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Eclectic DVD presents
Snake People (Isle of the Snake People) (1968)

"I've never seen a zombie, but I'm starting to feel like one."
- Lt. Andrew Wilhelm (Charles East)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 21, 2003

Stars: Boris Karloff, Julissa, Charles East, Tongolele, Ralph Bertrand
Other Stars: Santanon, Quintin Bulnes, Martinique, Judy Marichael, Jerry Petty
Director: Jack Hill, Juan Ibañez

Manufacturer: PDM
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, voodoo, zombies)
Run Time: 01h:30m:40s
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 820680504595
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-D+C- F

DVD Review

At the very end of his career, after completing Targets, Boris Karloff contracted to make four Mexican-American horror films. These vary in quality from mediocre to awful, in direct proportion to the amount of filming Karloff actually did on them before he was too ill to continue. These films have come out on a number of public domain labels, and Eclectic has joined the group with yet another rendition of Snake People, one of the better efforts in this quartet.

On an South Pacific (!) island, voodoo is rampant and zombies are being raised from the dead by a Damballah, a masked high priest intent on summoning the dread Baron Samedi. Annabella van de Berg (Julissa), an ardent prohibitionist, comes to the island to spread the word about temperance and also to visit her uncle, plantation owner Carl von Molder (Karloff). At the same time, Captain Pierre Labiche (Ralph/Rafael Bertrand) has come to the island to produce some discipline among the island constabulary and to enforce the laws against raising and enslaving the dead. But the law is no match for the black arts and before long, Annabella is being sought to be used as a human sacrifice.

This picture was partly shot in the USA, with segments directed by exploitation master Jack Hill, while the balance was shot in Mexico by Juan/Jhon Ibañez. Surprisingly, the two parts fit together reasonably well. The most problematic segments come at the finale, where a number of Karloff's lines have been dubbed in by someone not even trying to sound like him. The result is fairly ludicrous.

Karloff has a fairly large part for one of these late films (his stand-in has an equally large role), though it takes a long time for the picture to get to him, and the viewer has to sit through several temperance rants from Annabella first. But once the voodoo hits in earnest, it's not half bad. Santanon portrays a malevolent dwarf who seems to be behind much of the voodoo on the island. Von Molder's overseer, Klinsor (Quintin Bulnes), is deeply involved in voodoo, in no small part so that he can revive his dead wife as a zombie; as he wryly comments, he has a beautiful wife who cannot speak. There are several snake dances by the character Kalea (played by the voluptuous Tongolele, i.e., Yolanda Montes, one of a multitude of single-name actors here). These have a definite erotic charge to them, as does a drug-induced nightmare sequence rife with phallic symbolism and lesbian antics. There's no nudity, however, and I don't believe there was any originally. Most of the film works by suggestion and does so well enough to be passable.

Although not classic horror by any means, Karloff is always fun to watch, and for a change he's surrounded by some sinister goings-on that actually have a sense of dread about them. Worth a look, but don't expect George Romero-type brain-eating zombies.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture is presented in full frame; it might be pan-and-scanned but I didn't see any obvious instances of that. It's definitely not open matte since important information goes to all four sides of the presentation here. The print used is pale and washed out, with somewhat feeble blacks. It has become pinkish during much of the running time, giving a ruddy tone to skin colors. The print is grainy and slightly dupey, lacking in texture and fine detail. It's passable at best. The video is significantly better on Something Weird's release thematically paired with cheap film Rattlers.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is a 2.0 mono that suffers from substantial hiss, crackle and noise. Music is tinny and irritating throughout, with a fair amount of distortion and shrillness. While a bit muddy sounding, dialogue is all quite plainly understandable. Again, serviceable but nothing to be excited over.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 5 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras, and the chaptering features a laughably poor five stops (only four of which are accessible from the menu).

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

A decent but highly restrained zombie film with some odd quirks, in a somewhat faded print. No extras whatsoever.


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