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Film / Venom (1981)

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Not that one, Marvel fans.

Venom is a 1981 British horror film based on the novel of the same name by Alan Scholefield, directed by Piers Haggard and starring Sterling Hayden (in his final film role), Oliver Reed, Klaus Kinski, Nicol Williamson, Sarah Miles, Susan George, and Michael Gough.

Master criminal Jacques Müller (Kinski) recruits Dave (Reed) and Louise (George), the servants of the rich Hopkins family, to kidnap 10 year-old Philip Hopkins. Unfortunately, a series of circumstances result in them kidnapping Philip's grandfather Howard Anderson (Hayden) and having to hole up inside of the Hopkins' London townhouse, which is now surrounded by the police. Oh, and a harmless pet snake Philip bought was accidentally swapped with a black mamba, the deadliest snake alive, which is currently loose in the house.

The film is notable for using an actual black mamba to play the snake.

Not to be confused with the 2005 slasher movie, or the 2018 film adaptation of the Marvel comic book character.

The following Tropes can be used to describe the film:

  • Boom, Headshot!: The black mamba has its head blown off Jacmel shortly before the latter is shot by Scotland Yard snipers.
  • Child Hater: Dave, who often screams about how Philip is a “cheeky little bastard” whenever he proves an inconvenience and is willing to let him die of an asthma attack.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The main protagonist of the film initially seems to be Howard Anderson, but it soon becomes clear it is an ensemble cast. The closest to a protagonist would be Cmmdr. William Bulloch, the police officer in charge of dealing with the hostage situation.
  • Disney Villain Death: Müller and the black mamba tumble off a balcony after being shot multiple times by police snipers.
  • The End... Or Is It?: After the black mamba is killed, the final shot of the film reveals it has laid an egg in the vents that has just hatched.
  • Fingore: Müller gives Cmmdr. Bulloch a severed finger which he claims belongs to Dr. Stowe. It turns out he’s lying, he (presumably) cut the finger from Louise's corpse.
  • Groin Attack: A rare terrifying example. Dave is killed when the black mamba bites him in the groin, causing him to die slowly from the snake's venom.
  • Large Ham: Dave, who goes off on loud and unhinged rants at the drop of a hat.
  • The Millstone: Dave causes more problems for the kidnappers than help, being the one to cause police to surround the building by shooting a police officer in broad daylight and giving away his own identity to Cmmdr. Bulloch.
  • The Mole: Louise, the Hopkins' maid was Müller's girlfriend and was sleeping with Dave to keep him on side
  • Ms. Fanservice: Hello, Susan George as the Hopkins' sexy maid Louise. Unfortunately she becomes a Ms. Disservice when the mamba gets her and she tries to take on her male co-stars in the scenery-chewing department.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The officer who goes to the Hopkins’ house to warn them about the black mamba is shot by Dave for his troubles.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. Despite not taking Dr. Stowe's warning that Philip has taken home the black mamba seriously, an officer is still dispatched to the Hopkins residence to warn them. Then further averted by Cmmdr. Bulloch, who is a Reasonable Authority Figure who handles the crisis as best he can, listens to Dr. Stove, and comes up with a way to free the hostages that only fails because the black mamba attacks.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Jacmel agrees to let Howard get Philip's asthma medication as he has one of his attacks because if the boy dies, he and the other kidnappers get nothing. In contrast, the emotionally unstable and less rational Dave would have preferred to let Philip die because he sees him as a nuisance and thinks he can still get the ransom money by lying.
  • Special Effects Failure: Klaus Kinski is clearly just flailing a toy rubber snake around during his balcony death scene (he even intentionally winds it around his arm at one point to simulate the snake coiling).
    • In contrast, most other scenes used a real black mamba.
  • The World's Expert (on Getting Killed): Subverted. Despite being taken hostage by Müller, Dr. Stowe manages to escape unscathed.