The Serpent Warriors (1985) aka Calamity of Snakes (1982)

“I’m sick of these mother f’in snakes in this mother f’in plane!” shouts Samuel L. Jackson. Only, there is no plane. But there is a temple. And we have Eartha Kitt in place of Samuel L. Jackson.

So, contrary to the web-chatter: B&S About Movies brings you this caveat emptor regarding the “specialty video” oeuvre of writer-director John Howard, he of the shot-on and edited-on 3/4-inch video, lo-res and audio-buzzing Big Box/SOV horror-classic Spine.

John Howard never went “mainstream” and he never worked outside of the adult film industry. Not only did the John Howard of Spine fame not direct the 1986 Tony Tulleners-starring Scorpion (he did, however, direct the Linnea Quigley one, also released in 1986), he did not direct this Hong Kong-Taiwan actioner. Hey, you know how it is with these Asian-Pacific Rim-produced oddities from the ‘80s VHS fringe: they’re infamous for their untraceable, Americanized director-pseudonyms—thus the John Howard-confusion.

So sure, with our adult film knowledge and the infamy of Spine, the name of “John Howard” piqued our interest—at first. Then we see the what-the-hell-why-not-we-need-a-paycheck kitchen sink cast and say, “Oh, hell yes! We must watch this!”

Seriously, how can you turn away from a film starring ‘60s TV cowboy Clint Walker from our beloved TV movie, possessed construction equipment romp Killdozer, Eartha Kitt—as a snake-mistress bitch!—from TV’s Batman, Christopher Mitchum from the ‘80s apoc-slop fests Aftershock and SFX Retaliator, and the comely Anne Lockhart from Battlestar Galactica: TOS?

You can’t. You break out the hot-air popper and convince the little lady to go out to have a few drinks with her girlfriends. (No, sweetie, really. I’m not trying to get rid of you for a booty call. I just wanna hug my VCR and reel in the ’80s for the evening.)

While its rare VHS goes for about 40 to 60 bucks in the online marketplace, beware of those bogus DVD-R grey-market rips of The Serpent Warriors (and know your regions before you buy, if you must). If there’s ever a film that the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome or Arrow Video need to reissue, it’s this slithery, beautiful disaster that, somehow “roped” Catwoman and BSG’s Sheba into starring.

“Okay, so what’s the movie about, already?”

Crazy ass heavy metal snakes, that’s what! Seriously: Every time the snakes appear, you get screeching metal guitars!

After that, uh, I don’t know. You have to take in account this movie is a patch job from two different directors, the other being some guy named Niels Rasmussen who, if we believe the IMDB (they got the whole John Howard thing wrong, so, well, you know), he was the editor on some late ‘70s never-heard-of-it-before 3D Asian slop fest, Revenge of the Shotgun Women, and the Frankie Avalon-starring ‘80s horror film, Blood Song. (We never got around to a review proper for Blood Song*, but we did review Kiss Daddy Goodbye, the other ’80s slasher starring another ’50s crooning teen idol, Fabian.)

Most of the film is actually culled from a 1983 Chinese nobody-ever-heard-of-it nature run amuck potboiler Calamity of Snakes starring by iconic Chinese actor Yuen Kao. Kao worked on some 70-plus films from the early 1950’s to the late ‘80s—most notably the martial arts movies The Angry River (1971) and Flying Sword Lee (1979), for us fans of the genre. Here, Kao’s been Americanized as “Jason King.”

Hmm. You know, we’re a having a “Kaiju Week” in the coming weeks at B&S About Movies, and that just about sums up what’s going on with this snake fest. Remember how 1955’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters was Americanized with those annoying inserts with Raymond Burr and he’s never in any scenes with the lead Asian actors? That’s what’s going on here: you’re really getting a repack of Calamity of Snakes with awful American dubbing and worse American-acted inserts shot outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The “plot,” such as it is, concerns the death of Yuen Kao’s Taiwanese sister some 40-years ago on a Pacific South Seas island. The group of Americans—well, the relative of one of them—responsible now find themselves stalked by a snake worshipping tribe that’s triggered by the discovery of a den of snakes at a construction site managed by Kao.

So a zoologist-herpetologist (Clint Walker and his assistant-son, Chris Mitchum, and their lab assistant, Anne Lockhart) are dispatched to the site. The trio soon discovers the building site sits upon the ancient temple of a snake-worshiping cult (so, yes: we are in Spielberg rip-off territory here, not only with Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Poltergeist as well) and that Clint’s father was responsible for the murder of Kao’s sister. Of course, they discover it all too late and find themselves attacked by thousands of deadly snakes. And Eartha Kitt is going to take over the Earth with her reptile minions.

At least I think that’s what’s going on.

The Serpent Warriors‘ source material: 1982’s Ren she da zhan, aka Calamity of Snakes, which is actually a horror action-comedy-thriller in the vein of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead.

“I’m sick of these mother f’in piece-o-shite movies in my mother f’in VCR!”

Okay, Samuel L., calm down. Here, have a Royale with Cheese and let the B&S About Movie hoards enjoy the original William Chang version of the film, Calamity of Snakes, on Daily Motion, since there’s no online rips of The Serpent Warriors. By the way, both films are in the marketplace under a variety of titles; however, because of the two-films-in-one mess that it is, it’s hard to know which retitle is which: is it a retitle of Calamity or The Serpent Warriors? Throughout the overseas markets the titles used are Snake Inferno, Golden Viper, War Between Man and Snakes, and Revenge of the Snakes.

And the adult film industry-employed John Howard of Spine fame didn’t make any of them. Nor did William Riead of Scorpion fame. Neither are that inept as filmmakers.

* We did two quick overviews of the Frankie Avalon-starring Blood Song as part of our “Exploring: Video Nasties Section 3” and “Drive-In Friday: Musician Slashers Night” featurettes.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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