The Killer Snakes (1974)
Directed by Kwei Chih-Hung
Produced by Runme Shaw
Written by Ni Kuang
Starring Kam Kwok-Leung, Maggie Lee, Chan Chun, Got Dik-Wa, Chow Gat
Available Dec. 4, 2007
Poor Zhihong has spent his entire life being beat up and humiliated, and now lives in squalor in one of Hong Kong’s rundown neighborhoods. His only true friend is Xiujuan, a young woman who runs a street vendor stall. Zhihong is too shy to ask her out, and unbeknownst to him, she is equally too shy to ask him out. One night, a wounded snake from a delicacy restaurant next door, slithers into Zhihong’s apartment. Zhihong nurses the snake back to health, and realizes that he has an almost telepathic connection to the snake. He soon rescues more snakes from certain death in the restaurant, and builds up an army of reptilian friends to confide in.
One day, while delivering food for his new job, a street gang attacks Zhihong and steals his monthly wages. His boss doesn’t believe Zhihong’s story and fires him. And on top of that, Zhihong is stood up by Xiujuan, whom he had asked out just hours before. He finally decides to get back at all those who have humiliated and beaten him, and sets out with his snakes in tow to kill them all! Soon, gang members and prostitutes are falling dead left and right, but how long will it take for the authorities to track the slayings back to Zhihong?
Though the name Shaw Brothers is synonymous with martial arts, the highly productive production company has created dozens of pictures in every genre imaginable, including sleazy horror exploitation during the seventies. Director Kwei Chih-Hung, who had previously dealt with several violent crime thrillers and created the women-in-prison classic Bamboo House Of Dolls, is no stranger to drenching the screen in grimy sleaze and shocking sequences to titillate audiences looking for more and more extreme cinema.
With The Killer Snakes, which is written by Shaw Brothers screenwriter legend Ni Kuang, Kwei throws caution and taste completely out the window. The opening scenes alone should prepare you for what is in store for the next ninty-eight minutes, as Zhihong flashes back to his childhood as he remembers his mother in the throes of submissive pleasure and a snake has its gall bladder removed, drained, and drank by a waiting patron at a restaurant, all while the snake is still alive! If the sounds of women being dominated over or animal cruelty is a bit too much for you, no one will fault you. This is rough stuff, and only for the most deranged of cinemaphiles.
And that is just the beginning. Before the titular snakes even make their appearance, Kwei thoroughly proves that he has no interest other than making a nasty and crushing film that equally dishes out punishment and cruelty no matter where you fall on the good/evil scale. Even poor Xiujuan, the only truly likable character, is hit with one hardship after another, that eventually leads her to become an unwilling prostitute. It would be going too far to say there is some hidden commentary on the viciousness of the streets of Hong Kong, as her story merely gives an excuse to get the camera into a brothel for more gratuitous nudity. That is the kind of move we’re dealing with here.
Once that snakes comes into play, things just go from bad to worse for anyone who crosses Zhihong’s path. Live snakes are used for mostly all of the shots, with little regard for the animals’ safety and even less for the actors’ safety. Snakes are thrown with wild abandon by Zhihong, or by their own “propulsion” to attack their enemies and bite, bite, bite! Characters are thrown into pits of snakes or are completely covered in them as they flail about. And in one of the more unsavory sequences, snakes become much more than just a phallic representation. Finish it all off with real snakes being cut open and killed throughout the movie, and you’ve got a recipe to serve up to PETA piping hot!
If copious amounts of bondage-themed nudity stirs your loins, a few on-screen killings of animals don’t phase you they way they used to, and low-budget latex gore puts a smile on your face, then Kwei Chih-Hung as just what you are looking for. And if you are looking for a brilliant presentation of this vile exploitation slice of celluloid, then Image Entertainment has what you’re craving. They have ported over the uncut remastered print that Celestial Pictures had previously produced for the East Asia markets. It includes in the original Shaw Scope widescreen, complete with the original Mandarin soundtrack and English subtitles, along with the English dub that was produced for the international market during its original release.
While there are no interviews or behind-the-scenes footage, fans of trailers will be in absolute heaven with the huge assortment of previews that have been compiled here. There are sixteen Shaw Brothers trailers, with a focus on their martial arts, swordplay and horror titles, as well as thirteen additional Hong Kong trailers from the seventies and eighties with a focus on period martial arts and modern action. These trailers are for the most part presented in their original Cantonese or Mandarin, though there are no subtitles. The Killer Snakes theatrical trailer, as well as a stills gallery, is also included.
On the cover of the DVD, Image boldly proclaims that the movie “contains extremely sick and disturbing scenes not suitable for most people.” While curiosity usually kills the cat, in this case it kills the cobra. Are you up for taking a peek?
View the Killer Snakes trailer.
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