Saturday, 9 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

This is one of my stop-gap film reviews while I assimilate my Belfast experience...

Venom - 1981 - dir. Piers "Blood on Satan's Claw" Haggard. starring: Susan George, Klaus Kinski, Ollie Reed and, of course, Sir Michael Gough.

Warning: here be spoilers (as if anyone is ever going to watch this film!)

London: big Georgian town-houses, red buses, war monuments to "The Glorious Dead", be-furred American women and their posh English children. Susan George is the maid. Ollie Reed is in evil-'tached-butler mode (shades of "Blue Blood" here). The pair of them are plotting against the family: the kid has asthma! Intrigue!

Ollie is cosily settled beneath Susan George's thumb; her knicker removal hypnotises him into submission. Rich American "mom" is off to see rich American dad, leaving asthmatic animal lover Phillip (Lance Holcomb - in one of only three films on his C.V. sadly) at home with grizzled grandad Sterling Hayden and the tender mercies of the below-stairs pair. Ollie goes to meet the third member of their gang and it's Klaus Kinski and his icily popped European collar, relegating Ollie to only second most terrifying man in the room.

Philip has a well flagged asthma attack and is spirited away in a black-cab. He pops over to an aquarium and then onto a pet shop to pick up a package from the soothsayer out of "Up Pompeii". Meanwhile snake-vet Dr Marion Stowe (Sarah "mine's a pint" Miles) and her charming, racist daughter, discover that the giant black-mamba snake they've been expecting hasn't been delivered. But if they haven't got it who has?

Phillip obviously.

The gang are due to kidnap Phillip but the boy wants to get his snake warm first(not a euphamism). Susan obliges and gets a face full of mamba for her trouble - she's dropped her last knicker! The police, tipped off by Dr. Stowe about the serpentine swappage, turn up at the front door and are promptly shot in the chest by a panicked Ollie who has been calling everybody a bastard since Klaus turned up. Smooth move fat-boy because now there's a seige situation - a seige with a snake!

(Incidentally why did the dead policeman arrive at the house in a brown Datsun? Is this usual? In the seventies perhaps...)

Klaus negotiates with a policeman through a crack in the door - it's Nicol "orth’ bháis’s bethad" Williams, essaying another adventurous accent. He may be American - he may be Scottish; there's definitely something going on with him. We are treated to snake P.O.V. shots; the soundtrack twittering like like Stephen Fry with a bee in his bonnet.

Grandpa susses that there's a mamba on the premises, a little late for Susan George, whose deathly convulsions have contrived to show quite a bit of leg. Very sexy, if you ignore the bug-eyed frothing end. Grandpa searches the house for the mamba, armed only with a table-lamp and a cushion. He's bound to cop it - there's only room for one snake expert in this film and that's Sarah Miles.

The snake has found it's way into the air-vent. Would a Georgian house have an air-vent? Well obviously not, it's a ludicrous plot device but it does allow for excellent snake mobility turning the Mamba into a reptillian Cato - where will he spring from next?

The police tow away the crim's getaway car causing a nervous Ollie to freak out again. In an unlikely scenario tiny Klaus slaps him around a bit. Ollie looks as if he could pick his teeth with Klaus.

The police finally hear about the snake and it turns out to be, worse luck, some kind of paranoid super-snake. Buggeration. Sarah Miles, on a mission of mercy, tells Klaus about her suitcase full of anti-venom. He sees this as an excellent opportunity to get a fresh hostage and tricks her into believing that Susan George is still alive and needs a hot serum injection. In a masterful Cleopatra-style deception Klaus hides in a rug emerging with a gun and edging Sarah Miles into the snake-house. That Klaus!

After rubbing his face a bit Nicol Williams looks at the plans of the house and discovers a servant's entrance! Alright! Now we're policing! Meanwhile, Ollie being Ollie, he fancies a drink "to relax him". Bad move brother, because when he opens the drinks cabinet - here's snakey! Ollie escapes and Sarah Miles pipes up with a bit of advice - turn the heating off and the snake will go into a coma. Klaus thinks about it. What he decides to do instead is to cut Sarah's finger off, stick it into a presentation box and chuck it out the window.

Sir Michael Gough turns up from the zoo. They're going in through the servant's entrance. There are now three snake experts on the scene - I'm starting to feel sorry for the snake! The police burst in, shoot Ollie, get attacked by the snake and piss off again. The snake bites Ollie on the cock - this isn't the first time that Ollie's been left with something toxic in his blood-stream - you'd think he'd be pleased. Apart from the bitten cock.

More and more people turn up to this closed crime-scene. A zoo-keeper, then Phillip's mom, then the father's business partner and bank manager. Finally someone called Lord Dunning arrives and has a poke round. It's a crime scene with a cast of thousands.

Finally the snake, pissed off at being out-reptiled by the cold-blooded Klaus, has a pop at the icy German dwarf and the pair are shot to ribbons through some blinds.

Eight out ten, obviously.

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