Black Snake (1973)
By: David Michael Brown on April 30, 2009  | 
Arrow Films (UK). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 82 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Anouska Hempel, David Warbeck, Dave Prowse
Screenplay: Russ Meyer, Leonard Neubauer, Anthony-James Ryan
Country: USA
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Russ Meyer's career was at an interesting point in the early Seventies. The 1968 release of Vixen had filled the coffers and paid the way for a Hollywood contract with Twentieth Century Fox. After raising eyebrows with the 'X' rated Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and losing money with the lackluster The Seven Minutes the studio severed ties with the great director and Meyer was left to fend for himself once again. Burnt by his experiences he reverted back to his humble low budget beginnings, but in a desperate attempt to give cinema audiences what he thought they wanted he failed again.

Black Snake desperately tried to hitch itself onto the then popular Blaxploitation bandwagon and pushed the violent aspects of the plot to the fore, but in giving his viewers lashings of violence Meyer dropped everything that made his films so unique in the first place. There are no well endowed young ladies leaving little to the imagination, no machine gun editing, no go go dancing, no angular cinematography and no hip jive talking dialogue. Admittedly large breasts do not a great movie make but in the world of Russ Meyer they certainly help. In the case of Black Snake a few more glimpses of naked flesh would have certainly lightened the inherent racism that seeps through the movies every scene.

The film, shot in Barbados, stars Fulci regular David Warbeck as an English gent trying to discover what had happened to his brother after he married plantation owner Lady Susan Walker. A vicious whip wielding dominatrix who rules her black slaves with a vicious lash of her whip or her tongue, even Snoop Dogg and Tarantino would baulk at her vigorous use of the 'n' word. The sugar cane plantation is run by a drunken Irish bigot and a gay Frenchman, and by the end of the film the brother has made an appearance in the form of a zombie like Dave Prowse.

Meanwhile, after many whippings, crucifixions and other bodily abuses the slaves rise up against their tormentors in a bloody orgy of revenge and Walker is left fighting for her life, screaming racist rhetoric until her very last breath.

The plotting is far more realistic than Meyer's later works and lacks any of those cartoonish cinematic moments that he became famous for. Not that Black Snake is totally devoid of Meyer's trademark moments. A shark attack is heralded by the sound of a submarine sonar is a classic use of sound by Meyer.

One of the biggest problems the film has is the female lead. After the shapely forms of Haji, Tura Satana, Lorna Maitland and Meyer's ex wife Edy Williams; Anouska Hempel's performance seems, well…..flat. Even Meyer now admits that he should have cast an actress with more outstanding charms but body shape aside; there is no spark between her and Warbeck. Their potentially volatile and lust filled scenes are insipid and uninspiring.

The film is one of Meyer's few missteps, but looking back now, it was the film he had to make before he realized why people watch his films, and that he should give them what they want. Luckily for us, the film he made next was the classic Supervixens and Meyer was back on track.

The image is a bit washed out in terms of colour. It just looks a bit insipid compared to the live action cartoons to come. This was a very low budget feature and shot on location and many of the nocturnal scenes show a small amount of grain. It's not perfect by any means but the image is still watchable.
The audio is adequate, nothing more to report than that.
Extra Features
A selection of Russ Meyer trailers make up the bulk of the extras. The Meyer trailer reel includes the often hilarious previews for Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Mudhoney, Black Snake, Common Law Cabin, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, Cherry, Harry & Raquel and Wild Girls of the Naked West. You also get a generic Russ Meyer collection trailer and a Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! promo used to advertise the Arrow Films Russ Meyer releases in the UK.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Even huge Meyer aficionados don't know what to make of Black Snake. The signature double D delights of most of the breast man's films have been jettisoned in favour of violence, racism and blaxpoitation. Not that there isn't much to enjoy, it's just that when the name of Russ Meyer is emblazoned on a movie, you have expectations and in this instance Meyer doesn't quite deliver.

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