In honor of my sister’s birthday, today’s monster great is really a character-turned-creepy Sssssnake-man from the film “Sssssss”. She was never a fan of monster films but seemed to take to this one, shown on late-night TV, because her insistence on repeating the “ssssssssssss” noise while flapping her arms like the Sssssnake-man used to send me running into another room.
“Sssssss” is one of those magical films that went wrong somewhere between concept and execution, which is hard to believe since Strother Martin is the star of the film. He plays a doctor who is seeking to transform humans into giant slimy reptiles. The skin turns color and remains slick and wet, limbs shrink and disappear and the only speech remaining for the poor creature is not a ssssssssssssssss, but rather a series of pleading moans. Even though the experiment succeed with another patient, the film’s beefcake character, the evil doctor fails to live to see the end result.
The climax of the film reminds me of the scene from “The Ten Commandments”, where Moses and the Egyptian magicians compare the reptilian powers of their walking staffs. Of course as a film monster, the Sssssnake-man was mild. It could do nothing but sit in a giant vat or on top of a set of pillows, doing nothing but wiggling and moaning all day. Visually, the effect draws sympathy because the character is the result of a botched experiment. This is probably not what one expects in a movie monster, but it should be allotted some sort of acclaim for its sacrifice.
My sister was really good at imitating this creature, circling her wrists, puckering the lips and doing those moans as she chased me through rooms in our little Victorian flat. Happy birthday!
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