April 11: Upsetting — What movie upsets you? Write about it and share it.
I think that I’m unshockable and then I watch something like Ren she da zhan and man, I had no idea what being shocked was.
Directed by Chi Chiang (who was also the choregrapher for Bruce Lee: The Man, the Myth and directed China Heat and Bruce Lee’s Deadly Kung Fu), who wrote it with Kang-Nien Li and Kuo Jung Tsai, this is a movie that people who hate snaked will be horrified by and those that love them will be destroyed by, so there’s really no one who won’t be brutalized by what these guys put together. I’m not exaggerating when I say that tens of thousands of snakes appear and also not making anything up when I tell you that just as many snakes are murdered on screen, for real, in a movie that looks at Cannibal Holocaust and scoffs, “People are mad that you killed a turtle? Here, hold my San Miguel.”
This Hong Kong/Taiwan film (there’s also a South Korean version called War Between Man and Snakes that has five more minutes and alternate footage filmed in that country) starts with real estate boss Francis Chang ordering his men to kill all the snakes around his new luxury apartment building. What follows is a near-mondo orgy of human-on-snake violence as snakes are chopped, sliced and smashed by excavators and dumped into huge snake graves. This is not CGI, so turn back now, because no one visited this set to see if a movie called Calamity of Snakes was snake-friendly. It’s kind of like all those Italian cannibal movies that show man’s inhumanity to man that were made by being inhumane to man, which seems like, you guessed it, a snake eating its own tail, which is about the only bit of snake violence this movie doesn’t have.
After all that, you’ll hardly be mad that this steals music from Maniac and the same cues as Dawn of the Dead. There’s also some Alan Parsons Project and Keith Emerson, because we all know progressive rock is prime snake murder music. Taking music is the least of this movie’s sins.
It does have snakes run over, destroyed by a mongoose, gassed, hit with rocks, sliced apart with swords and even a giant snake participates in a kung fu battle against a man who lives inside a box of snakes, even keeping one inside his mouth and the snake makes the same sound effects as Godzilla.
What does work is that snakes non-stop kill humans, showing up in bathtubs, when people are making love, when folks are playing mahjong, whenever people do, well, anything. Snakes will show up — the big snake might even be psychic — wherever people are trying to just live their lives, including a moment where they spill forth from an elevator in the exact same way that blood spills out in The Shining.
Footage from this movie was edited into The Serpent Warriors, a movie that stars Earth Kitt, Christopher Mitchum and was the last role for Clint Walker. It was also released in Pakistan as Revenge of the Snakes — thanks Daily Grindhouse — with artwork that rips off The Beyond and let me tell you, I can’t love that enough.
For all the meanness toward reptiles, this movie does not treat its humans any better, as there are numerous scenes of people covered by snakes, snakes are thrown at them, snakes are in their faces and at the end, someone does a burn stunt that in no way looks safe or something that someone survived.
Does it make you feel better that some of the snakes were eaten afterward and not wasted? Yeah, me neither. That said, good for Unearthed Films, who are giving a percentage of all profits from Calamity of the Snakes in all formats to Save the Snakes in continuation of their mission to protect snake populations around the world.
The Unearthed Films blu ray of Calamity of Snakes has the best looking version of this movie ever in three versions: theatrical release, cruelty-free and the absolutely uncensored version. It also has From Shaw To Snakes: The Venom And Violence Of Early Chinese Language Horror, an interview with Chui-Yi Chung and commentary from Nathan Hamilton and Brad Slaton. You can get this from MVD.