So I really needed to add Tobe Hooper's Funhouse to my collection. That's when I stumbled upon a Universal 4 Movie Marathon collection. It contained The Funhouse/Phantasm II/The Serpant and the Rainbow/Sssssss. It was ultra cheap and I loved every movie contained with the exception of Sssssss, which I hadn't seen. I figured they added the PG rated Sssssss to prevent making the package completely awesome. But I was wrong.
By the time I got around to watching it, the first shock was that Strother Martin was the star. Besides being one of the greatest character actors ever, he also played one of the greatest characters ever: The Captain in Cool Hand Luke.
The second shock was how well it was filmed. From the get go, this "B" movie was obviously done by people who knew what they were doing. And looking some of this up, yes, a lot of people involved in the making of this movie had already earned impressive resume's by the time this movie was filmed.
Maybe mad scientist movies aren't your thing, mine neither. Maybe animal movies aren't your thing, mine neither. Maybe the idea of a PG rated movie where a man turns someone into a human cobra sounds like a "so bad, it sounds like a ton of fun if I'm intoxicated" type, well it might be...but it's also a ton of fun while completely coherent.
We start with this nutty mad scientist Carl Stoner (Martin) who studies and obsesses over snakes. He has also come up with a serum that turns humans into king cobra/human hybrids. He studies them, like any good scientist would do and then sells them to a circus freak show.
The good doctor also has a lovely daughter named Kristina (Heather Menzies) who happens to share her fathers affinity for snakes.
In comes David (Dirk Benedict) who lands a job as a lab assistant to Dr Stoner. David and Kristina soon hit it off and become romantically involved. That will soon become a problem, mostly due to the fact that Dr Stoner has infected David with his human/reptile serum.
If someone had described this movie to me before I saw it, I would have cracked up. Of course I would still want to see it, but for other reasons and probably at another time. So I'm happy to say that I popped the disc in without any preconceived notions and I was blown away. Not only is this movie effective at what it sets out to do, the acting was impressive, the real snakes used in the movie were impressive, and the makeup done by John Chambers was impressive!
Yes, this movie is strange. But it's also strangely coherent and isn't self aware of it's ridiculous premise. It plays it straight the whole way through.
Don't believe me? Think I'm over selling it? Consider this:
Leonard Maltin gave Sssssss 3 out of 4 stars. For a point of reference - he also gave The Godfather 3 out of 4 stars.
Now I'm not saying that Sssssss is as good as, or better than The Godfather... I'm just insinuating it.