years old (at the time of writing obviously). It has somewhat dated with the effects towards the end of the film, but yeah, it has not aged well in that respect.
This is a silly movie in many respects and I can see why it has a relatively mediocre score on IMDB. It is a film that tries to be serious, but ends up coming off as almost a parody of other transformation films. For example, there is a scene where Dr Stoner is sat reading a book to a snake that is giving him his full attention.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t such a slow build. It takes a long time to get going and even after the first signs of transformation, it takes far too long for the next to be presented. I don’t mind slow builds, but it almost feels like this leaves it too late to move the story along and tries to force too much into the final act. This wouldn’t be too bad if the ending didn’t feel completely anti-climactic.
Whilst the cast did a commendable job with the animals, that is the only real positive about a movie that has aged badly, and more importantly isn’t that good. Whilst taking into account that it is 45 years old (at the time of writing), that doesn’t excuse the poor pacing of the film, especially towards the end of the movie.
The ending feels like an anti-climax, but to be fair not a lot would have saved it by that point and whilst not an awful film, there generally aren’t a lot of positives to be taken out of this.
I won’t go as far as advising to avoid this film, but I will definitely say don’t go out of your way to find it.