Why’d they have to turn Dick Benedict into a snake #Sssssss

sssss3There is some on-screen text at the beginning of Sssssss (1973) thanking the crew for working with snakes that might have killed them in under thirty seconds, but they should’ve thanked Dirk Benedict instead. This movie lands a hungry, young actor with a lot of charm, but they decide to put him in a bunch of green make-up and turn him into a snake.  Well, you’ve got to start somewhere I guess.  Clint Eastwood was in a stupid horror too.  Anyway, this movie is terrible but it’s notable for having Dirk Benedict and making me squirm.

You’ve got to be impressed by the way they used real snakes in Sssssss.  Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still a low-grade B-Movie, but it’s a step above Tarantula (1955), where the actors don’t interact with anything but a superimposed 20 foot projection of a spider.  Here, Strother Martin and Dirk Benedict stare down some real snakes, or at least it looks like they do.  Even if it’s a trick of the camera, the duel with the King Cobra is a great scene.  That’s the best part of the whole movie.  Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there.

sssss2If you didn’t turn the movie off after seeing Strother Martin slap a King Cobra, then you’re bound to be disappointed by the rest of the plot.  Heather Menzies contributes some bad acting and Dirk Benedict’s part in the movie disappears.  A mad scientist injects him with some spider venom and plays Frankenstein, which causes him to roll around and groan for the latter half of the picture.  Too bad.

There’s many recognizable faces in this stupid movie.  Strother Martin plays the mad scientist, whose motivation is not all that clear, but he’s insane and becomes Frankenstein, so I guess that’s enough.  Martin’s heyday was in the 50s and 60s, where he starred in a bunch of Westerns and was made famous in Cool Hand Luke (1967), as the bigoted Captain.  You’ll recognize Jack Ging too, because he was all over TV in the 80s, and joined Dirk Benedict on The A-Team as General Fulbright.  

sssss4I am wondering how Universal got away with so many bad movies in the 60s and 70s.  Were they trying to resurrect the days of the monster movies?  I don’t get it.  Compared to horror movies like those from William Castle, Sssssss is not even that good.  It also doesn’t have the style of Hammer horror movies.  This is the 70s, so maybe audiences aren’t too keen on gimmicky B-Movies by that point.  It hangs on the gimmick of showcasing real snakes, which works for a while, but they’re not characters.

Overall, this is an average B-Movie.  It has interesting moments and I buy the concept, but the plot and the characters are weak at best.  You actually see a tiny little snake bite Strother Martin on the hand, but this one must have been harmless.  Martin actually is the best actor of the group, but that’s just because the script gives him the most to do and makes Dirk Benedict into little more than a victim.  However, this movie has no pretense.  It’s a guilty pleasure, especially if you stumble across it on late night television.  It’s the best for people who hate snakes.

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