Spasms (1983) Retrospective

Reclusive millionaire philanthropist Jason Kincaid lost his brother to a massive taipan serpent during a hunting trip in Micronesia. The snake also bit him, but rather than dying from the venom he survived and seemingly developed a telepathic link with the creature, caused by the venom mutating the brain cells responsible for extrasensory perception. Haunted by visions of the snake’s continued killings, Kincaid pays to have a poacher capture it and deliver it to his mansion outside San Diego. He hires psychiatrist and ESP researcher Tom Brasilian in the hopes that he can help him rid of the unwanted psychic link once and for all. In exchange, Kincaid offers to underwrite all of Brasilian’s on-going research.


However, a Satanic cult also has its eyes on the snake. As it’s worshiped by the indigenous natives as the guardian of their underworld, they believe that it is in fact a demon and hopes to acquire it for worship. The cult hires hires ex-CIA agent Warren Crowley to steal the snake. Crowley bribes a sailor on the ship transporting it to the United States to help secure it, but the mole is killed when he attempts to look inside the snake’s container and is bitten. The venom causes his blood vessels and visceral tissues to rapidly swell and he dies by falling overboard.

As Brasilian insists on keeping the snake at his university laboratory until Kincaid’s private lab is constructed, he oversees it’s transportation there, unknowingly being tailed by Crowley and his minder Deacon Tyrone. Kincaid’s niece Suzanne, believing that his psychic link is actually a delusion brought on by the trauma of her father’s death, attempts to kill the snake by secretly increasing the temperature of its container to a lethal 150 degrees. That night, Crowley and Tyrone break into the lab. Tyrone, realizing that the snake is overheated, opens the container. The snake promptly breaks loose and kills Tyrone and the lab director before escaping outside. Brasilian and Suzanne are summoned to the site by police, while Kincaid senses that the snake has broken loose.

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Brasilian surmises that the snake must go to a temperate environment, and searches a nearby greenhouse with Suzanne. The snake attacks them, and Brasilian barely manages to fend it off with a fire extinguisher. Police arrive, but Kincaid manages to ward them off by convincing them of the danger the creature poses. All three are taken into custody, and police are skeptical of Kincaid’s claims and threaten to charge him with manslaughter for illicitly importing such a deadly animal. Meanwhile, the snake attacks a nearby a house and kills its inhabitants, an act Kincaid witnesses through his mental link.

Crowley is threatened by the cult for his failure to secure the snake. He bribes the location of Kincaid’s residence and travels there by van, believing the snake will eventually travel there at which point he can capture it. Meanwhile, Brasilian determines that Kincaid’s psychic link can be used to track down the snake before it strikes again. He hooks him up to a brain-pattern monitoring device, and Kincaid begins having a telepathic episode, seeing the snake arrive at his house and kill Crowley. Kincaid can only shout out a few cryptic words before the connection is lost, and disappears before he can be questioned any further. Suzanne realizes that he was referring to their house, and she and Brasilian race to intercept him.


Kincaid arrives at the house, where the snake has already killed a groundskeeper. Picking up an assault rifle, he searches the grounds but is repeatedly struck by more and more intense visions of the snake’s previous kills, losing his gun in the process. Finally, he confronts the creature in the backyard, where the psychic energy causes spontaneous explosions around the two. He attacks it with a knife, but it quickly gains the upper hand and kills him. Brasilian and Suzanne arrive, and Brasilian picks up Kincaid’s gun and shoots the snake to death. He and Suzanne leave as the snake’s remains burn side-by-side with Kincaid.

Loosely based on Death Bite, a novel by Michael Maryk and Brent Monahan, the film tells the story of a 20-foot-long serpent, a demon-god of a strange New Guinea tribe, which is captured and brought to America. In the original novel, published in 1979, the beast was a real snake, a deadly taipan that was imported for his unlimited supply of venom. But by the time production began to gear up, early in 1981, it was clear to the film’s owners, the Cinequity Corp., that it might be a little late to jump on the snake bandwagon.


“There were about five pictures coming out of Hollywood that were snake-orientated,” explained co-producer John Newton. “We didn’t want to compete with Hollywood; we knew we couldn’t do it. But we also realized we didn’t have to be restrained by a live animal. We said, why not push it to the limit? Why not go to a monster? And we did.”

By May, 1981, when Fruet was signed to direct, DEATH BITE (Original title, later re-titled “Spasms”) had already gone through two script drafts and more than a year of pre-production. In the three months that remained before shooting began, the script would be revised another four times, with a final draft completed by Don Enright just days before the start of photography. With each new script, the snake grew bigger, his attacks increased in ferocity, and more and more supernatural elements found their way into the plot.


Raymond Mendez / Neal Martz – The Mechanical “Beast” Snake
Back in 1980, when the idea was to use live snakes for most of the action, Bob Zappalorti had been contacted to provide the necessary reptiles and handle the wrangling chores. Zappalorti, in turn, called in Raymond Mendez to create hand puppets for close-ups of the snake attacks. When the concept changed from snake to serpent, and from menace to monster. Zappalorti bowed out, leaving Mendez and his assistant Neal Martz to come up with something.


Mendez, a 34-year-old scientist, photographer and sculptor, is an alumnus of New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where his work included preparing the incredibly realistic displays and dioramas that the museum is so famous for. Mendez had been storing a pair of huge pythons in his studio and tinkering with puppet snakes for about a year when the film’s concept began to change. “They no longer wanted a 22-foot model of a real snake,” Mendez said. “They now wanted something more mythical, something more monstrous. They wanted a big head, almost two feet in size. They wanted it to be 18 inches across at the middle. They wanted a biggie.

It stopped entering what I thought were the realms of a good puppet,” Mendez added. “It got too big and too difficult to handle, especially for the kind of scenes they wanted-striking, biting, and so on. To have the proper extension and flexibility, I felt it needed to be a robot. A hand puppet could give you all the rotations and up-and-down movements, but when the neck is supposed to bend, no matter how good you are, you’re stuck with a human arm which just can’t move the way a snake would.”

The decision to depend on a mechanical contraption as the “star” of your film might scare some directors, but not Fruet. “I had seen the snakes they were planning on using,” he said, “and they were very limited. A snake gets tired out in three or four minutes, so you can’t expect much of a performance, never mind getting the snake to do what you want him to do. It looked like a monumental logistical job trying to deal with a real snake. I also felt it was a limited approach, and thought we should take it beyond that.”

Mendez and Martz were asked to come up with a look for the monster, and sculpted two large serpent heads, with different features on each side of each clay head. A meeting was arranged with John Newton and director William Fruet at the home of Dick Smith, who would be creating the film’s makeup effect. At this gathering, the design of the snake was worked out. “We didn’t want it to look completely like a snake,” Fruet said, “and we didn’t want it to get too far away. I wanted something that was more prehistoric in a sense, something that could represent evil. I’m not sure we succeeded, but it’s certainly very fierce looking.”


Since Mendez worked in New York and the film company was based in Toronto, once the look of the face was determined, he was given a virtual free hand in developing the rest of the monster. “I was in this incredible position to do a monster the way I wanted,” Mendez said. “They told me, in effect, to do the monster and we’ll see you when it’s done.”

To build his robot, Mendez called in Lewis Gluck, an artist who began experimenting with remote-controlled mechanical devices while working with handicapped children. Gluck has handled a number of odd assignments-building a remote controlled venetian blind for a TV commercial and inventing an automatic gel changer for theater lights but Spasms is certainly the oddest yet.

“It started out as six snakes, each one doing something different climbing up a shower door, wiggling this way, wiggling that way.” Gluck recalled. “It finally came down to making one snake as animated as possible.”

The list of what the mechanical serpent had to do-considering how much time and money were available-was staggering. It had to rise up from the ground, the head had to move up and down, the jaw had to open, the eyes needed to move, and it had to be able to strike forward. Facilities for venom, mucus and blood had to be built in. And it had to fit into a package three inches in diameter to fit inside the latex snake that Mendez and Martz were building.

“I came up with a mechanical prototype, but the thing kept getting heavier and heavier as the head got bigger,” Gluck said. “We couldn’t do it anymore with push-pull cables the way Carlo Rambaldi built the Alien because this thing was weighing too much. Just think of the mechanical effort having to move a 20-pound head around. I ended up with a hydraulic set-up.”

Gluck began work early in August, knowing that the finished snake was due in Canada at the beginning of October. By the time Gluck worked out all the design bugs-for instance, air pressure proved not as subtle as the hydraulics-he had three weeks to build it.

Mendez and Martz were meanwhile working on the modeling for the different snakes needed: two 22 foot bodies to be manipulated by wires; three six-foot necks to work with Gluck’s mechanical armature; and a series of puppet heads, including one rigged to swallow a sailor’s arm and three rigged to blow up. *This sounds like it should have taken a long time,” Mendez said. “But we did the whole thing in eight weeks, from conception to delivery in Canada. It was around the clock. I can’t begin to describe what an intense work experience it was.”

With his background at the Museum of Natural History, Mendez was adamant that the serpent not only look menacing, but real. “I was making the monster as much for the naturalists as for the paying audience,” Mendez said. “I made it for the guys who go to monster movies with me and say, ‘Hey, they made that without the right organs, and the molars aren’t set in right, and it’s missing this and it should have that … I wanted them to see a monster with everything there. Anatomically, it kicked ass!”

To keep the beast as “correct” as possible, Mendez and his small crew glued thousands of individual scales in place. The fangs were hand carved, and Mendez worked out a new method for casting eyes to make them incredibly realistic. “The snake is real!” Mendez said. “You could go all the way into that mouth, and it’s right all the way down. You can check the teeth, the fangs. The way it drips venom is correct. I went all the way with it, even though you may never see that. But for me, it had to be that way.”

Mendez and Gluck completed their work more or less on schedule, although some crucial finishing of the snakes was left to be completed by technicians in Toronto. It took two weeks to shoot the scenes involving the snake, including several days of location shooting squeezing in shots between an intermittent rain.

At first, Gluck had problems making the robot snake work properly: the cables weren’t heavy enough and the pumps weren’t providing enough pressure. Part of the problem was the foam latex body of the snake itself. Mendez had gotten the recipe for Bau foam from Dick Smith, but during preproduction switched to the much heavier R&D foam. “The difference,” explained Mendez, “is that Bau foam is about 100 times more flexible, but R&D casts like clockwork. It’s like making Plaster of Paris: you can’t mess up a batch.”

Bau foam, named for legendary makeup artist George Bau, is a delicate, but sensitive mixture that can be ruined by slight variations in temperature, humidity and minute atmospheric differences. With foam latex needed by the gallon, it proved unsuitable. But Gluck’s mechanics were based on a lighter foam, and his machinery needed some quick rebuilding

For William Fruet, seeing the snake finally up and working was something of a relief. Since shots of the snake were the last thing to be filmed, if it hadn’t worked, he might have been left without a movie “Working with the snakes was time consuming and frustrating,” said Fruet. “But it’s a lot of fun when you get it on the screen, glue it together and make it work. You have a lot of reservations when you’re doing it. You’re at the mercy of a lot of things going right. If they don’t you have to do a lot of quick ad-libbing. Fortunately, in our case, things went very well.”

Group portrait of the snakemakers (1-r): Bill De Paolo, George McLaughlin, Ray Mendez, Joan Juchnewicz, Neal Martz and Lewis Gluck, who stands behind the hydraulic controls for the six-footlong mechanical neck, shown before either the latex skin or the head was attached. The large white snake in the foreground (it was yet to be painted) was a full 22-feet long, and could be manipulated by wires.
Group portrait of the snakemakers (1-r): Bill De Paolo, George McLaughlin, Ray Mendez, Joan Juchnewicz, Neal Martz and Lewis Gluck, who stands behind the hydraulic controls for the six-footlong mechanical neck, shown before either the latex skin or the head was attached. The large white snake in the foreground (it was yet to be painted) was a full 22-feet long, and could be manipulated by wires.

One of the snake scenes left for the final week posed a special challenge to Fruet and effects coordinator Brian Warner. The script called for the snake to enter a college dorm to track down a lab assistant. The serpent attacks the girl in a hallway, tossing her around like a rag doll in the mouth of a large dog, achieved by strapping actress Laurie Brown into a boom-like rig shaken by members of the crew.

The beast finally hurls Brown the length of the corridor, where she crashes through a wooden bathroom door, surprising a shapely blond taking a shower (Sandra Awalt). “We built a replica of the 20-foot corridor and bathroom and turned it up vertically,” Newton explained. “We were then able to drop stunt girl Sandy Webb down the corridor and through a balsa wood door into the bathroom. We had three cameras running, filming at high speed so you could see the action.”

Brian Warner designed a catapult, powered by compressed air, that then fired the snake through the glass shower doors towards Awalt. Other illusions were much simpler to achieve. The film’s opening sequence, for example, is set on the small Pacific island of Naraka Pinto, where a ceremonial dance summons up N’Gana Simbu, the guardian of the Gates of Hell.”

For special assistance on certain details of the monster, Mendez was fortunate enough to be able to turn to Dick Smith who engineered the special makeup effects for the picture. Mendez says that Smith helped with for mulas, types of rubber, eyes, types of glue, and where to get materials. He was really an incredible person to have on the phone-very important.” The makeup of the snake involved an inner skeleton of polyester resin and fiberglass, and an aluminum body skeleton covered by Rand D foam. For the outer skin, Mendez decided that “in order to get the realism I wanted we should put on scales, individual scales, made of latex, We cast thousands and thousands of scales and assembled them on the body in a life-like pattern.” This technique generated a great deal of extra work but Mendez found that, in addition to improving the look of the creature, the scales provided a sort of armor to protect the inside of the snake, far more protection than the foam could have supplied. Also, Mendez points out, “since the scales were rigid, you had no idea there was a robot inside because none of the linkages showed up as it moved; the skin was thick enough to totally cover that. So you have beautiful movements, supple and fluid, like the real animal.”


The most challenging sequence in the picture for Mendez and company was a scene in which the snake attacks Oliver Reed and swallows the character’s arm. Mendez and his crew built an extra neck-and-head assembly that had a specially made skull underneath the rubber skin in addition to a great deal of tubing to supply the mucous and blood necessary for the scene. Mendez explains: “The skull had to be modified in such a way that when the snake swallowed Reed’s arm the back of the head opened wide enough for the arm to slide down. We had to recarve the inner rubber so that his arm would fit and then we had to grease it. And it was a really violent scene. It wasn’t a matter of ‘let’s be delicate with the model: this man was doing summersaults and going through this whole trip with this thing biting him, and it had to look good.”

An essential aspect of the realism of the scene, for Mendez, had to do with the way in which Reed gouged out the snake’s eye during the struggle. “Many scenes in movies in which eyes come out,” comments Mendez, “usually don’t look right to me. The problem with me has always been that, when the eye comes out, it comes out like a ball. I wanted this scene to be a little different. I wanted Reed to stick his finger into the eye and pop it. The snake had a big eye, so I wanted that eye to puncture and open up. What I ended up doing was making a very, very thin, polyester-resin, clear-cast sheet of plastic in the mold. I then put in some jelly right behind that, laying in the cornea, which was a separate plate I had made out of acetate, and then behind that filled it in with K-Y jelly and string and assorted stuff. Then I sealed the whole thing with plastic. This came out very delicate, but it was hard enough so that we could pick it up and set it into the socket. The socket sat in a metal housing which was just the same size as the eye; behind that we had a tube running out and that, of course, had all the blood and everything; we used jelly with some artificial blood in it which we made into a paste and put that behind the eyes. When Reed’s fighting with the monster, he sticks his finger in the eye, the eye collapses, white comes out first, and then you see a spurt of blood, which is very different than just having the eye roll out of the socket; a little bit gorier. Oliver Reed’s a real character, he sprayed the entire camera crew with blood, he drenched them. He really did a number on them.”

Dick Smith “The Snakes Bite” Effect
With Mendez and Gluck working on their assignments, thought turned to what would happen when man and snake met. “Once we had our monster,” explained John Newton, “we knew we had to develop a good result. We’d done a couple of tests and realized that the only way to do it was go to the best. We called up Dick Smith for input we came up with the necessary effects to illustrate, dramatically, the power of the snake.”


Smith recalled he was originally called for advice on the effect of a man’s arm swelling as a result of a snake bite, an effect similar to Smith’s work on Altered States (1980). The veteran makeup artist suggested the producers contact Stephan Dupuis, whom Smith had worked with on Scanners (1981). But Dupuis, who recently completed a stint on Quest for Fire (1981), was reluctant to handle the assignment solo, and the two artists agreed to work together.

When Newton and Fruet later visited Smith, they told him of another sequence near the film’s end, in which one of the villains gets bitten in the neck. They asked if, perhaps, Smith didn’t have some effect up his sleeve, something he’d wanted to try but had never been able to use before. “It was kind of funny what happened then,” Smith recalled. “I gave them a half-angry lecture. I told them, ‘You chaps don’t understand. We makeup artists don’t just have all these marvelous effects just kicking around in the back of our heads. We can’t come up with a great idea on the spur of the moment, just like that. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of thinking and experimentation to come up with new innovations.

“So here I am giving them this whole pitch, and as I’m telling them this, an idea comes to my mind. I stop and tell them, ‘You know, a funny thing just happened. I just got this wild idea!'”

Smith had recalled an effect devised for The Exorcist (1973), in which the words “Help me” rise up on Linda Blair’s skin. The illusion was achieved by painting the letters on a foam latex appliance with trichloroethane, a cleaning fluid that causes foam latex to instantly swell. “It practically explodes,” Smith explained. “Because the reaction is so sudden, there’s no way of slowing it down, so for The Exorcist, we filmed the sequence in reverse. As the fluid dried out, the letters slowly went down.

“As I’m talking, all these things start connecting,” Smith continued. “To me the trichloroethane is like a poison, corrupting the foam latex flesh. The similarity (to snake venom) immediately struck me.”

Immediately, he took Newton and Fruet down to his basement workshop, tore a piece of foam latex he had conveniently lying about, and tried the effect out. “Not only did it swell up, but where it was torn it kind of opened like a rose,” Smith said. The reaction from Smith’s small audience was overwhelmingly positive. “I wish coming up with every idea were that easy. But when it came to putting it into effect, it became quite a complicated thing to do.”

The effect was used on actor Al Waxman, who plays a thug hired to steal the serpent by a devil worship cult. Waxman sees the snake outside the van he’s been using for surveillance and locks himself in. But he fails to notice the back door is still open. The serpent isn’t so stupid and comes after him, seizing him by the neck, shaking him around and leaving him to puff up and die.

Early stages of the makeup were accomplished by a complex series of air bladders similar to those used in ALTERED STATES. Later stages used the tri-chloroethane technique on an articulated head and-shoulders dummy, rigged to have the eyes bulge and roll around, the jaw open and the tongue stick out. The result leaves Waxman’s head a lumpy, bloody mess.

“We wanted to make his whole face into a horrible, lumpy mass with the bladders, which would leave us with a practical form to make the tri-choloethane technique workable-we’d have enough substance for the chemical to attack,” said Smith, who again worked with Carl Fullerton, who helped perfect the bladder technique for ALTERED STATES. “We made the most complicated bladders that we’d ever done. We ended up using eight different bladders with very involved shapes that covered most of his face.”

A system was devised to precisely control the timing of each bladder’s inflation. Every bladder had its own air line, and each line had a small hole in it to act as a vent. “We operated this thing like a flute,” Smith said. “Putting a finger over the hole would immediately make the air go into the bladder. I played four of the bladders and Carl ‘played the other four.””

When it came time to apply the bladders and thin latex skin, Smith was startled to discover that they didn’t fit-in the months since he had taken a cast of Waxman’s face, the actor had gained weight. “It was a nightmare,” recalled Smith, who was able to cheat” by extending Waxman’s sideburns to cover the makeup’s seams. With the extra work, it took nearly seven hours to apply the makeup , which had to look natural when the scene began.

As Waxman tries to leave the van, the camera cuts to a shot of his arm swelling up, a complex bladder effect supervised by Fullerton. The cut-away facilitated the switch to Smith’s head-and-shoulder dummy, equipped with an epoxy skull, a hinged jaw, a movable, inflatable tongue and eyes rigged to bulge out of the skull.

The project required Smith to become heavily involved in mechanics for one of the few times in his career. “It was both scary and fun,” he admitted. “I got some good ideas from Rick Baker on working the cables for the tongue and eyeballs. The mechanism used for the eyeballs was based on his experience in thrusting the snout forward in An American Werewolf in London (1981).”

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To give the effect some color. Smith pre-painted the torn areas of the latex, so audiences would see “bloody flesh” as the skin ruptured. The solvent was also tinted dirty green, so as it soaked through the latex mask, the skin would appear to change color. “It would be a two tone effect,” Smith said. “A nice loathsome duo.”

It took a full day to prepare the dummy, including connecting the 18 tiny tubes carrying the tri-choloroethane to the inside of the latex mask, making up the face and applying the hair. Five persons were needed to execute the effect: Smith worked the head, Fullerton operated the eyes, Canadians Stephen Dupuis and Sandi Duncan manipulated the tongue and jaw, and a technician took verbal cues from Smith to operate the switches that pumped the solvent into the mask.

When the effect was first tested in New York, Smith was stunned at just how fast the change took place. “It was incredible,” he said. “The whole face inflated in 10 to 20 seconds. It was so fast, you didn’t see the eyes or tongue protrude. They were buried in a mass of swollen flesh. So when we did it in Canada, I had the tongue protrude and the eyes bulge first, and then swelled up the face.”

“The effect itself was done in two phases: first we did the air bladder makeup with Al his face swelling as if he been stung by bees, and then we would cut to his arm, which would swell in its weird way, and then we’d cut to the dummy, the traditional thing with a fibreglass skull and a thick foam latex mask with the same shape as Al’s face with the inflated bladders. We would then start phase two, which would be the injection from the inside of the head into all these different bumps on the inside of the mask, each of which was pre-split in a ragged way.


There were 16 or 18 of these, aligned in several rows, from the jaw-line to the forehead, so that we could activate them in sequence, to give the impression of the venom travelling up through his system. Inside, each of these bumps in the foam latex was prepainted red. so when they burst open it would look like wounds erupting on the flesh. The head was also rigged so that the eyeballs would be thrust forward, burging out as the head swelled; the mouth opened and closed, and the head moved up and sideways and forward-and of course we agitated the hell out of that. We also made a tongue that would protrude and swell, made from the same material from which we make our bladders-Smooth-On 724-made particularly thick, since this was the last place where we’d want a blow-out.”

Smith’s simulated tongue survived the solvent intact, and all of the above operated perfectly. One minor flaw came about when one of the crew (whom Smith graciously leaves unamed neglected to shake the tub of solvent, so that the green coloring wound up as a sediment on the tub’s bottom, instead of in the foam latex head. “The green discoloration was an added touch that would have been nice,” says Smith, but it wasn’t essential to the effect-the face did swell up in a perfectly ghastly fashion. But what was disappointing to me was that I had advised that the camera be overcranked operated at a higher speed, thus slowing down the action). because in tests the effect had gone so quickly. It seemed to be all right when we shot it. but later, when they took a look at it, they felt that it was the wrong speed and because it was a low budget production, they couldn’t afford to do it over. We didn’t get the perfect filming of the effect-and I still don’t know what it will look like on the screen.”

Despite the impressive nature of the finished product, Fruet was unsatisfied with how it looked on-screen when interacting with the live actors, and limited its appearance in the final film through the use of POV shots and quick edits. A climactic end battle between Oliver Reed and the snake was planned and filmed. It included scenes of the snake partially swallowing Reed’s arm, and him stabbing and dismembering it with a knife. Fruet was unsatisfied with the effects, and heavily reedited the sequence, cutting most of the snake’s appearances and padding it out with flashbacks. Other extended, gory sequences were either planned or filmed, including a nightmare sequence in which some victims of the snake show up covered with graphic wounds. Fruet claims that additional shots with more graphic violence were filmed specifically for the East Asian release of the film.

Fonda said in 1990 that “They couldn’t figure out how to end the damn film. I told Ollie that it’s up to him to make that huge snake look good…’You’ve got to make it look like it’s going to kill you Ollie!’ He was probably sober part of the time. It’s really too bad. He’s a joke on himself. You know, the poor guy is very talented. It’s just that he’s simply become a caricature of himself.”

Fruet doesn’t think Spasms needed to rely on its gore to score with audiences. Our film is structured so that we could take every key scene of excitement, cut out the gore, and still have a very exciting, suspenseful film,” Fruet explained. “It was carefully crafted this way. It’s one thing that executive producer John Pozhke kept hammering home. He felt that blood and guts were passe, and I think he’s right. At the same time. I don’t think you could totally ignore it, because there’s a hell of a big market out there that still wants it.”

“It’s all a question of how they market the film,” Fruet said. “If they point it out as a snake film, we’ll probably be in the same kind of trouble as the others. But if they find a way to market it successfully. I think we’ll do very well, because it certainly has all the punch and action of a good horror picture knowing there were four or five other snake films in production puta lot of pressure on me,” Fruet added. “We had to have confidence in what we were doing. I would always revert back to the things that sold me on the project in the first place there were a number of very good scenes and I was confident they could carry the picture if I could execute them properly. So we stuck to that, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

William Fruet
William Fruet

There was one major benefit to this arrangement, however. Where most similarly budgeted horror films contract one or two “name stars” for a week or less, both Oliver Reed and Peter Fonda, who plays a psychic researcher investigating the millionaire’s strange relationship with the serpent, were contracted for the entire shoot. “That came about because the producers realized that we had to have some flexibility-we never knew just when the monster would arrive, so we had to have the actors throughout. As it turned out, it didn’t arrive until the last week of shooting.”

“We took a big gamble on this picture by having actual physical contact between people and the monster,” said producer John Newton. *Very few other monster pictures ever try this. It’s usually done with editing, miniatures, optical work or some other post-production trick. We decided to try it live, on camera. We actually had the hero, Oliver Reed, fight the monster. It’s a risk because if this climactic fight scene isn’t believable, the film would let you down.

“Oliver Reed was fabulous,” Newton added. “Fighting a 22-foot-long piece of rubber is hard to do and make it look real.”


The film’s score was composed by Eric Robertson. Tangerine Dream contributed the original theme over the end credits.

Directed by
William Fruet

Produced by
John G. Pozhke
Maurice Smith

Written by
Don Enright
William Fruet

Based on Death Bite
by Michael Maryk
Brent Monahan

Peter Fonda as Dr. Tom Brasilian
Oliver Reed as Jason Kincaid
Kerrie Keane as Suzanne Cavadon
Al Waxman as Warren Crowley
Marilyn Lightstone as Dr. Claire Rothman
Angus MacInnes as Deacon Tyrone
Makeup Department
Barbara Alexander hairdresser
Sandi Duncan … key makeup artist
Stephan Dupuis … special makeup effects artist
Carl Fullerton … special makeup effects artist
Linda Preston … assistant makeup artist
Dick Smith … special makeup effects artist
Special Effects by
Colin Chilvers … special effects consultant (as Collin Chilvers)
William De Paolo … assistant model maker: the monster
Lewis Gluck … mechanical effects: the monster
J. Clark Johnson … special effects trainee
Joan Juchnewicz … assistant model maker: the monster
Michael Kavanagh … special effects assistant
Neal Martz … model maker: the monster
George McLaughlin … assistant mechanical effects: the monster
Ray Mendez … designer and producer: the monster (as Raymond A. Mendez)
Brian Warner … special effects director

Cinefantastique v12n02-03

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