If you thought you would never see Oliver Reed being chased by an enormous, squirming mamba then think again, because Anchor Bay have decided to let us all take a look. However, if you thought that this was the aftermath of another of his trademark drink and debauchery escapades then you should think yet again, as rather than being actual footage of Oliver bent half comatose over the bar during some lock-in, with his piss-ridden trousers round his ankles, trying to sup the last few drops out of a pint glass filled with whisky, this is actually even scarier!
Basically it’s like this. An asthmatic small-boy, introduced to animals by his former safari-ing grandfather who encourages him to keep a menagerie of guinea pigs and rabbits upstairs, gets a snake from a supposedly reputable pet-shop. No doubt not qualified to handle such things, they give him a black mamba by mistake. Upon returning home, he finds out the servants have been conspiring with some Teutonic arch-criminal named Muller to kidnap him, the crazed chauffeur Dave then blowing an innocent copper away with a shotgun in one of his regular bouts of total paranoia. Then, when the snake escapes, even more mayhem ensues.
The actors here and their characters are just fantastic. We have Susan George flashing her knicker-elastic as the maid with her sexy fake Cockney barmaid accent, but sadly she pops her clogs before anyone else has had the chance to pop their wad. We’ve also got Ollie Reed as the psycho chauffeur (catchphrase: Little bastard!) raiding the spirits cabinet whilst he assaults anyone who comes within ten yards of him. Best of all though we have the albino Max Headroom, the most hateful man ever to tarnish a cinema screen, Klaus Kinski (catchphrase: Hey Mizter Polizzmann!), colder than Tony Blair’s heart and drier than Ann Widdecome’s bush, his disgust-ridden features spewing utter contempt for this world, practically begging for him to be dragged right back down to Hell. It turns out that Police Commander Nicol Williamson was actually born in Scotland, so the Scottish people should have his guts for haggis for his terribly fake-sounding accent, and Concorde-beaked Bill star Eric Richard also makes an appearance for a second or two as a nosy airline clerk.
Venom is a bloody tense movie, with the last half-hour being the stuff brown trousers are made of. Surely the most painful scene has the mamba becoming a real trouser-snake as it slowly worms its way into Ollie’s pants and up his leg. Everywhere the snake goes, though, makes the viewer’s heart beat faster, whether it’s sliding about in the air-vents or hiding behind Ollie’s whisky bottles, and although I don’t like to admit it, it, it’s terrifying! But that’s not all, other classic scenes involve the kidnappers cutting off one “hostage’s” finger and giving it gift-wrapped to the cops, and also Kinski’s brilliant doorstep con (I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s fucking magic!). In fact, the only thing that puts a dampener on this film is Kinski’s slow-mo demise, which makes David Hess’ in House At The Edge Of The Park look like a Benny Hill chase!
I’d never heard of Venom before I actually saw it, and it’s a pity it isn’t more well known, surprising considering Tobe Hooper’s involvement in the direction (luckily his presence doesn’t detract from the overall sense of Britishness). And if you thought Reed’s other snake-movie, Spasms, was a complete load of bollocks, don’t be put off because this is great fun. Unless of course you really are scared of snakes. Then you’ll probably end up having a heart attack.
British director who works mostly in television, with the classic serial Pennies from Heaven to his credit; he also directed the final Quatermass series. On the big screen, his best work is the creepy devil worship horror Blood On Satan's Claw. Other films include (some of) Peter Sellers' terrible last appearance, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and snake-on-the-loose thriller Venom. He is a relation of novelist H. Rider Haggard.