venom movie poster

VENOM (1981)

You might notice that a lot of movies in this genre owe everything to Murphy's Law, but "Venom" might take the cake for implausible coincidence: An unscrupulous nanny (Susan George, also late of the better known home-invasion classic "Straw Dogs") her German international-terrorist boyfriend (Klaus Kinski) and a chauffeur (Oliver Reed) are scheming to kidnap and ransom her wealthy 10 year-old charge, but it turns into a hostage scenario when a cop shows up unexpectedly - but that's not their real problem. The real problem is that the cop was there because, because of late-discovered shipping mixup, the "harmless" African snake that the moppet in question just added to his pet collection is actually a lethal Black Mamba... which has managed to escape it's tank, and is now loose somewhere in the house with them. Kinski passed up a featured role in "Raiders of The Lost Ark" to make this instead (he didn't like the script. Unsurprisingly, for a well-documented crazy person), which was a bad career move for him but worked out great for "Raiders," which avoided being tainted by what a horrible scumbag Kinski ultimately turned out to be. (


Technically produced one year prior to "Desperate Hours" (though not before the play "Hours" adapted from), "Suddenly" is a well-regarded thriller that was considered "lost" for years for reasons that will soon become apparent. A group of thugs, led by Frank Sinatra as disgruntled army vet John Baron, take over a small-town family's home because they've determined it will offer them the ideal vantage-point from which to assassinate the President of The United States via sniper-rifle during an impending visit to the area. Of course, just shy of a decade later, actual President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated by a sniper; leading Sinatra - a close personal friend and supporter of JFK - to pull his more famous assassination film "The Manchurian Candidate" from circulation for decades, and while it's never been confirmed whether he pulled "Suddenly" as well it's been widely rumored. Urban legends claimed for years that JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had watched "Suddenly" on TV just prior to the shooting, but it's now believed he was watching the obscure 1949 Cuban revolutionary drama "We Were Strangers" instead.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. Recently, he wrote a book.

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