User ReviewsReview this title
The plot is pretty straightforward. The Nanny of a young British boy is plotting to kidnap him for ransom. Her partners in crime include the bleary-eyed Oliver Reed and Kinski as the Big Bad Guy In Charge. There's only one problem: on the day that the kidnapping is supposed to take place, the spoiled, asthmatic little brat slips away from his nanny and goes to the pet store with grandpa to pick up his new pet snake. Oops! The pet store accidentally boxes up and hands over a black mamba, one of the most bad-tempered and deadly snakes in the world. Geez, did no one check the label on the crate first? The snake goes home, gets loose and snaps its ugly mouth closed on nanny Susan George first, who dies a horrible, foamy, convulsing death. After that, the snake is loose in the air vents of the house, and the kid, the grandpa and the kidnappers are trapped inside.
There's some good snake POV shots, the best of which comes when Oliver Reed opens the door of a liquor cabinet (ooh, big surprise there) and the nasty serpent lunges out at his face. The most tense and creepy scene comes as the mamba slowly slides up Reeds pant leg, slithering inexorably up towards his crotch...but I won't ruin the rest for you. Kinski hams it up like he always does, smiling smugly and bugging his freaky eyes out at anyone who irritates him. His BIG FINAL SCENE scene is ridiculously overlong and should have earned Kinski an Oscar for Best Scene Chewing Moment.
It moves a little slow sometimes, but the cool looking mamba makes up for that. There are some genuine jump moments and the cast is actually really good: Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, Susan George and Sterling Hayden (as the grandfather) all turn in great big huge performances which seem almost too big for a little film like this...and I mean that in a good way. The plot is almost so ludicrous that it somehow manages to become totally believable. Fans of Kinski will want to catch this one: Kinski is at his most arrogant here, and fans of his smarmy, ego-ridden brilliance will love every minute of it. 7 out of 10 stars.
My Grade: B-
DVD Extras: Director's commentary; Theatrical trailer; 4 TV spots; poster & stills gallery; Bios for Klaus Kinski & Oliver Reed
Taut little suspense-thriller enabled by a strong cast, decent dialogue and well-paced direction. Kinski as the main protagonist is chilling, and he's well supported in Oliver Reed as the boozy henchman and Susan George as an unlikely (and unlucky) accomplice. Also noteworthy is Nicol Williamson as the dedicated police inspector who finds himself at the helm of a tense stand-off between the bandits, their captures and the unpredictable rogue reptile. While Sterling Hayden's characterisation of an aging ex game hunter is somewhat vague and incidental to the plot, it does add another dimension to the proceedings that stirs the curiosity and colours the complexity of an otherwise straightforward yarn.
Effective use of sets, lighting, music and tight editing nicely complement the occasional sadistic and surprisingly graphic violence. The snake itself, sometimes portrayed by a replica, is also well staged and looks convincingly hostile. Understated and somewhat obscure considering its impressive credits (Tobe Hooper was also linked with the film early on, but parted ways with the project), "Venom" is a compelling hostage thriller, cleverly bolstered by an unorthodox twist, and is well worth the time.
"High concept" years before the term was invented, the plot ostensibly hangs on a series of belief-stretching co-incidences which result in a hostage siege taking place in a posh London home, with the police camped outside and a deadly (as we are repeatedly reminded) black mamba snake loose in the heating ducts.
Made many years before CGI came along and gave us bloated nonsense like Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane the film-makers had to be fairly economical with their beastie's screen time. Going down the Jaws route , Venom makes highly effective use of POV camera shots, shadowy lighting and an unsettling score (an early work from the much missed composer Michael Kamen; and no, I have not forgotten that he was also responsible for that Bryan Adams monstrosity) to suggest the snakes' presence. When the creature is fully revealed it is more often than not the exceedingly dangerous real thing; borrowed from London Zoo, and provoked into getting the hump in the direction of the nearest camera by their, at the time, resident reptile expert Michael Ball (who gets both an un-credited cameo in the film, and himself played by a cranky Michael Gough in to the bargain).
However, all of these slithery shenanigans are a mere aside to the real terror on show here. The casting of the infamously intense and insane Klaus Kinski opposite the famously drunk and antagonistic Oliver Reed. By all reports these two hated each other on sight and spent the whole shoot at war with each other, with Reed referring to Kinski as a Nazi at every possible opportunity. However, what must have a nightmare situation for director Piers Haggard (parachuted in after Tobe Hooper walked with shooting already under way) as they share virtually every scene together, paid off in dividends as the warring actors enthusiastically pour every ounce of their scenery-chewing one-oneupmanship onto the screen. Stir into this mix a few more well-renowned "difficult" actors: Nicol Williamson (The famously OTT Merlin from Excalibur) getting his Sweeney on, Sarah Miles, and Sterling Hayden among them; and what results is a glorious bombast of angry intense thesping, that grabs this would-b-movie by the balls and drags it into "forgotten classic" territory. A daft, wonderful, guilty pleasure. Seek it out.
At best "Venom" is an mediocre siege movie with an ambitiously, venomous twist. Though, what really gave the film the added hoick was that there was an excellent A-cast basically giving their all in a simple minded B-grade feature. With the likes of Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed and Nicol Williamson. I found it hard not to be entertained even if not much wasn't going on. Those three actors equally hold such a great screen presence. But with a title like "Venom" you'll be expecting some glorious snake action and it does deliver, but not as frequently as it should. When it did finally pop up it would rack up the excitement levels with some memorable (if sometimes slightly risible) attacks and a gratuitously, over-exaggerated (but fitting) climax. But it's Klaus Kinski's coldly, stern performance as the international terrorist Jacques that's far more unsettling. Those glazed eyes were just piercing! Oliver Reed on the other hand hams it up as the worrying family driver and Nicol Williamson is cracking as the officer in charge Cmdr. William Bulloch. The support roles by the likes of Sterling Hayden, Susan George and Sarah Miles are just as sensationally good. But it was the rapport clash of egos between Kinski and Reed that kept me glued, well other than the nasty surprises that awaited them. Director Piers Haggard, who took over from Tobe Hooper did a fine job for such a sudden inclusion. He's able to moderately construct some tight suspense from the bleak, claustrophobic confinement even if the story's structure follows a predictable pattern and sometimes the tautness falls away in patches with the constant cutting between the cops, kidnappers and snake. But what was unpredictable was the spontaneously, furious snake attacks that were chucked in for good measure. You just didn't know where the snake would show up next and when it does it's done so in an surprisingly, effective manner. Implemented into the picture are some creative camera shots, such as snake vision and the forceful score basically telegraphs the action and suspense impeccably well with its energy. Maybe the production does have that TV feel about it, but that doesn't hurt the film. The two genres behind this story (siege and creature on loose) might not be nothing new, but I found the uneven mixture of the two an entertaining experiment. Maybe it's not completely successful in combining them, but simply it's a decent time-waster.
A modest plot is brought to life by a well ensemble cast, a deadly snake and some tautly controlled direction. It's nothing totally special, but its better than average compared with most films of its ilk.
Susan George,plays the maid who scheme's with her chauffeur/lover Oliver Reed, And Klaus Kinski, plays a deadly eastern European terrorist, who wants the boy in exchange for a ransom, Thing's unfortunately don't go to plan as the boy who is a reptilian nut of sort's inadvertently brings home a deadly black mamba, as there was a mix up at the pet shop,
Also starring, the legendary Sterling Hayden(In his last major motion picture performance) play's the boy's big game hunting grandfather,
Scottish actor Nichol Willaimson, plays the dour police officer who deals with the crisis, And Sarah Miles plays the pivotal role of a toxicologist, who is called in to deal with the task of providing the pivotal antidote,and is also held hostage when an exchange for the antidote goes wrong,
In the townhouse,their are some great scare's in this flick, where you would NOT expect it them! the snake's point of view is Excellently represented by quashed anamorphic Len's's, which work really well,
All in all a moderately budgeted entertaining suspense that really bite's, People who don't like snake's need not apply!
The plot of this outlandish horror flick mixes together bits of rampaging monster films with a hostage thriller. A young boy and his grandfather are taken prisoner in their own home by a gang of kidnappers, but just as they are about to start issuing their ransom demands, they discover that also in the house is a black mamba snake which has escaped from captivity. One by one, the cast is picked off by the lethan serpent, whilst outside the police battle desperately to find a solution to the stand-off.
The cast is wonderful, with such great names as Sarah Miles, Sterling Hyaden, Oliver Reed, Susan George, Klaus Kinski and Nicol Williamson amongst the characters. There are some exciting, nerve jangling moments, too, especially when snake expert Hayden goes poking around a dark room in search of the deadly critter. The film is no masterpiece, mainly because it is a bit silly in parts, and it also goes through a few dull patches in between snake attacks, but one thing is for sure: it is a thousand times better than the appalling Spasms.
Reed is chauffeur Dave, who, along with sexy maid Louise (Susan George) and German terrorist Jacmel (Klaus Kinski), find themselves cornered by police Commander William Bulloch (Nicol Williamson) and his men (after a shotgun toting Dave gets trigger happy with a cop) and menaced by the highly venomous and very aggressive reptile, the result of a mix-up of orders at a pet shop.
Despite a top-notch cast (which includes Sarah Miles as toxicologist Dr. Marion Stowe, and Michael Gough as a snake expert), director Piers Haggard (The Blood on Satan's Claw) is unable to elevate his film from mediocrity thanks to a pedestrian script that is a little light on the snake action and a touch too heavy on police procedure, delivering not nearly enough suspense or horror. Kinski is as slimy and menacing as always, Ollie turns to the booze when the pressure is on (no surprises there), and George strips to her underwear (no surprises there either!).
5.5 out of 6, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
As Kinski and his cohort Oliver Reed become besieged by the police, it becomes apparent something unpleasant is slithering through the ventilation ducts. This calls for much snake-POV camera work, however when the snake is actually seen the footage is rather convincing for such a low key film - only at the end does Kinski appear to be battling a treacherous hosepipe. In fact, the snake is very much a sideline for much of the film - a lot of the time it is just a bog standard hostage thriller, however the surprisingly A-list cast does a terrific job. Sterling Hayden gives a likable "grandpa knows best" performance, in what turned out to be his final film role, and Reed is gritty as always as the paranoid accomplice. Kinski on the other hand is clearly sleepwalking - however his sleepwalking acting is better than most peoples best.
The idea is a reasonably unique one although it is hardly pushed to its limits - if Tobe Hooper hadn't cleared off it would certainly have been much, much better. The snake's appearances may be few and far between but when it does rear its slithery head there are a few jumps to be had - although the majority of the "thrills" come from the hostage set-up and not the snake. The cast is probably the primary reason to watch "Venom", however on the whole it is surprisingly enjoyable given its reputation of "the rubbish horror film Kinski did instead of Raiders."
However, it is saved by its A-cast. Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, and Nicol Williamson all chew the scenery as only they can (though one has to pity the director, who had to work with the 3 most ornery actors alive at the time). The only disappointment was that Sterling Hayden didn't get more material to work with for what would be his last movie.
The other highlight is the fact that they used a real and professionally handled black mamba in most of the scenes. In most movies of this type, they would just throw in a harmless rat snake or something and hope that nobody would notice the difference.
Snakes don't really scare me that much. I guess it's because they don't have any arms or legs to reach out an grab you with. Still, there IS something about the eyes of a serpent before it strikes that is downright chilling. Part of what makes this film work was that for most of the scenes, a real snake was used instead of a fake one. The British cast also does a rather good job of making this seem more dramatic than the average American horror film.
But that British-ness also works against the film, as the sets and locations are so drab, there isn't a lot to look at. Apparently Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was the original director for this film. Shame he didn't finish it, because the final product cries out for some visual punch.
Love the scene where the snake goes up the guy's pantleg!