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Sssssss (Blu-ray Review)

SSSSSSSBefore Venom, Anaconda, Python, or Snakes on a Plane, there was the seminal snake-centric horror film Sssssss. The story of a mad scientist hell bent on turning humans into snakes and using these hybrids to get revenge on those who have wronged him, Sssssss is every ophidiophobe’s nightmare.  This thriller, directed by Bernard L. Kowalski (Attack of the Giant Leeches) features Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke) and Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica) and also stars Heather Menzies (Piranha) and Reb Brown (Howling II and TV’s Captain America).  Making its Blu-ray debut April 26th, 2016 from Scream Factory, Sssssss comes loaded with bonus features, including a new interview with actor Dirk Benedict, a new interview with actor Heather Menzies-Urich, a photo gallery, theatrical trailers and more! Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com.  

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Film Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0Dexter-0Dexter-0

An eerie tale of a respected snake expert who masks a frightening desire to transmute a man into a king cobra. Realizing that his new lab assistant, David, is the perfect specimen, the demented doctor begins administering injections of “immunization serum.” Soon, David begins experiencing strange side effects: his skin is shedding while his body shape is changing. But before he realizes the horrible truth, the metamorphosis from human to serpent has begun.

Interesting me a lot in Sssssss is that I never would have guessed the plot of the movie just simply by a look at the poster or briefly knowing this was a 1970s film revolving around snakes.  On first glance, I figured, given the era and genre, that this would be a “nature attacks” kind of film.  You know, like a Squirm, but with people getting attacked and killed by snakes.  I’m not too sure I ever would have even championed the idea of what the film in all actuality is.

What we get is so much better than my preconceived notion.  Its essentially a mad scientist movie.  One where he is unsuspectingly performing his experiment on the unknowing assistant.  Strother Martin has the role of said mad scientist, and he’s quite terrific.  Doctor Stoner is easily one of, if not, the best things about the film.  He’s in a world all his own and we’re better for it.

Sssssss is a film that isn’t the least bit scary and is quite a bit dated.  However, that doesn’t stop the film from still having some really groovy make-up work and practical effects abound through it.  The most important aspect is that it manages to have a goofiness and weirdness crafting some unintentional hilarity and just some good genre chuckles.  This is definitely one of those films for those who grew up on the things like Monster Vision (that was on TNT), as its quite the enjoyable film of the midnight variety.

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Video Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This film looks rather clean and clear in its US Blu-ray debut.  As far as detail, sharpness and look, it has the standard Scream Factory look to it.  This is a good thing if you’re someone like me, because its quite a wonder to see how nice something like this has transferred over.

Depth:  Decent amount of spacing along with smoother cinematic movement.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and provide some all right shading and no crushing throughout.  Minimal detail is hidden in dark surfaces, hair and clothing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty good with a sort of 70s dingy tone to them.  Greens, of course get a nice range of shades on the palette and pop decent enough.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones come on as natural in appearance and maintain the look consistently throughout the film’s duration.  Close-ups provide your best look at detail with medium shots being average.

Noise/Artifacts:  Just some slight compression instances along with very minimal specs/dirt.

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Audio Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a pretty smooth sounding and clean audio track.  There’s a good balance of the score, vocals and effects.  Things sound full as they can on this mono track and free of one another.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean, sounding a hair of its analog source, but rather nice.

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Extras Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0Dexter-0

Sssssss comes with a reversible cover featuring an alternate poster design.

My Reptilian Past (HD, 17:39) – A new interview with the film’s lead actor Dirk Benedict.

The Herpetologist’s Daughter (HD, 15:09) – An interview with the film’s love interest and mad scientist’s daughter, actress Heather Menzies-Urich.

Photo Gallery (HD, 3:40) 

Radio Spots (HD, 1:29) 

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 4:10)

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0Dexter-0

Well, Sssssss proves to be quite a silly, weird little mad scientist movie.  Not at all what I expected this film to be with my curiosity over the years.  Its a hair slow, but is something of a midnight movie to be checked out with friends late at night.  Scream Factory has this movie looking pretty terrific on Blu-ray with its original theatrical audio mix.  They also have some good new interviews to go along with the usual trailers, radio spots and photo galleries.  A solid pick up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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