Sssssss (1973, directed by Bernard L. Kowalski)

Will that be seven S’s or only six?

College student David Blake (Dirk Benedict) gets a job working as an assistant to Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin).  Dr. Stoner is an expert on reptiles and he is very concerned that man will not be able to survive if the Earth suffers any sort of environmental change.  When he hires David, he only has two requirements for the young man.  David is not to date Stoner’s daughter, Kristina (Heather Menzies) and David has to take an injection every day of a serum that will protect him from snake venom, or so Carl says.

What David doesn’t know is that Carl is a damn liar and his plan for saving humanity is to turn people into Snakemen!  Snakes can survive anything so why wouldn’t human want to be more like them?  Soon, David’s face is getting scaly and Kristina is discovering what really happened to her father’s previous assistant.

Sssssss tries to take its story seriously and the snake makeup is cool and creepy but the movie itself moves too slowly.  It makes the mistake of worrying about convincing us that the story is plausible when it should just be focusing on snake action.  There are some good scenes, like when Kristina tracks down David’s predecessor and Strother Martin is convincing as the mad scientist.  If you thought Strother Martin was just capable of playing outlaws and corrupt cops, this movie may surprise you.  I also liked the ending, which only seems ambiguous.  It’s easy to see what’s going to happen after the end credits roll.

Richard Zanuck and David Brown produced this film.  It did well enough at the box office that they decided to produce another nature-gone-mad movie.  That one was named Jaws.

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