Calamity of Snakes (1983)

Keep your expectations low to the ground when slithering your way into Calamity of Snakes. This is, after all, a Hong Kong film whose opening credits include such crew positions as “lighiting” and “propesman.” However, Bruceploitation-vet director and co-writer Chi Chang makes up for any spelling errors with serpents, and lots of ’em.

Our hero is an architect who’s designed a 17-floor luxury apartment building, yet refuses to cut corners in interest of time, thereby vexing his greedy boss. At the construction site, a bed of snakes is unearthed, and rather than let professionals deal with it, the boss orders them killed, doing much damage himself with a bulldozer. Chang used real, live snakes throughout the movie, including their grisly, goopy murders here by shovels; soon after, we see a street vendor strip a live cobra to squeeze “juice” out of its bladder to concoct a refreshing beverage of sexual vitality.

Once the building is complete, the snakes — Survivors? Children? It’s never explained, nor needs to be — exact their revenge, first attacking a couple mid-coitus. After infiltrating the workers’ barracks, mongooses (again, real) are unleashed to clean house, in a long sequence that’s like Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” come to life. When a big ol’ boa constrictor is suspected, a snake expert is hired, resulting in an amazing fight sequence in an empty cardboard box factory between the old man and the huge boa, which can fling itself across the room.

By the time of the grand-opening shindig, Calamity of Snakes plays like an Irwin Allen disaster epic … if that Towering Inferno producer had the forethought to include slow-motion footage of a guy slinging a sword at all the herps being flung his way. They burst into the parking garage, drop in on a mahjong game, and slink into a child’s bed and a woman’s bath. Some of the slithering beasts growl when in attack mode; others come equipped with kung-fu stock sound effects; all contribute to one mad Mother Nature flick. —Rod Lott

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