Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:

Anaconda (1997)


The cheese rolls on

movie poster Here is MST-3000's Mike Nelson:

It has long been theorized that DVD is the perfect medium for viewing bad snake movies starring Jon Voight, but until the release of Anaconda, it was only that: a theory. After one thorough viewing, I can happily report that if DVD is not the perfect medium for bad snake movies, its pretty damn close!

Hollywood has been afraid to tackle the snake genre following the release of its masterpiece, 1973s Sssssss (pronounced Ssssss. The last s is silent.) It took the complicity of former MTV VJ Kari Wuhrer to get the project off the ground at all. Wuhrer, youll recall, was the force behind 1991s Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, which was the prequel to Beastmaster 3: The Eye of Braxus (It was to be called Beastmaster III: The Destruction of Jared Syn, but producers panicked when they realized that was the title of Metalstorm 2!!)

The story of Anaconda begins when an anthropologist (Eric Stoltz) leads a film crew down the Amazon in search of a legendary tribe. Personally I would not put Eric Stoltz in charge of my lawn maintenance, but then thats why Im not backing anthropological expeditions. The trouble begins when they pick up a grimy, lubricious priest named Sarone (Jon Voight), who has adopted the accent of former Frito-Lay mascot the Frito Bandito. His menacing demeanor suggests a ruthless, cunning killer, but in a surprising twist, well, thats exactly what he turns out to be. The film couldnt quite manage the twist.

Voight, who is accustomed to working with large, slimy reptiles (he was in "Runaway Train" with Eric Roberts), had better be careful or hell end up in the Dennis Hopper/Jeremy Irons/Gary Busey bargain bin, playing nothing but psychos who taunt your Bruce Willis/ Sylvester Stallone/Kurt Russells through cell phones with lines like, Tsk-tsk, Brannigan. We mustnt bring our nasty little gun, or people will die! As it is, Voight chews so much scenery; youd think he was Eric Roberts.

In Anaconda, its Jennifer Lopez who lands the unpleasant job of having to deal with the huge, scaly creature. No one likes to act with Voight. (Yes! Thats two nearly identical you talking-about-an-actor jokes in two paragraphs. I am on fire!)

Stoltz landed the cushiest job as he is almost immediately stung in the throat by a large, aquatic wasp and spends the rest of the movie prostrate, with no more dialogue. Its a good job for an actor, a lot like doing Whose Life Is It Anyway? without all the strenuous talking. He was saved from having to give breath to much of the script, which is more an assemblage of random words than an actual script. Its of a declarative nature, mostly characters saying things like, We need more fuel. Then, they go get more fuel. That big snake is out there, somewhere. And, in fact, the big snake is out there, somewhere. It all makes for a special kind of tedium that would be impossible with a traditional, more written script.

Really, its all just killing time until the huge digital snake encircles, consumes, and then regurgitates someone, a peculiar indignity that only certain actors can handle. For example, your Jon Voights and your Eric Stoltzes.

Suffice it to say that lots of people die, then the snake dies; along the way a few things blow up. The only question left to answer is this: Is the creature mentioned in the film, a kind of catfish that swims up the human urethra and digs its spines in, is this thing real? And if it is real, how does a creature like that evolve? Are there that many human urethras in the Amazon River?

Well, thats probably not what the producers wanted to leave me with.

The selling point of the whole thing, and the reason you spend the seventeen-dollar rental fee (late fees included), is the snake itself. And yet the shameful secret of Anaconda is how remarkably bad the digital snake really is. Newborns are not fooled by it. Ed Wood could do a better snake effect with a short length of clothesline and some Trilene. Ive been more terrified of drain snakes (especially one wielded by a plumber who displayed what I thought was a particularly indulgent wedge of bike rack).

So really, theres not a whole lot to the DVD, not even any nifty alternate audio track with the director explaining how he was able to make certain scenes as punishingly stupid as they were. As for digital snake movies as a whole, I suggest alternate uses for the new ultrafast, liquid-cooled computers used to do the animation. Superviolent war games, or to order hard-to-find pen refills over the Internet, perhaps. How about a forty-foot-long digital Jon Voight

2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never run low on air while hunting around under the sea.

"Anaconda" availabilty on video and on DVD from Amazon.com

Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book

Now here's Joe Bob Briggs with those drive-in totals:

(From Joe Bob's Ultimate B Movie Guide)


Giant-snake snoozer that somehow failed to destroy Jennifer Lopez' acting ambitions. On an Amazon riverboat expedition, she's a photographer who canoodles with anthropologist Eric Stoltz while the cast gets squeezed and eaten by the title creature in increasingly gory special-effects sequences. Despite nice performances by Ice Cube as the cameraman, Owen Wilson as the loudmouth demolitions expert, and Jon Voight as the creepy snake expert they pick up on the way, there's not much to see, and what's there is entirely predictable.
Eight dead bodies.
One dead monkey.
One suicide.
Panther-munching.
Wild-boar-devouring.
Head-eating snake.
Multiple snake-cam attacks.
Gratuitous spearfishing.
Eyeball rolls.
Snake-gullet cam.
Closeup tracheotomy!
Pickaxe to the flaming snake head.
With Jonathan Hyde as the bibulous opera-loving Englishman, Kari Wuhrer as the bimbo who gets leg-choked to death. 1 star

2000 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved.

SSSSSSS (1973)

Dirk Benedict of Battlestar Galactica gets a job as Strother Martin's new lab assistant, not knowing he's actually a mad scientist bent on turning people into giant snakes using his serum and medical experiments. See, this could have been prevented if Dirk had just ask a few more questions - what we have here is a failure to communicate. Anyway, a good job by makeup master John Chambers actually makes him look like a giant mutant snake.
Director Bernard Kowalski
Cast includes Jack Ging (of tv's The A Team), Tim O'Connor, Heather Menzies
Leonard Maltin gives it 3 stars. Not to be confused with "Squirm" (1976), in which a power line falls to the ground in a storm and zaps worms into a murderous frenzy. Leonard gave that one 3 stars too, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 thought that "Squirm" was so funny, it became episode 1012.

The Alligator People (1959)

Lon Chaney as the alligator-man Lon Chaney was near the end of his career when he made this one. Beverly Garland goes to her runaway husband's family mansion and discovers that he's being transformed into an alligator. But the mad doctor has an excuse - hubby was involved in an automobile accident and says the experimental reptile serum is keeping him alive. Interesting premise, but the costume is simply a green alligator suit with an alligator head that fits so poorly, seams can clearly be seen as well as cloth folds on the body. Cast includes Bruce Bennett, Directed by Rey Del Ruth.
No relation to "An Alligator Named Daisy" (1957), a British comedy in which a travelling salesman picks up the wrong alligator suit case - no monsters.

The first sequel to "Anaconda" is scheduled for release 8-27-04. "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" has none of the original cast (they wanted too much money) and is about a group of explorers looking for a rare orchid when they stumble on some giant, mutant, hungry anacondas

On to Blood Surf, about a giant salt-water alligator snacking on surfers

Or would you rather check out a radioactive giant Octopus

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