The next time you go to a mainstream movie and you see one of your favorite actors or actresses dropping trou and exposing their naughty bits to you, or the storyline tackles a subject that is sexual either in theme, subtext, or outright bonking, you can blame/thank the exploitation era and - perhaps more importantly - the envelope pushing foreign films that came out under its erotic auspices for such frankness. Apparently, other countries around the world lacked our Puritanical perspective and didn't mind showing a bit of skin (or simulated sex) for the sake of its proposed motive. If you were 'Curious Yellow' or into Inga, you remember the impact this kind of film had. While the true pioneers were pushing the "educational" aspects of the nudist colony film, France and Sweden were sending us our sultry, secret desires. By 1970, this was all becoming old hat, which is why you can forgive something The Snake God (Italian title, Il dio serpente) for being a bit mundane. At this point in the process, the whole naked chick/voodoo ritual angle was decided old hat. At least Nadia Cassini strutting around sans clothing will make the otherwise ponderous plot zip by.
Our buxom beauty is Paola, who has come to the Caribbean to live with her older husband (Sergio Tramonti) on his plantation. Immediately upon arriving our heroine gets caught up in the sea and surf (and sleaze) aspect of her new island paradise. She is befriended by Stella (Beryl Cunningham), a local teacher who is soon introducing Paola to the regional voodoo rituals. Primary among them is the worship of Djamballa, a mighty snake entity that immediately sets its sights on our comely lead. Apparently, the only way to combat this deity's burning desires is to see the head witch doctor. From this point on, it's baffling religious customs and lots of bare bodkin for the prurient home viewer. Yep. That's it.
There are two ways to approach The Snake God. The first is as an all out softcore artifact, a way to experience the kind of carnal pleasures that made our Grandfathers "sit up" and take notice and our Grandmothers look away in shame. Ms. Cassini, kissed by the sun and dappled with tiny beads of sweat is guaranteed to make your pulse race and your pistons pump. Along with Ms. Cunningham, whose not too shabby in the basic birthday suit department, it's erotic eye candy for the older members of the non-porn demo. Once has to remember how daring and direct these otherwise tame movies were in the entire pre-Deep Throat period of adult motion pictures. Mouths were agape at how provocative and up front they were in their promotion of personal freedom and friskiness. The Snake God is a little more sedate than others, but it's still got an exotic flair outside of the flesh.
Then there is the whole hate crime aspect of the movie's treatment of the native population. No one will ever accuse The Snake God and its makers of being considerate of its characterization of the locals and their ways. We're talking one step away from bones in the nose and "booga-booga" chants here. Now, this was 1970 and it was an Italian filmmakers interpretation of island ways, but great gosh a-mighty does this play as problematic in our Pro-PC times. Of course, with Ms. Cassini and Ms. Cunningham prancing around like Penthouse Pets, who really cares if our Caribbean friends are featured in ethnically acceptable ways, right? With its decent pace, clothesline narrative, and bizarro third act, The Snake God can be called a lot of things, but conventional or conservative won't be one of them. Like an unusual fruit or traditional dish that seems strange at first, this film is an acquired taste. Once you learn to appreciate it, however, you just might find yourself drunk on its beach blanket bravura.
Mondo Digital will received kudos from those with fond memories of this film or who have been looking for a decent copy since discovering the "assets" of the actresses involved. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is excellent, colorful and detailed. There is very little damage and the occasional dirt, but overall, the transfer is terrific. On the sound side of things, we get a nice Dolby Digital Mono mix, presented in Italian with English subtitles. The dialogue is easily understandable, and the amazing bossa nova score by Augusto Martelli comes across with crystal clarity. As for added content, we are treated to a 14 minute interview with director Piero Vivarelli (who passed away in 2010). Insightful, engaging, and featuring a Lucio Fulci shout out (and some love for his favorite recreational pharmaceutical, marijuana) it's a great added element to this DVD release.
There is an easy way for your truly to address the dilemma that is The Snake God. After a decade under the influence of Something Weird Video and such exploitation goddesses as Uschi Digart, Isabel Sarli, and Darlene Bennett, it's difficult to get overly worked up about Ms. Cassini and Ms. Cunningham. What they have to offer is fine, all right, but they can't hold a hedonistic candle to the gals who complemented the creation of the softcore experience that we know today. Still, for those in the mood for some sizzling tropical skin, The Snake God earns a Recommended rating. It's not a classic, but it does offer what it promises - sun, skin, and snakes.
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