“Once this motion picture sinks its fangs into you, you’ll never be the same.”
Listen. What’s that sssssssound? Well, it’s either a Sunday School teacher with a serious lisp, OR it’s the notoriously sssssssilly ‘70s horror flick wherein a mad doctor attempts, just for kicks, to turn future A-Team star Dirk Benedict into a King Cobra snake, leading to a whole lotta sssssslimy, ssssssslithery, ssssssskin-crawling shenanigans. Featuring a gaggle of real killer snakes out-acting their human co-stars, Sssssssss may be one of the strangest variations on the ‘70s “animals gone wild” genre, but you’ve gotta love a flick that warned viewers: “Don’t say it, hiss it!” In Sssssssss, legit actor Strother Martin (best known as the chain gang captain in Cool Hand Luke) plays Dr. Carl Stoner, a seemingly-normal, soon-to-be-mad ophiologist (or, one who studies reptiles), whose mysterious experiments with poisonous snake venom have made him something of an outcast in the scientific community. Living in the middle of nowhere with his beautiful assistant/daughter Kristina (Heather Menzies, star of Piranha), and running a roadside attraction featuring killer snakes used to bilk money from confused tourists, Dr. Stoner, surely living up to his weed-based name, has the completely stoned idea that humans can (and should!) be turned into snakes. Soon, he’s hired a hunky assistant named David, played by Dirk Benedict (later to star as “Starbuck” on Battlestar Galactica and “Face” on The A-Team), and before you know it, David finds himself slowly mutating into a cold-blooded snake with a serious aversion to Dr. Stoner’s pet mongoose. And of course, this slimy new situation doesn’t sit well with poor Kristina, who’s falling in love with the poor ssssssssap! Will David become a full-blown cobra, or will he stall out somewhere in between, necessitating a trip to the local carnival freak show? Featuring the heart-warming sight of a man being swallowed alive by a giant python, some genuinely scary action provided by real-ass snakes, and a lot of hissing (some of it provided by the snakes, but most of it provided by the 1970s film critics who roasted this mess), Sssssssss, produced by the same folks who 2 years later scared the world out of the water with Jaws, is a real ssssssssscream! (Dir. by Bernard L. Kowalski, 1973, USA, 96 mins., Rated PG) Digital