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|
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?|
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.