Thursday, October 11, 2007

venom (1981)

The Branded in the 80s blog has posted some more stuff from Plop! and also has a couple of nice things to say about Negative Pleasure. Thanks, man!

I'm feeling really sick today. Not totally sure why, except perhaps as a physical manifestation of general despair and malaise, but I woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach which over the course of the day has developed into a steady, churning nausea. I made it through a visit to my internship, which I'm taking really seriously because it's the closest thing to a job I have right now, but have had to call off going to the New York Film Festival screening of Brian De Palma's new film "Redacted," which the girl I was going to take to canceled out on me for anyway, so whatever. I doubt those of you who are reading this really come here for the depressing minutia of my day-to-day failings. Or maybe not feeling well is clouding my view of the world. Or whatever...

Yesterday's call for a job has gone unheeded, although my desire for "more rain," which I expressed elsewhere yesterday, has been met in abundance. It seriously poured in New York most of the day today, which was kind of nice. After weeks and weeks of gross humidity, getting caught in the rain was actually kind of pleasant, even if I did get pretty soaked. I don't really mind, actually. Anyway, I'm sure hearing about the weather is really fascinating, but I did think it was funny the first time I said I wish it would get cooler, it actually did, then when I wanted more rain, there was more rain. Tomorrow I hope it rains well-paying, creatively satisfying jobs. And gumdrops.

Last night's film was "Venom." All you really need to know about this movie is the cast- Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, Sterling Hayden and the beautiful and very underrated Susan George. The presence of Kinski alone was enough to make me want to watch this, but the fact that he shares alot of screen time with Reed is even more of a turn-on. Both of these guys were great and very eccentric actors with reputations for being somewhat crazed on set and off, Reed mainly for his drinking, and Kinski from being genuinely kind of insane. Which isn't to say anything bad about Klaus Kinski. I love Klaus Kinski. I love his insanity, I love the way he commits to his performances even in so-so productions such as this one (for more on Kinski check out his frequent collaborator Werner Herzog's excellent documentary tribute "My Best Fiend"). Anyway both of these guys are known for overacting at times but they actually keep it reigned in here, which keeps from distracting too much from the tension the film builds.

Which isn't to say that "Venom" is a terrific movie, but it does have an interesting premise. Reed and George play the servants of a wealthy family who plot to kidnap, with the help of supercool, super sinister Kinski, the family's son on a weekend he has been left alone with his grandfather, played by Hayden. Through a mix-up at the pet shop, the animal collecting son (who also seems to have some kind of chronic asthma) winds up bringing home an extremely poisonous snake, which proceeds to bite George as the ill-fated kidnapping attempt begins. Soon after, Reed has shot a cop and he and Kinski are forced to hold to boy and Hayden hostage in the family home, with the police gathered outside, and the deadly snake inside with them.

I'd always read mostly pretty bad things about this film, but I liked it. It's not super scary but there is a good sense of claustrophobia, and you can't beat the cast. Kinski and Reed, as previously mentioned, are great as always, as in Hayden, who plays somewhat against type, as the fairly kindly family patriarch, as opposed to some of his more domineering roles at this stage in his career, in great flick like "The Long Goodbye," "The Final Programme," "Winter Kills" and "9 to 5." Like Kinski and Reed, Hayden was a pretty fascinating character both onscreen and off. In addition an amazing career working with filmmakers like John Huston, Stanley Kubrick, Nicholas Ray, Francis Coppola, Robert Altman and Bernardo Bertolucci, he was a member of the communist party and also married and divorced the same woman three times during the 1940s and 1950s. "Venom" was his last feature film before his death in 1986.

Susan George may have had a led a less illustrious career, but she does have a number of very cool credits to her name, most notably Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs," and a number of interesting 60s-70s UK horror flicks including Michael Reeves' "The Sorcerers" (with Boris Karloff), Peter Collinson's "Fright" (with Honor Blackman), and Peter Walker's "Die Screaming Marianne." She was also in Richard Donner's "Twinky," with Charles Bronson and John Hough's "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" with Peter Fonda. George was a good actress and totally gorgeous, I have no idea why she never became a bigger star. Anyway, she appears far too briefly here, being the snake's first victim and all.

In the end, this movie stars Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed and that's about all you need to know about it. Watch it early and often. Learn to laugh about love again.

Anyway, I'm off to lie on the couch and just kind of experience my pain for the rest of the night. Here's hoping tomorrow bring more rain (and jobs) and less stomachaches.

Stay spooky!


Kate said...

The bar tab on the set of trhis film must have been enormous.

harris smith said...

Gin for Oliver Reed, grain alcohol and rainwater for Sterling Hayden (as per Dr. Strangelove), baby's blood for Kinski...