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Back in 1974 when this TV-Movie first aired, I saw the first twenty minutes or so and was enthralled by the premise: A submarine trapped at the bottom of the ocean with a pack of deadly snakes slithering around. It seemed like a can't miss thriller. Because I was a kid though, I had to go to bed! I recently found the film on video and was ecstatic to finally see the whole show. However, I should have let my childhood dream of a can't miss thriller be as this movie was incredibly bad. It is very cheap looking, even for that time period and the actors play their scenes with so much indifference that it's hard to care about their plight. The biggest mistake is that the snakes are only peripheral to the plot. Most of the movie is taken up with the crew's attempts to dislodge themselves from the rocks they are trapped against, making it more of an adventure film than a thriller and it's not even a good adventure film. At least I now know why the film was so hard to find all of these years. WKRP fans might want to check it out for an early look at Frank Bonner (AKA Herb Tarlek) as the dopey sailor who brings the snakes aboard the sub.
Before "Snakes on a Plane" and "Snakes on a Train", there was this 1974
made-for-television mid-week suspender snakes on a submarine
(Fer-de-Lance is the name of the sub). When a happy go lucky seaman
returns from shore leave with a shaman's gift of live snakes, he sets
off a succession of catastrophes that places the stricken sub's
surviving crew in peril, and forces reluctant hero Janssen to assume
responsibility for an almighty mess, a job he clearly relishes as much
as a poke in the eye.
As the sub flounders on the ocean floor, the remaining crew must make repairs to extricate themselves before the oxygen levels dissipate, while silently stalked by the highly toxic stowaways. Director Mayberry takes a rather old-fashioned approach with his limited material, focusing more attention on the salvage efforts than the snake threat which becomes the sub-plot in the latter half. The performances are strictly B-grade all round, and include one of Janssen's more ambivalent characterisations (though this was his trademark) as an uninspired, less-than enthusiastic naval instructor who's reluctantly foist into the captain's seat when all the senior officers are killed off during the initial catastrophe. Hope Lange is similarly propelled into heroine status, with her medical knowledge proving critical to the defensive effort against the marauding reptiles as one-by-one, the survivors are taken out. The movie labours to a mechanical conclusion, and though not without some intellect, the action is far too sporadic and there's little suspense.
It's perhaps no surprise that this largely forgettable TV movie has been resurrected in the wake of the "Snakes on a Plane" popularity, although it's well down the hierarchy of motion picture asps. A strong cast delivers intelligent dialogue, but the one-dimensional, melodramatic treatment sinks not only the submarine, but also the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No crucial spoilers -- not that anyone would likely care...
It was a long time ago, and I don't remember too much about it. The guy brought the snakes on because the submarine was named "Fer de Lance" and he thought it was cool to have the snakes, like as mascots or something (not a really good idea).
One of the people bitten is the guy driving the sub, so it crashes into the sea bottom or a rock outcropping or something, so that causes more problems.
I won't tell you how they got rid of all of the snakes you'll have to watch and (endure) that yourself. Typically mid-70's movie-of-the-week fare.
Fer De Lance (1974)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
The screw of a submarine has good and bad news. The good news is that they are stuck on the ocean floor with boulders holding them down. The bad news is an idiot brought several deadly snakes on board that can kill within minutes of their bite. This made for TV flick is pretty good for the first hour but after that thing get tad bit boring, although the ending is good. The second half takes the focus off the snakes, which I feel was a mistake. There's no real violence to speak of but the director uses this to his benefit. David Janssen and Hope Lange star.
I was 12 and the premise sounded great--a TV movie about a submarine
trapped underwater with deadly snakes on the loose. I remember watching
and, after a while, became increasingly bored. The script was
by-the-numbers (there were no surprises or anything even slightly
original), the cast looked either bored or had a sad let-me-out-of-here
look of their faces (David Janssen). By the end I was fighting to stay
awake! Dull dull DULL.
It's hard to believe but this was released as a theatrical feature in Europe! Some poor suckers had to PAY to see this! I can imagine the reactions where this played. This IS worth seeing if you have insomnia--this will cure you completely!
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