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    Ian Jane
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  • Sssssss



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 26th, 2016.
    Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
    Cast: Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Helmed by prolific television director Bernard L. Kowalski, 1973's Sssssss, made for Universal Studios, introduces us to Doctor Carl Stoner (Strother Martin), a man who studies snakes at his remote snake farm out in the sticks. When he's not hanging out in his lab doing important scientific research, he's opening his farm to bring in some tourist dollars by putting on weekly cobra shows. When the summer season picks up, Stoner needs some help and so he hires David Blake (Dirk Benedict) to help out around the place.

    In order to work with and around all of these poisonous snakes, however, Stoner insists on giving his new hire an injection he says will save him from their venom. What David doesn't realize is that Stoner has used him as a human guinea pig in an experiment he hopes will cross a man with a snake and create some sort of man-snake hybrid. David is fine at first, hitting it off in a big way with the doctor's foxy daughter, Kristina (Heather Menzies), but soon notices some strange changes. It starts when his skin starts shedding but soon enough, his body becomes covered in scales…

    A PG rated film that would never slip by with that rating these days, Sssssss might not be particularly realistic but it is a whole lot of fun. Martin does a fine job in the mad scientist role, he seems to be having a good time playing the part and he's a blast to watch here. It's also fun to see a young Dirk Benedict, before he's go on to fame in Battlestar Galactica and of course, The A-Team, as Stoner's unwitting subject. The makeup effects employed to create his transformation aren't always impressive, sometimes they're downright hokey, but there's half the fun of a movie like Sssssss in the first place. Heather Menzies is charming as charming can be as Kristina, whose role in the film turns out to be more important than it first seems once she realizes what her dad has been up to. On top of that, be on the lookout for small roles for Reb Brown (who gets one of the best death scenes in the movie), Tim O'Conner of Buck Rogers fame and prolific character actor Richard Shull.

    The concept behind the movie is fairly ludicrous but it's all played pretty straight here. Kowalski's style might be workmanlike almost to a fault, but the guy has a knack for pacing and with this picture, he gets right down to it without wasting any time. There are a LOT of snakes used in the movie (and of various varieties). The fact that there are as many living, breathing serpents on camera throughout the film gives the picture plenty of tension. There are a few spots where you can tell that prop snakes have been used in place of real ones, but it's infrequent and when it does happen, it's pretty convincing. The makeup effects on Benedict don't fare as well but they're fun to see, particularly once he gets green and scaley!

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Sssssss arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory properly framed at 1.85.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. This is a step up from the DVD to be sure and the image is pretty clean. For the most part, colors quite good, skin tones are fine and black levels are solid. There aren't any problems with heavy compression artifacts or edge enhancement. There's a bit of minor print damage in a few spots but no evidence of noise reduction or compression artifacts. A few shots look softer and hazier than others but those are the exception and not the rule. Overall, fans should be quite happy with the upgrade this disc provides them in picture quality.

    The only audio option provided is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. This mix is fine, if any hiss or distortion creeps in it's not particularly noticeable, while the levels stay balanced. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there's a bit more depth here than was provided on the previous DVD release. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras kick off with a seventeen minute featurette called My Reptilian Past that is an interview with actor Dirk Benedict. This is good stuff. He talks about how he landed the role, his thoughts on the part, his thoughts on the movie itself and the makeup appliances that he had to deal with in certain scenes. Also worth checking out is a fifteen minute interview with Heather Menzies called The Herpetologist's Daughter. She shares some interesting stories about dealing with the real snakes on set, the co-stars that she appeared with and how she feels about the film as a whole.

    Rounding out the extras is a decent sized still gallery, a theatrical trailer for the feature, a few radio spots, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Sssssss is a ridiculously entertaining slice of seventies nature run amuck moviemaking by way of mad scientist horror played fast and crazy. It's got a fun cast, tight direction and a bunch of great practical effects work on the screen and fans should appreciate the fact that it looks and sounds as good as it does here. Throw in a few fun interviews and this one shapes up nicely.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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