Friday, January 17, 2014

THE SNAKE GOD Will Slither Its Way Into Your Heart

Happy Friday trash fans! While yours truly plugs away on fun stuff (like final layout duties on ER #52 which will be available for pre-order soon) and not as fun stuff (the jobs that pay the bills) our good pal David Zuzelo takes over the review reins for a look at the latest from Mondo Macabro. It's THE SNAKE GOD... and if ever there was a flick that has "Damn You, David Z!" potential, this is it!

Mondo Macabro sure knows how to grab my attention! Promising me "AN EXOTIC INFERNO OF SEX AND VOODOO" with the release of the hard-to-find THE SNAKE GOD certainly makes me eager to pop that disc into the player. Add in that it stars the beautiful Nadia Cassini and the instantly recognizable allure of Beryl Cunningham (Bruno Mattei's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN aka SCREAMERS) and I'm doubly there. But the main thing I was interested in was seeing another film directed by Piero Vivarelli!  Vivarelli was behind the camera for the fumetti-inspired films SATANIK and MR. X so expectations ran high, but what I got was far more than expected. THE SNAKE GOD was definitely an inspiration for several Italian sleaze films to come (Joe D'Amato fans should take note), but it's got some decidedly different flavors mixed into its witches brew of voodoo, allegory and bare bodies.

Paola (Cassini) is married to Bernard Lucas, a very wealthy man who brings her to the Caribbean for what at first seems like romance, but it quickly becomes obvious that he wants her as another possession to show off to his high society pals. Once he promises her that all the beauty she sees will be hers, "if she plays her cards right" then it is definitely trouble. The pair frolic for a bit in the exotic locations, slurping J&B and eventually stumbling upon a voyeuristic opportunity to watch what appears to be some natives engaged in sex and shimmying in the sand. Paola is definitely curious to learn more and Lucas tells her about Stella (Cunningham), the woman she is admiring. After assuming that she was "just" a native, she learns that not only was she her husband's secretary at one point, but that she was a teacher. After a few days he leaves her on the island to her own devices; Paola is immediately drawn to Stella and the pair become fast friends.  Where Paola is seemingly naïve, Stella is centered and one with the island culture around them. With Stella's astro sign medallion wisdom and carefree attitude, Paola can't help but want to know not just her, but all about the island, and opens up about herself in the process. Paola left her fiancé to marry the wealthy industrialist and has been batted about by what she thinks is her own "luck." But luck may not be on her side any longer, or is it?

THE SNAKE GOD co-starring A Bottle of J&B
After persuading Stella to take her to a local ritual that involves a whole lot of sexy voodoo possession dancing and gyrating, Paola begins to have dreams and visions of snakes and sex and they begin to affect the island world around her. As she starts to miss her husband he turns up dead thanks to a bizarre plane crash witnessed by a local fisherman. In a last ditch effort to stay connected to her previous life she brings the man she had ditched to the island. What poor Tony doesn't realize is that Stella has already met a VOODOO VISION! The situation spirals out of control as things go from a lover's triangle of the flesh between the three and into an unearthly love square that features Djamballa, The Snake God and the lines between civilization, magic and reality bend and blur.

Honestly, this has a happy ending all said... at least I think so. Everyone finds satisfaction and a place in the world.  At least the weird world of Il dio serpente!

THE SNAKE GOD is a film that works fairly well as a guide for some later sun and sex exploitations from Italy, but its interest goes much deeper. Where D'Amato would indulge in surfside sapphic grinding (on a log!), this goes further explores its characters and works as a surreal drama that wears its weightier aspirations to talk about the expectations of "civilized" characters when placed in an exotic environment where danger and desire seem to mix magically with darker forces. The script is playing with the stereotypical "white girl goes native" tropes in the best possible way by making her foil – the incredibly dark-skinned and beautiful Beryl Cunningham – the more intelligent and educated of the two. When the Island God and the people make their choices it brings a great balance to the film as everyone gets what they desire, though one ends up in slightly stranger circumstances than they could have imagined.

That's one elegantly composed shot... is 7:16 AM too early for some J&B?
But it isn't all just allegory and deeper meaning! There is some groovy music composed by Augusto Martelli and many soundtrack enthusiasts will know the theme as soon as the first bass note has you (island) grooving on your couch. Fans of sexy women are well served; Beryl Cunningham will make you want to book your next vacation to the Caribbean for sure, and Nadia Cassini goes from playful and hopping on a bed to sweaty solo gyrations under the influence of the snake god. And hey, you get a snake wiggling about in the sand. Snakes are cool by me. Vivarelli put together a film that will definitely tickle the brain while never neglecting to get behind your zipper for a few snake tongue licks as well!  An achievement for sure, and a film that every fan of trashy European cinema will enjoy as both a film and a nice bit of Italian genre film archeology.

The DVD from Mondo Macabro is a gem as usual. There is an interview with Piero Vivarelli (oh, please get me a double feature of those earlier fumetti films!!), a really strong essay on the film's production and history and a nice widescreen transfer that lets us focus on every drop of sweat that rolls off the nose of Nadia Cassini!

And if you like spotting J&B bottles then I assure you that you will LOVE this film. Vivarelli shoots some scenes featuring the familiar yellow label like a true advertising artist would.

It's sexual liberation for all...and the liberation of a hard-to-find film for all connoisseurs of exotic sex films. THE SNAKE GOD has slithered its way into my heart! – David Zuzelo

THE SNAKE GOD is available from Amazon and Diabolik DVD.

Want to know more about the exploitation roots of the man I affectionately call 'Damn You, David Z!'... check out this interview in The Cape Cod Examiner.

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