Saturday, 23 February 2013

Makes Your Blood Run Cold

Sieges are great subjects for films, aren't they? Tense, exciting - and even more tense and exciting if you have a mix of ruthless criminals and sympathetic innocents, say an international criminal and a trigger happy drunk holding an asthmatic child, an old man and a lady doctor at gunpoint? No? Not exciting enough? Well, what if there was a Black Mamba loose on the premises? What about that?  Yep, now you're interested...

'Venom' is really stupid. But as really stupid films go, it's a corker. I needn't go into how the deadliest snake in the world was given to a small child by accident, or how that very snake gets loose in a house and inadvertantly becomes a key character in a foiled kidnapping attempt, so let's just say that it happens and move on. I also won't go into why the house in question, a large Georgian terrace, was thoughtfully built 250 years ago with a massive stainless steel air conditioning system for the venomous killer to slither around in.

What I have to say, however, is that this film has one of the most eclectic and downright bloody dangerous casts ever assembled: Oliver Reed, Klaus Kinski, Nicol Williamson, Sarah Miles and Sterling Hayden - a collection of unreliable nutters, troublemakers, malcontents, free spirits, drunks and degenerates that shouldn't even be able to co-exist in the same small space in the universe. The insurance premiums must have been through the roof. Shame Brando wasn't available.

Throw in Susan George as a scheming maid who gets her kit off in minutes and then turns dying from a snake bite into something wanton and erotic and you have half a dozen reasons for watching, and that's before you even get to the quite amazing finale where an out of control Kinski grapples frantically with a rubber snake, trying to blow the synthetic serpent's head off as he himself is shot repeatedly by Police snipers. It's like something out of a Norman Wisdom film. That one with the guns and the snakes.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Ollie Reed gets bitten on the bollocks. That's one brave hisser. Mr. Reed also suffers the indignity of a really nondescript credit, and I say that as someone who (much like everyone else) has several mates called Dave.


  1. I seem to recall this being shown in the 'Murder, Mystery and Suspense' strand on ITV in the 1980s.

    I could be wrong though, as everything else I remember under that title seemed to be a piss-poor American TV movie.

    Such as George Kennedy getting bitten by a skunk and going loco.

    Perhaps it was all a bad dream.

  2. This has been on my to watch pile for the past month. I really need to kick myself up the arse and watch it, this post is definitely spurring me on!

  3. Funny that you should remind me:
    About twenty years ago, I REALLY was in an apartment with a femaile albino monocled cobra on the loose. While not as swift as any mamba, she was noted for a particularly nasty disposition. She was recaptured (alive) by Scott, a former SEAL.
    Yes, this is a true story.

    Damn shame we couldn't have had Oliver Reed there...or Nicole Williamson to modulate his wonderful voice up and down a 20kHz range. On the other hand, if Klaus Kinski had shown up, there would probably be some embarrassing footage of me grappling frantically with him as he tries to blow my [non]sythetic head off. So, all things considered, maybe its just as well that Oliver didn't drop in with his mates.