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In 1968 horror legend Boris Karloff was filmed and the footage was incorporated into four Mexican horror movies released in the early 1970s after his death. Now these movies are regarded by most horror buffs as being absolute turkeys, but if 'Snake People' (the only one of the four I've seen to date) is anything to go by I must disagree. Karloff looks old and ill but his handful of scenes are still worth a look. The rest of the movie is a bit illogical, but unlike the naysayers I didn't find it to be boring. Voodoo snake cults, come on, how is that boring? The most interesting thing about 'Snake People' is that it was partly directed by cult film legend Jack Hill ('Spider Baby', 'The Big Doll House', 'Coffy', 'Switchblade Sisters'). Quentin Tarantino is a massive Hill fan and calls him "the Howard Hawks of exploitation". I believe Hill shot all the Karloff scenes in California and this was mixed with Mexican footage directed by Juan Ibanez, but apart from that I have no idea whether the movies were already scripted before filming, or improvised later Roger Corman style. Anyway, the story concerns a young woman (Julissa) who visits her aged Uncle (Karloff) on a small Caribbean island. Unbeknown to her it is the home of a voodoo cult which eventually kidnaps her. But hey, the plot doesn't really matter, there are lots of zombies and snakes and a creepy dwarf in a top hat and Boris freakin' Karloff dude! To be completely honest 'Snake People' wouldn't even crack a place in my horror top 100, but you know what? I enjoyed it. Enough to watch it twice. And if I was faced with the choice of watching it a third time or sitting through the likes of 'Cabin Fever' or 'House Of 1000 Corpses' again then it's me and Boris and the snake worshippers baby!
Echoing narration informs us about the "diabolical" new threat of
voodoo on the island of "Korbai" near Haiti and a laughing, sneering
midget in sunglasses cuts the head off a (real) chicken. Then Anabella
(played by Julissa), a member of the International Anti-Saloon League
informs some soldiers that, "Modern science has proved that alcohol is
responsible for 99.2% of all the worlds sins!" She arrives on the
island with others to visit her uncle Carl von Molder (Boris Karloff or
his masked double).
Meanwhile, blue-faced zombies are overrunning the island. Voodoo cultists kill soldiers with a blowgun, strangulation and machete and regularly resurrect the dead with the help of the dwarf (who whips them). Rabid zombie women eat a man and one soldier adopts one as his girlfriend to scratch his back and fan him. ("Imagine a beautiful woman that can't talk. Every man's dream!") The niece has an extremely bizarre dream of her evil double suggestively sucking on a (real, live) snake before kissing her (?)
Little of this movie makes sense and the ending stinks, but it has some weird, senseless stuff to recommend. It's one of four much-hated movies Karloff did in 1968 before his death, constituting his final film work.
THE SNAKE PEOPLE or Isle of the Snake People was one of four films Karloff signed to make for Producer Luis Vergara. The Mexican filmmaker had obtained financing from Columbia Pictures to film them in Mexico. But due to the actor's emphysema and arthritis problems with his legs in a brace problems in high altitudes, the Mexican actors and crew came to Hollywood and shot the four films back-to-back in the Hollywood Stage Studios in Los Angeles instead. There, all of Karloff's scenes were filmed in five weeks during the Spring of 1968. During the filming, Karloff was physically incapacitated by lung trouble, which necessitated an oxygen mask from time to time. After Karloff's scenes were completed, the crew returned to Mexico and shot the remaining scenes there.
I Bought this film on DVD a couple of days ago not expecting much, and my intuitions were correct. Very slow with dialog that goes all over the place. We never get a grasp of where the film is taking place, who are these people and why anyone is doing what they do. Master horror icon Boris Karloff is basically exploited for name recognition (something that would happen quite frequently in the later stages of his career)and has little if anything to do. His relationship to the cult and how it evolves is never explained. The only reason I finished this sleep enhancer is the sexy dancing of Mexican actress (and exotic dancer) Yolanda Montes billed here as Tongolele. Nearly forty years old at the time it was made, Tongolele still possessed a knockout figure and sexy aura. Her two dance sequences are the only thing that will keep you awake while trying to finish off this turkey.
I liked Boris Karloff in the Mummy, and Frankenstien, but like all
actors reaching their peak they decide to take whatever they can give
them... and this was one in which Boris took. Whether it was for money,
boredom, you be the judge, but he did the movie and now I will probably
be the judge of how it looks.
Visual and colorful, that's about all I liked. And the nice dancing.
But the acting is as poor as any B-movie fan or non-fan can pretty much see. Stale, plain, and unintentionally funny comedy arises from a movie that would have been better off shelved forever. There are moments that are pretty gruesome, but the midget... yes, him, is actually cute as he outshines Boris more than ever. I remembered him over Boris Karloff, and wondered why he doesn't appears for more than a few scenes. Why doesn't he? Oh well.
"La Muerte Viviente" aka. "Isle Of The Living Dead" aka. "Snake People"
of 1971, is an extremely trashy and unintentionally hilarious movie,
and one of the last movies of the great horror icon Boris Karloff. I
have utmost respect for director Jack Hill for movies like his great
blaxploitation classic "Coffy" starring Pam Grier. "Snake People",
directed by Hill and Juan Ibanez, however, is one of these movies that
are so bad they're actually pretty good. I'm a big fan of trashy
B-horror flicks, but the only two reasons why I enjoyed "Snake People"
were Boris Karloff, who plays a rather small role in this, and the
movie's unintentional fun value.
The tropical island "Korbai" is reigned by a bizarre voodoo cult. The cult's unholy priests, amongst them a creepy midget and a scary snake dancer, sacrifice beautiful local girls to their occult deity "Damballah". The girls, who volunteer as sacrifices in order to achieve eternal life, are then resurrected from the dead as mindless zombies. Determined to put an end, to these rituals, that are ignored by the local police, Captain Pierre Labesch comes to the island. He asks the islands richest landowner, Carl Van Molder (Boris Karloff) for help. In the meanwhile, Van Molder's niece, who came to the island to fight alcoholism, befriends a local police lieutenant.
As a horror movie, "Snake People " fails entirely. As an unintentional comedy, however, it is hilarious. The dialogue is extremely poor (and therefore extremely hilarious) and apart from Karloff, the acting is really bad too. The locations are amateurish, the plot has huge holes and many logical errors. While Captain Labesch, for example, is obviously French, and came to the island sent by 'the government', other law enforcement officers of this government have English names. I laughed a lot when I saw this movie the first time, and I will definitely watch it again. Don't expect any suspense, but watch this as the unintentional comedy it is and entertainment will be guaranteed. 3/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, if you've come here as a Karloff fan, the film is on
Youtube.com and it seems like a decent print. The same media channel on
Youtube has put out tons of other B movies there as well, they probably
also released them on DVD, so you can check it out there for free.
I don't know why so many are so critical of this film, it looks above average to me in terms of late 60's early 70's drive in horror movies. If you want to compare it to something done by an HBO now (like that Vampire series), yeah it sucks probably, but among it's peers, it's above average. Many say this movie is slow moving, but I mean the first scene has a real animal sacrifice (a chicken) and the newly risen zombie woman is made a sex slave! That's some pretty racy stuff for me! The movie was not slow to me, but it was hard to root for the Hero, or even know who the Hero was until about the end, I got the feeling that the Zombie cult was the Hero, lol.
It does rap up abruptly but thankfully painlessly and I liked it. Many reviewers were turned on by the middle aged cultess, I was not but she did freak me out with those eye close ups. The black zombie chicks turned me on with their pretty faces and hot lips. If you are into chicks dancing with snakes, you will like this movie. And if you get down to it, there were not many movies up to that time that featured chicks with snakes like this one did, this movie was pushing boundaries if you ask me.
Karloff's disappearance at the last part is sad, and he's not the sole reason to watch, the voodoo rituals take that honor; but he does have a couple of decent dialog scenes I guess and the movie is better off with him in it then without.
Compared to other crappy horror movies of it's time this rates a 7 of 10 from me, it would have rated higher with some heavy doses of nudity (there is none). Worth watching on Youtube.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Similar to Bela Lugosi acting in Ed Wood's Z-grade cult pictures toward
the end of his life, Boris Karloff took one last stand (in failing
health) in front of cameras to shoot four films that are today
considered less than sub-par, to say the least. Snake People, or La
Muerte Viviente, was one of them. It is also the most accessible of
these rarities which were all first released in Mexico.
This film was co-directed by Jack Hill (along with Juan Ibanez) who would later go on to make blaxploitation history with Foxy Brown and Coffy. Hill is also part of what could be considered the Roger Corman school, as he is one of many directors apprenticed by the cult cinema legend.
The film begins with Capt. Pierre Labesch and Anabella Vanderberg arriving together on a small Caribbean island. Labesch is there to assume control of the local police force and Vanderberg to help spread the temperance movement. They are greeted by stories of voodoo and zombies being rampant on the island. Captain Labesch makes it somewhat of a crusade to stop what he believes to be hogwash. They later pay a visit to Mr. van Molder (Karloff), a plantation owner who is Ms. Vanderberg's uncle and also an amateur scientist conducting experiments with voodoo and telekinesis. From him, they learn that the voodoo practitioners await the coming of Baron Samedi, a voodoo deity to be summoned by the high priest Damballah. Of course, the voodoo turns out not to be hogwash and the characters find themselves trapped within the web of occult and sacrifice. The plot is paper thin, and it is not long before you realize that van Molder is Damballah. The final revelation makes for a very anticlimactic ending.
However, this film does have its good moments. Notable parts include various haunting voodoo rituals involving a creepy midget (credited as "midget" mind you) killing chickens, and an eerie encounter between Vanderberg and her evil doppleganger. Overall, I'd say this flick is best left to cult aficionados and collectors of rare cinema oddities.
This thing deserves a better reputation. True, it has its down side. The photographic technique isn't the best. Quickly panning in and out, jerking the camera around, these are things I think directors do when they don't know what else to do. Lack of imagination excused by low budget. Aside from that it has lots of pluses. Karloff is good, as always. The rest of the cast play their parts very well. Two in particular come across perfectly and so help make this a good flick. Carlos (Charles) East does well as Wilhem, making the character very natural and hence believable. But, my opinion, the best player of them all? Yolanda Montes, billed as Tongolele, as Kalea. With her sex appeal and that budding "Bride of Frankenstien" hairdo shes dead on as the Voodoo priestess. And with sex appeal in mind, I noticed a pronounced current of underlying sexuality that flows nowhere. But things like that help pull 'em in when you show the promos. This isn't a bad movie. For a B flick its OK.
Just before he died Boris Karloff shot back to back footage for four
row horror flicks. Additional scenes were later shot in Mexico - with
different actors! - to bring each of them up to feature length.
This is the first and most coherent of this unfortunate quartet of pictures. It's also the dullest. Boris is a plantation owner on an island threatened by a curious voodoo cult that throws in cannibalism and snake worship with the usual business plan of raising of the dead to work in the fields.
The story is bereft of any new ideas and the phallic imagery is rather puerile. Still, we do get some lively snake dancing and the matching of the two sets of footage is not that bad, although Karloff's foreman appears in one scene with a beard and the next scene without!
If only the great man had stopped here!
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