Written by: Carroll Jenkins on October 13th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1974
Director: Chih-Hung Kuei
Writers: Ni Kuang
Cast: Kam Kwok-Leung, Maggie Lee Lam Lam, Chan Chun
DVD released: December 4th, 2007
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Don’t get mad, get a bunch of killer snakes.
A young outcast with emotional problems lives in the slums. Everything that can go wrong in his life usually does. Much of it is self-inflicted, some caused by lack of social skills, and some due to bum luck. He heals an injured snake discarded from the ‘pharmacy’ next door and discovers an emotional / telepathic connection with snakes. Soon he has even more friends with special needs.
The first act is setup and there are numerous similarities to be found in Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. The world presented here is absolutely vicious and there’s hardly a redeeming character in the entire film, including the protagonist (and his mother). The events that unfold are about the worst that could be imagined, and it’s all apparently meant as absurdest humor. There are no real characterizations, rather caricatures instead.
The film telegraphs the fact that it is really a HK variant of a Japanese styled film – in particular those of Teruo Ishii. There are splashes of color throughout, nightmares, daydreams, fantasies, and fetishes galore, and with alternate realities where Shaw Brother’s films are so popular that the tickets are scalped off. To prove this point, there are numerous nude bondage pictures of Reiko Ike on the wall in the shanty (along with some nice Chinese girls).
This film is more grindhouse than arthouse, but it is well paced and there is never a dull moment. You may wish many times that the film were over, but that’s probably due to the unrelenting muggings, bondage, rape, murder, robbery, and misogynistic treatment of women. Even the general public are complicit in this wholesale corruption of society. Of course, the most controversial aspect of the film is not the inhumanity of the characters, but the considerable amount of gutting, chopping, and burning that occurred to the real snakes during filming of this extravaganza.
This anamorphic ShawScope presentation looks quite fine with the exception of an interlaced transfer. Many of the scenes within the shanty are VERY dark. Still, colors are prominent, and the scenes look as well as could be expected. Extreme close-ups under these limited lighting conditions do produce digital artifacting. Otherwise this is a very acceptable presentation. Some flashback sequences are tinted B&W (sepia), as when the boy fondles his snake while listening to his mothers S&M activities. Extras include the original trailer and some stills. There are a whole bunch of Celestial Shaw trailers, but they are new, modern edits.
If you can get through Killer Snakes more than once, I suspect you will find different layers of meaning and symbolism upon each viewing. Then it will transmute from low-grade Willard ripoff to a kissing cousin of the Japanese Pinku genre. There’s actually a lot of substance here, but if you can’t stand the heat, you’d best get out of the snake pit.