Venom (1982)
By: Devon B. on August 24, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 6.1, English DD 2.0. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: Piers Haggard
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, Nicol Williamson, Cornelia Sharpe, Susan George, Lance Holcomb, Oliver Reed
Screenplay: Robert Carrington
Country: UK
This is very exciting! No, not Venom's shiny cover, though that's pretty cool, too. What's really exciting is that Venom marks the first, and probably last, time where I can compare a film to the book that inspired it. I hate reading, so it's very rare that I ever pick up a novel. One of the hardest parts of writing for this site is the editing of the reviews, 'cause that means I have to read them. I hate reading even more than I hate Liv Tyler. Well, maybe not that much.

Anyway, in Venom, a young boy from a wealthy family goes to a local pet shop to pick up a harmless African house snake he ordered. In a mix up, he accidentally gets a mamba instead. The snake-in-a-box gets opened at a horrible time for some would be kidnappers, releasing the snake into the house. As they try to flee, the police arrive, so they're stuck in the house, and have to worry about the darned snake appearing in whatever area they happen to be in. HERE IT COMES, the film to book comparison: The filmmakers had to simplify the book a bit. HA! Now that's reviewing!

While the climax is a bit overblown, altered from the novel's ending presumably because that would've been hard to capture on film, Venom is still very good. Not brilliant, but very good. Thank God Tobe Hooper got replaced, or it would've really stunk. From director Piers Haggard's commentary track, it sounds like Hooper's footage didn't look good. I don't know why that would surprise anyone, but whatever. The film isn't flawless, despite having lost Tobe "I'm a horror icon! I made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre!" Hooper. There's some baaaaaaad ADR, particularly involving the boy's grandfather going up some stairs and yelling. I thought my DVD had skipped and the sound got out of sync, it was that far off. Speaking of the grandfather, he and the boy suck. The rest of the cast are quite good and made up of familiar faces, most notably Oliver Reed and a very thin Klaus Kinski. Kinski evidently turned down a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark for a role in Venom, so everyone should be really appreciative of his commitment to parts that paid more money.

The mamba footage is a mixture of a real snake and models, and almost everything involving the snake is excellent. Haggard thinks that the snake and model date the film, citing flowing, uninterrupted CGI of modern cinema. I say if this is dated, dated is good because CG sucks. The only thing I really didn't like was one attack that didn't really make a lot of sense in terms of the story. I'm not sure how realistic the mamba's behaviour is. In a more recent film, Fair Game, it is said that mambas are only abnormally aggressive during the mating season. I was going to look up this bit of trivia, but then realized that unless I could come across a book on tape, that would require reading. So, I guess we'll never know how mambas act in real life. Or at least I won't. Someone might write in and tell me, I suppose, but, again, that reading block will cause a problem.
The film is presented at 1.85:1 and looks great. There is some slight grain at times, and the rare speck, but this is a lovely transfer with a clear and sharp picture.
Audio is available in a DTS track, a 5.1 mix, and a two-channel mix. I'm still using the cheap ass player they were giving away at Sanity a few years ago, so I can't listen to DTS. However, I do have 5.1 capabilities, and did find the 5.1 track to be fuller in sound than the two-channel. Venom isn't a film with a lot of dynamic range, but the audio is spruced up where it could be. Cars go past, screams come from a distance, and the score sounds richer. I also found dialogue a bit clear on the 5.1 track, but the two-channel track is slightly quieter, so that may be all there was to that.
Extra Features
As I mentioned, the DVD has a shiny cover, which almost makes it worth buying alone. I like shiny things. The DVD also includes the trailer, TV spots, a still/poster/promo book gallery, talent bios for Reed and Kinski, and a commentary with the director. Moderating the track is Jonathan somebody or other, who REALLY needs to pronounce his name more clearly next time. The speakers go quite a few times, but I don't think any of the gaps ran for more than a minute. The commentators have a good, dry wit, making for much entertainment. I particularly like all the humorous anecdotes about Reed and Kinski not getting on, which also explains why their characters' hostility towards each other seemed so fierce. Kinski's lack of professionalism is covered as well, amidst the tales of Reed's hijinks against the silly German man. Haggard also explains that he came in late, replacing Hooper, so he couldn't change the script significantly. He wanted to make the set-up "richer," which actually would've dramatically improved one the film's few weaknesses. It's too bad Hooper wasn't nixed sooner.
The Verdict
Good film, solid release, shiny cover.
Movie Score
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