Oliver Reed mumbles his way through this forgotten 80s horror as a big game hunter who was bitten by a large snake seven years ago. He is the only known person to have survived a bite from this snake, which killed his brother on the same hunting trip. Every seven years the “natives” on the unnamed island where Reed and bro went snake hunting do some face paint and dancing ceremony to raise this devil snake from hell. Perhaps the snake being from hell is why it now has a psychic connection with Reed, but also because that gives him the opportunity to do very little but sit in a chair and quake while the camera then cuts to POV shots of the snake killing everyone in “California” (really somewhere in Canada) AND leaves the heavy lifting to the real star of this film, Peter Fonda. Sad trombone. Seriously, what the hell happened to that guy? Everyone else in the family could act their way out of a little baggie of cocaine except him.
Anyway, Fonda’s character wants the snake because he is a psychiatrist who studies ESP. I’m not sure why Reed wants it, but he’s paying to have it smuggled in on a ship. There’s another group of people who try to steal the snake though while Reed and Fonda are having it imported….a church of snake handlers! And in California, not their native Tennessee! That means there are two weird religions to gawp at in this film, the voodoo islanders from the beginning of the film, and snake handlers! Although, the writer missed their chance to have the leader of the second snake cult be named Mr. Crowley, instead assigning that moniker to the shifty fellow hired by the snake handlers to steal the snake. Unfortunately for everyone in the vicinity of the lab where it is being held, he doesn’t manage to steal it, but he does set it loose. Then the film sort of gets going, after 45 minutes of Reed whispering and Fonda making me cringe. Alas, the few snake bites and the requisite shower scene that follow are not enough to make this interesting. At least Mr. Crowley has some cool swelling appliances when he gets bitten, though he misses a chance to blow up real good, and Fonda gets to go all Chris George in Grizzly on the snake in the end, with a machine gun he apparently pulls directly out of his ass.
What is most interesting about this film for me to discuss here is that this is not the first time that Ollie Reed co-starred with a poisonous snake in the 80s, that honor going to the 1981 film Venom. Venom also stars the arguably more terrifying than any snake Klaus Kinski, whose character bitch slaps Oliver Reed’s character. Which means that Kinski actually slapped Reed in the face like a pimp, probably at full power. Yes, Oliver Reed, who once threw a reporter out of his house for smiling while having curly hair, who demanded to see Alan Bates’s dick to make sure it wasn’t bigger than his before agreeing to get on with filming the nude wrestling scene in Women in Love, actually stood there and allowed himself to be backhanded on film by Werner Herzog’s best fiend. And all that is to say that although I love Reed, he was super sexy in his day and oh that voice, that one meeting of two crazy actors in Venom was much more exciting than the entirety of this film called Spasms.
I got this tape in a shipment sent to my husband by a friend of his who is downsizing his collection of tapes. Most of the tapes are old wrestling dubs, but there’s some high weirdness we’ll get to as well. Spasms is on HBO video, is somewhat rare (I believe, from a cursory search of available tapes online), but is quite fairly obscure because it kind of sucks. Someone called THE VIDEOMAN has kindly edited together a highlight reel and uploaded it, and that’s all you need to watch.