Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski [Other horror films: Night of the Blood Beast (1958), Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), Black Noon (1971)]
I’ve seen this movie once before, but honestly, I don’t quite recall when. At first, this seemed like a new watch, but about 30 minutes into the flick, it hit me that it was awfully familiar. Which, whether that says something negative about the movie or myself, well, is entirely up to you.
That being said, that seems a moderately good anecdote when talking about this film, because despite some decent tension, solid acting, and a downer of an ending, Sssssss seems like a pretty forgettable affair.
Strother Martin is pretty well-cast as an almost Universal movie mad scientist-type guy, which becomes more evident as the movie drags on. His daughter in the flick, played by Heather Menzies (who, on a side-note, reminded me a hell of a lot of a younger Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park), was probably one of the most solid actresses of the film, her looks also standing out as a positive. The main character, of sorts (because really, this more feels like the Strother Martin hour than it does Benedict), is played by Dirk Benedict, who did well with what he was given, but honestly, I don’t feel he stands out all that much.
Which is sort of a problem, because this movie tends to drag at the beginning, and even when interesting things begin to happen, it’s not like the flick jumps into hyper-speed. Many 70’s flicks tend to have pacing problems like this. For instance, the 1972 Stanley (another snake horror movie, by the way), had next to no horror for the first 45 minutes. I’d argue, though, that Stanley had far more interesting and deep characters than what we’re given here.
When a movie drags, and the characters can’t really pull the weight the plot’s unable to, then you’ve got some bad problems.
Of course, this isn’t to say the movie is terrible. Dodgy special effects aside, I liked the ending, for the most part, and an earlier scene, the death of a snake, actually elicited a pissed off response from me, which isn’t really what one would expect from a 70’s film. Throughout a lot of the movie, there seemed to be sort of a darker mood, with occasional assistance from the score, culminating in the ending, which was perhaps the most stand-out portion of the flick.
All-in-all, I wouldn’t say that Sssssss is a bad movie. I can name plenty of other movies around the same time that I much prefer to this one, but given the output of 70’s horror, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s just hovering around average, held back by a sluggish pace and mostly uninteresting characters. As far as 70’s snake horror goes, I’ll probably stick with Stanley, as I found it both more consistently memorable and amusing.