Sssssss (1973) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Sssssss (1973) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on December 16th, 2021 | Movie Review | Mutant, Medical, Creature, Wildlife, Mad Scientist

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It’s about a guy, a girl, her dad, and his scientific snake-transformation serum.

Sssssss was directed by Bernard L. Kowalski (Krakatoa: East of Java) and scripted by Hal Dresner based on a story by Daniel C. Striepeke. It stars Strother Martin (The Brotherhood of Satan and Cool Hand Luke), Dirk Benedict (Demon Keeper and Battlestar Galactica), and Heather Menzies-Urich (Piranha and The Sound of Music).

Can a graduate assistant with a crush on the professor’s daughter avoid being turned into a cobra?

Sssssss Review

The film’s tagline – “Terror is ready to strike!” – may be its least original contribution to the snake-horror film sub-genre. Sssssss is an overlooked, Biblical, and well-executed morality tale. It contains two ethical lessons:

Lesson 1: Don’t trust a scientist who is too quick to claim that he’s “no Dr. Frankenstein.”

Lesson 2: Be cautious about a scientist who reasons that since God can correct missteps, science cannot err. Especially when that scientist is the same scientist who appeared in Lesson 1.

Strother Martin delivers a perfect performance as Dr. Stoner, a herpetologist with a showman’s grin, whether he’s arguing with the chair of the department for an extension of a research grant or conceding to his daughter that he just injected her boyfriend with an untested hallucinogen. Dr. Stoner is obsessed with the serpent in the garden. And he never stops smiling.

In his isolated lab, alongside his truehearted daughter, Dr. Stoner talks to snakes, dances with cobras, and deals in the carnival trade. Enter a boy-ingénue and the sparking romantic between daughter and boy is as predictable as the father’s discomfort. And how’s a venom-obsessed scientist to respond to a romance which threatens his carnival dealings?

In only one way: Make the boy a snake, sell him to the carnival, and things can return to normal. But meanwhile, the boy and the daughter have entered the garden; they’re naked and innocent. Is the father the serpent?!

In the opening scene, an unseen animal is crated and sold to a travelling freak show – one of Dr. Stoner’s “mistakes.” Later, after skinny-dipping in a verdant pool, the virginal boy and girl visit the carnival, pay a quarter, and enter a sideshow where a serpent (which is not a serpent) hisses at them. It is a monster which confronts them from the crate with the horror of re-making men into something which men were not intended to be.

For when Adam sinned, did he not become a man-snake himself? And what of his bride?

Worth Watching?


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