Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Venom (1971)

Now here’s a curio: an obscure, rather odd and somewhat incomprehensible early 1970s British horror picture which, despite some familiar names in the technical credits, is all a bit scruffy in the presentation department. 
Now here’s another curio: the press release which accompanies Fabulous Films’ new widescreen release of VENOM is an odd little piece of entertainment all its own. In fact I’m going to transcribe their official ‘Thoroughly Confusing Synopsis’ (as they themselves call it), but include some of my own notes that I took while watching the film. To avoid any confusion, the Fabulous Films synopsis will be in blue. Ok? Here we go!

Publicity materials were scarce in them days

Whilst enjoying his holiday in a Tyrolean village, artist Paul Greville encounters a beautiful girl called Helen - with a scar in the form of a spider on her shoulder. This may be a clue! Back at the inn where he is staying, the owner ends up dead (and let's pause here. The owner doesn’t die at all, and the girl with the spider is called Anna, not Helen. Helen is someone else entirely whose father owns the local sawmill. They have also failed to mention the weird green filter and plentiful nudity we get before the credits, plus the possible BritHorror first of cows with garlands of flowers on their heads in a kind of bovine tribute to BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW) and Paul is blamed (No). 
        Now on the run, Helen takes Paul to her father’s cottage (No, Anna does, Helen's father has been split in half by one of his own tools - he who would live by the sawmill shall die by the sawmill, or rather in it, it would seem) where a diabolical series of experiments are being conducted in an effort to create a nerve gas from spider venom - funded by money from stolen paintings (This bit looks as if it needs correcting but that's actually right). Then the dead innkeeper’s friends and family turn up! (No they don’t because he’s not dead. Actually it's part of the gang who have been looking for the paintings - I think). The End.

Somewhat misleading, but a jolly nice poster

So hopefully by now you should have an idea what it’s like to watch VENOM aka THE LEGEND OF SPIDER FOREST, and not the Klaus Kinski / Oliver Reed / Nicol Williamson sprint to the bar of the same name that Tobe Hooper had to understandably resign from in 1981 leaving Piers Haggard (BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW but without cows) to clear up the mess.
Peter Sykes directed VENOM. His other directorial work is very good, including Hammer’s DEMONS OF THE MIND and TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. There are a few nice shots here (with a bit of help from Pete Walker's regular DP Peter Jessop) but this does seem to have been made terribly quickly and probably without a finished script by Donald and Derek Ford (CORRUPTION). Anyone expecting a giant spider, or attacks of lots of little spiders, or anything much to do with spiders at all is going to be disappointed. However, if you’re a fan of slushy way over the top travelogue music (by John Simco Harrison) and people wandering through forests a lot, with a bit of bondage and flogging thrown in (perked your interest with that didn’t I? Trust me, you won't be impressed), then this might be the film for you.
         Fabulous Films have restored this oddity and given us a decent widescreen transfer of something that has probably never looked terribly good. There are no extras and no subtitles but the menu page does have an animated spider that bounces up and down a bit.  Now you want it, don't you?

Fabulous Films are releasing the curio cult oddity that is Peter Sykes' VENOM on Region 2 DVD on 6th July 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment