The Snake Woman (1961)

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Renowned herpetologist, Horace Adderson, is convinced he’s found a cure for his wife’s (unstated) mental illness. For weeks he’s been injecting her with cobra venom. By all accounts it seems to be working. But his wife is worried about the unstudied side-effects such injections might have on their unborn child. Horace waves off her concerns, but his wife’s fears are proven right after she dies in childbirth and their daughter is born with no eyelids and is cold to the touch. The midwife who was present for the birth proclaims the child to be evil and runs into town to round up an unruly mob when her own attempt at killing the child fails. 

The_Snake_Woman_2Yes, lets stab the baby with scissors, says the gentile midwife.

Before she can come back, Horace gives the child to the local doctor, Murton, who then passes the baby off to a local shepard, telling him that Horace will be by in the morning to pick up the child. But then Murton leaves for Africa before learning that Adderson was killed by one of his own snakes when the mob from the night before stormed his house, destroyed his lab and burned his home to the ground.

The_Snake_Woman_3Hey, I don’t like snakes either, but this seems excessive.

Nineteen years later Murton returns from his travels to find the local villagers quite spooked. Seems several of them have fallen prey to snake bites. And not just any snake bites, but bites from a King Cobra, a species not native to the area. The villagers claim the deaths are the result of the curse of the Snake Woman. But a local Colonel is highly skeptical, and seeks aid from an old friend at Scotland Yard. It’s now up to a young Detective Prentice to get to the bottom of things.

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The Snake Woman is a short little UK flick that was meant to be part of a horror double bill. As such, it’s a quick little thing that only runs for a little over an hour. And thank goodness, because it really couldn’t have lasted much longer than that.

While the movie is billed as a horror film, it feels more like a plodding period piece. Horror movies, by their very nature, usually demand that something actually happen to facilitate the horror. But the characters in Snake Woman spend more time talking and giving the audience exposition than they spend moving the plot along. For a film that only lasts 67 minutes, it still has half a dozen scenes that feel artificially stretched out in order to prolong the run-time. I mean, it’s nice that the film used live snakes and all, but let’s be real, we don’t need to spend every agonizingly slow second of a full  two minutes watching Dr. Adderson catch and milk a cobra. You could have gotten the same point across in 10 seconds, tops.

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Really though, the major downfall of the film is it’s script. There are just a plethora of inconsistencies and jumps of logic going on here. You don’t even get a full minute in before it starts, either. The film opens with a narrator (whom we never hear from again), who tells us in his best monotone that the story you are about to see has no official record and is a legend, a tale told by the locals for generations…and a story they’d like to forget. 

…..Wait, what? If that’s true, then why do they keep telling it? If they wanted to forget it, why don’t they just keep their mouths shut?

Alas, we’ll never know. But the rest of the script plays out in similar logic-less fashion. Adderson claims to be a man of science, yet doesn’t bat an eye to using his pregnant wife as a test subject and injecting her with snake venom. The villagers seem to be a superstitious lot, the kind who are afraid of curses, yet they don’t seem to mind the questionable magical practices of the creepy midwife. Hell, instead of questioning her judgement, they just outright believe her that the baby is evil and straight-up burn down a guys house. Then they wonder why a bunch of people are being bitten by snakes. Could it be because you destroyed their tanks and let them loose upon the moors yourself when you trashed the doctor’s lab? Nope, must be a curse. The midwife said so.

The_Snake_Woman_6Really, the only curse is their lack of brain cells.

Speaking of midwives, that woman is a trip. She cackles like a loon, screams about evil and evil curses, tries to stab a newborn with a pair of scissors, and laughs after she incites a mob to kill a man and destroy his house. And then the movie tries to paint her as one of the good guys!? Like, really? Sorry movie, I ain’t buying it. In fact, I’d bet my weight in ale that that woman has caused more curses to your precious little village then she’s cured.

The_Snake_Woman_7Yes, this is the woman the village has put their faith in. Says a lot, really.

So, is The Snake Woman any good? Not really, but it’s not what I’d call bad either. The acting is fine considering this is a B-movie, and the sets and costuming look nice considering the budget. But other than a couple nicely framed shots, the film isn’t anything to write home about. The script makes little sense, and the pacing is downright glacial. But the worst sin of all is that it’s not at all scary or even tense. Not even throwing a handful of live snakes on the set could liven up this film. It’s too firmly entrenched into the Moorse of Dullness. Which is a shame, because a movie about a woman who could turn into a snake has potential. Or perhaps at least it would have, if it had been given to someone else to write. 

The Snake Woman is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

It is also available on DVD.

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Michi

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