Checkered production histories occasionally yield far more engrossing narratives than the films that surround them, Such is the case with 1981’s Venom which was originally a Tobe Hooper picture until “creative differences” splintered his directorial participation. Likewise, the on-set friction between Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski was an example of art-imitating-life as the two madmen squabble frequently much to the dismay of director Piers Haggard.
As the chauffeur for the ransomed boy, Reed is already an ursine, sinister gawker before the youngster is absconded with. Reed, much like Kinski, exudes a caged furor that can only be ensilated for so long. Contrarily though, the typically fulminating Reed’s Dave is a demure, chattering vessel of angst before the kidnapping plot. Black mamba snakes might be the hook for the gorehounds but the union of Reed and Kinski is the prime nucleus.
With his angular lips clenched, Kinski is a svelte, debonair ringleader. The film is quite dawdling until Philip Hopkins (Lance Holcomb) mistakenly receives an erroneous package. Due to an astonishingly lumpen contrivance by screenwriter Robert Carrington, a toxicologist accidentally fluctuates a harmless reptile for a dangerously puissant predator at the municipal pet store.
From there, the picture is besieged by the unrelentingly bumbling of the criminals as they overreact to a warning phone call from the police. For asymmetrical inconsistency, Reed is suddenly a shotgun-wielding sociopath within minutes. The snake itself is almost ancillary to the mayhem from the abductors.
This isn’t Snakes in a U.K. Rowhouse. The scenario doesn’t escalate so much as fizzle out despite the peripheral involvement of a SWAT team, the maid’s virulent death and tarps to enshroud the kidnappers’ vantage point. Before their comeuppance, Haggard drowns the film in excursive boredom about antivenom and zoological facts.