VENOM (BLU RAY) (1982)
Category : BLU RAY REVIEWS
Directed by Piers Haggard
Review by David Carter
Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 92 minutes
Rating: Rated R
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 7.1 DTS-HD/5.1 Dolby Surround/English, French & Spanish Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Director’s commentary, TV Spots, collectable booklet, still gallery
Trailer Online: Yes
Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski are both known for their commanding screen presences and for being notoriously difficult to work with. Putting them together in a film would seem like a recipe for disaster and, according to liner notes by Michael Gingold, their pairing in 1982’s VENOM was almost exactly that. Much like Reed and Kinski, VENOM is a film known better for its problems than its merits. At one point the film was going to be an A-list affair starring Sean Connery, but lawsuits, production issues, and director-abandonment resulted in a movie that was likely vastly different than the once-hotly anticipated adaptation of Alan Scholefield’s novel. VENOM has been perhaps unfairly maligned by history and Blue Underground has now given the movie a chance for reassessment with a new Blu Ray/DVD combo release.
Reed and Kinski take a backseat to a far more difficult costar in VENOM: a deadly Black Mamba. Five live Mambas, in fact, share the screen with them, along with a handful of the rubber variety. VENOM is centered on these snakes as a mix-up a small London pet store foils a long-simmering plot hatched by a pair of servants. Left to guard the sickly child of their wealthy employers, Dave (Reed) and Louise (Susan George) devise to have Algerian terrorist Jacmel (Kinski) kidnap the boy with their assistance and hold him for a hefty ransom. Just as they put the plan into motion, the boy escapes to the aforementioned pet shop to pick up what he believes is a harmless African snake but in reality is the deadly Black Mamba ordered by a local laboratory.
The boy returns home and Louise and Dave resume the kidnapping bid only for Louise to inadvertently release the snake and quickly fall prey to its incapacitating bites. The already aggressive Dave is put more on edge by the incident, and he shoots a police officer who stopped by after being alerted by the laboratory about the missing Mamba. Jacmel’s quick and easy kidnapping soon becomes a stand-off with police and he becomes trapped between the cops and a killer snake.
VENOM is, of course, built around the snake attacks and ends up being a cross between a horror film and a more traditional action film. It never fully commits to either, which is the source of the majority of the criticism the movie has received over the years. This disparity was only a minor issue for me as I found much to like about the movie, particularly Reed and Kinski’s scenery chewing performances. The snake attack scenes are done exceptionally well and -- thanks to the use of the real thing – these scenes are far more impressive than in other snake-centric exploitation films. There are points where the movie drags a bit, but the gloriously over-the-top climactic scene is definitely worth the wait.
VENOM’s combo release is excellent, and both prints of the film are very good. Blue Underground remastered the film from the original negatives and the visual and audio presentations are well beyond any previous release of the movie. The aforementioned liner notes by Fangoria’s Michael Gingold are great and give an unvarnished history of the film’s troubled production. Director Piers Haggard is also on hand for a commentary track that will be interesting to those of you curious as to how the snake scenes were accomplished. VENOM is a better-than-average exploitation potboiler that is far more entertaining than its reputation would have you believe.