Venom (1981 film)

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US theatrical release poster
Directed byPiers Haggard
Screenplay byRobert Carrington
Based onVenom
by Alan Scholefield
Produced byMartin Bregman
Edited byMichael Bradsell
Music byMichael Kamen
  • Morison Film Group
  • Venom Productions Limited
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 28 November 1981 (1981-11-28) (Japan)
  • 19 January 1982 (1982-01-19) (United Kingdom)
  • 29 January 1982 (1982-01-29) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£7.5 million[2]
Box office$5.2 million[3]

Venom is a 1981 British horror film directed by Piers Haggard, written by Robert Carrington, and starring Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, Nicol Williamson, and Sarah Miles. It is based on Alan Scholefield's novel of the same name.


International criminal Jacques Müller (Klaus Kinski) and his girlfriend Louise Andrews (Susan George) plan to kidnap Philip Hopkins (Lance Holcomb), the grandson of Howard Anderson (Sterling Hayden), a retired hunter and the wealthy owner of a hotel chain. Louise goes undercover as a maid working for Philip's mother Ruth and seduces her chauffeur Dave Averconnelly (Oliver Reed), convincing him to help in the kidnapping. On the day of the kidnapping, Müller tricks Howard and Ruth into leaving home while Louise and Dave kidnap the boy. Philip leaves briefly to retrieve a pet snake, which is accidentally swapped with a black mamba meant for toxicologist Dr. Marion Stowe. Howard returns home early, and the black mamba is released and bites Louise in the face repeatedly before fleeing into the ventilation system.

Müller and Taylor Species take Howard and Philip hostage, while Louise dies from the black mamba's venom. Dr. Stowe contacts the police, having discovered the mix-up, and a police officer is dispatched to the Hopkins residence. The officer is shot and killed by Dave with one of Howard's rifles, but the officer manages to call for backup before he dies. More police officers arrive, led by Cmmdr. William Bulloch (Nicol Williamson), and after learning about the hostages, Bulloch has the street sealed off and tries to negotiate with Müller, but refuses to give in to Müller's demands for transportation and 1 million in different currencies. Dr. Stowe arrives with a case of anti-venom and informs Bulloch of the black mamba. Bulloch and Dr. Stove warn both the kidnappers and hostages of the snake, and Müller lies that Louise is still alive, and orders Dr. Stowe to come to the front door with the anti-venom to treat her. Dr. Stowe complies and is taken hostage.

Bulloch discovers a secret entrance through the cellar, and he and two other officers try to enter. Dr. Stowe suggests turning off the central heating source, as this would send the black mamba into a coma. Dave and Howard climb into the cellar at the same time Bulloch and the officers enter. Bulloch shoots and injures Dave, and the black mamba attacks, forcing Bulloch and the officers to flee while Howard flees from the cellar and back onto the first floor. Dave is unable to escape and is killed by the black mamba.

Müller gives Bulloch a severed finger, which he falsely claims belongs to Dr. Stowe. Unable to enter the cellar with the black mamba inside, Bulloch gives in to Müller's demands and brings him his getaway car, which was previously confiscated. Bulloch demands to see the hostages, and Müller forces Dr. Stowe onto a balcony, forcing her to tell Bulloch Howard and Philip are fine. Philip and Howard notice the black mamba and allow it to attack Müller, who stumbles onto the balcony while grappling with the snake. Howard pulls Dr. Stowe out of the line of fire, and police snipers proceed to shoot Müller and the snake multiple times, and Müller and the black mamba tumble off the balcony. The hostages are rescued and Ruth embraces Philip. The final shot of the film reveals that the black mamba had laid an egg in the vents, which hatches and slithers off.



Tobe Hooper was originally attached to direct but quit because of "creative differences", and Piers Haggard replaced him.[citation needed]

Kinski chose to do this film instead of Raiders of the Lost Ark because the salary was higher. In his autobiography, Kinski Uncut, he also stated that the script for the Spielberg movie was "moronically shitty".[4]

Haggard later recalled:

I took over that at very short notice. Tobe Hooper had been directing it and they had stopped for whatever reason. It hadn’t been working. I did see some of his stuff and it didn’t look particularly good plus he also had some sort of nervous breakdown or something. So anyway they stopped shooting and offered it to me. Unfortunately I had commitments, I had some commercials to shoot. But anyway I took it over with barely ten days of preparation—which shows. It doesn’t become my picture, it’s a bit inbetween... [Oliver Reed was] scary at first because he was always testing you all the time. Difficult but not as difficult as Klaus Kinski. Because Oliver actually had a sense of humour. I was rather fond of him; he could be tricky but he was quite warm really. He just played games and was rather macho and so on. Klaus Kinski was very cold. The main problem with the film was that the two didn’t get on and they fought like cats. Kinski of course is a fabulous film actor and he’s good in the part, the part suits him very well. They were both well cast but it was a very unhappy film. I think Klaus was the problem but then Oliver spent half the movie just trying to rub him up, pulling his leg all the way. There were shouting matches because Oliver just wouldn’t let up. None of this is about art. All the things that you’re trying to concentrate on tend to slip. So it was not a happy period.[5]


The film was released theatrically in the United States by Paramount Pictures in 1982. It grossed $5,229,643 at the box office.[3]

The film was released on special edition DVD by Blue Underground in 2003. It features audio commentary by Haggard.[6]

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 43% based on 7 reviews with an average rating of 4.8/10.[7] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "If Venom doesn't turn out to be the silliest film of 1982, it's a good bet that it will land within a hoot and a holler of that distinction."[8]

See also


  1. ^ "VENOM (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 2 February 1982. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 30.
  3. ^ a b "Venom". Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  4. ^ Dwight Garner. "Kinski Uncut". Salon Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 August 1999. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  5. ^ Piers Haggard interview, 2003, MJ Simpson accessed 11 April 2014
  6. ^ "Venom". Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Venom (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  8. ^ Vincent Canby (5 February 1982). "Venom". New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2011.

External links

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