Plot: A trio of criminals has targeted an affluent family for a kidnapping scheme, as the rich parents have a ten year old son. The plan is to take the child, collect the ransom, and enjoy the spoils of their criminal ways. Led by Jacmel (Klaus Kinski), the group has been able to infiltrate the family’s townhouse, as David (Oliver Reed) serves as the family’s driver and Louise (Susan George) is the house maid. Already on the inside, the trio is certain this will be a simple and painless process, but little do they know what lays ahead. As the time arrives to begin the crime, things start to unravel and it all starts when a pet shop mix-up sends the young boy home with a deadly black mamba snake, instead of a common house snake. When the box is opened, Louise is attacked and is quickly poisoned, though the others don’t realize how lethal the snake is until its far too late. Meanwhile, a police officer arrives and in a panic, David guns him down right in the street. Now the police are en route and a deadly snake prowls the townhouse, what will become of this ill fated criminal endeavor?
Entertainment Value: While Venom was lost in the shuffle when first released, it remains a solid thriller that has an impressive cast. After all, who doesn’t want to see Klaus Kinski in a showdown with a venomous snake? The plot involves a kidnapping plan that goes haywire when a lethal snake is unleashed and a police officer makes a surprise visit. This all leads to a standoff with the authorities, all while the snake is still loose inside the townhouse. The main draw for most people is likely the cast, as this is a colorful, talented roster of performers. Kinski, Susan George, Oliver Reed, Sterling Hayden, Sarah Miles, and others are all on deck, so for a movie about a snake on the prowl, that’s quite a lineup. While the snake is played up as the prominent force in the movie’s promotional materials, this is at heart a tense thriller that happens to have the wildcard of a deadly snake involved. The snake related scenes are frequent, but its not like every minute of screen time is devoted to this cat & mouse game between the humans and the snake. But when the snake is less featured, the movie is still fun to watch, thanks to the cast and some solid material. While more thriller than horror, it still has a lot to offer horror fans, I think.
No nakedness. I’m sure fans of Susan George will be let down, but at least she strips down to her bra and panties at one point. A little blood, but not much and the violence isn’t graphic. The snake attacks are well staged and look tense, with some nice camera tricks to elevate the panic. A couple gun shot wounds also provide some crimson, but again, not much. This is more thriller than horror, as I said, so the lack of blood isn’t an issue. The tone here is serious and mostly well written, so there’s not much camp or over the top dialogue in this one. Kinski is still fun to watch as always, with an ice cold persona that clashes so well with Reed’s hot tempered effort. So again, the writing is solid but doesn’t tick the outlandish boxes we add score for here. As far as craziness, this one has Kinski vs. a black mamba, which is fairly out there. But the movie is serious and doesn’t escalate the material into madness, just tension and a mood of impending dread, which works well. It does have some wild moments here and there, but overall this is a pretty grounded thriller.
Overall Insanity: 1/10