Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Playground Gets Ponderous: Why Remember Anything?

To Allude to a Currently Popular Tune: Let’s Roll in the Deep 
This little piece of writing will have deep and philosophical importance.  
We’ll delve into such metaphysical issues as memory, longing, and regret.  What’s the catch in setting such a high brow precedent for myself?  
Quite simply to marry it to something entirely lowbrow: Specifically the schlock horror flick known as Ssssss (1973)(That’s right, there is six S’s in that title).  What in the devil is that?  From what I remember: it was essentially about a mad scientist turning his hunky young male assistant into a snake.   
The hunky young assistant inevitably gets involved with the scientist's hot young thang daughter.  
Wait, is that why the scientist slips some “snake transformation” medicine into the hunky young assistant’s drink?  That seems like direct motivation, doesn’t it?  (That also reminds me of a very dirty joke about the farmer catching his daughter out in the barn...that’s a different story.  Never mind.)  
So, obviously, my recollection of Ssssss is at about a “C+” level.  That being said, this little movie has stuck (at least with yours truly).  

To Allude to a Currently Popular Book: What gets made to stick? 
On the surface, this was nothing but a late night schlock TV programmer.  There’s a time and place for that (says he who worships at the altar of camp).  
I’m sure it gave me my temporary (mental) sugar rush.  The same one you get from a scary campfire story, a creepy youtube video, or a run through a darkened empty parking lot.  This is a limited fix, equal to snorting a little pixie stick up your nose.  Cheap thrills are engineered to be disposable.  That is what creates the immediate need to get back on the roller coaster.  
This is all common sense.  So why am I bothering to point it out? 
It’s all a clever bait and switch.  I don’t want to answer the real question I’m asking.     
Why, in a life time of watching films, do I remember the obscurity known as Ssssss?  
On the next Matrix like level: Why do we remember anything?  Not just movies.  Why is one trip to the grocery store more memorable than another?  Why do some elements of life leave more of a scar on the psyche than others?  

I don’t know, kids.  I really don’t.  
That being said, let’s take a stab at Ssssss.  
Towards the end of the movie, one of the lead characters takes a trip to the carnival.  (Was it the hunky assistant or the hot young thang daughter?  I want to say it was the assistant).  Through some odd turn of the plot, we find out this particular sideshow is littered with the scientist's failed experiments.  People he tried to turn into alligators, rats, and worse.  
What happens when an experiment goes bad?  Make some money off of it.  
The only heartbreaking complication: The hero of the movie, our star of the show, is on his way to becoming a monster.  We glimpse his fate in a very ugly, real way.
That is when we find ourselves outside the realm of the shitty late night movie.  This is the land of universal fear.  Who the fuck wants to have their body hijacked and mutated in godforsaken ways?  (I’m assuming that is most of us.  Unless of course you are into that kind of thing.  Then hey, that’s your prerogative).  
The assumption I’m moving forward with?  This one truly freaky sequence etched itself a little place in my skull.  That is the only way to convey it.  
There is the answer to my first question.  

I can shrug my shoulders at the other minor players in this scenario.  My memory retention for film is slightly above average.  That coupled with a legitimate passion makes for a brain which functions as a vacuum.  So what?  It’s not like it comes with guidelines or insurance.  
I suppose I could have taken Ssssss to the dumper a long time ago.   
The truth is that I never forgot it.  In no way was this a “holy grail” movie for me.  I haven’t crawled over broken glass to find it.    Yet I always snickered whenever I came across it.  I’ve seen a few dusty copies of it hanging out on video shelves.  I also might have come across it in various reference books.  When I found it in bargain bin no long ago, I had to snap it up.  
(There is a cheap “one DVD” package out there with three other movies.  What the hell are they?  Doesn’t matter). 
Here’s a parting shot.   
The older I get, the more I hate anything that dictates what is “important.”  That is all encompassing: the educational system, the media, so called experts, and just anyone else you are told to trust blindly.  Fuck all of that with a rubber hose.  You can’t deem what your heart and soul invest themselves in.  (I just used the expression: “fuck all of that with a rubber hose.”  Mom would be so proud.)   
How does that lead us back full circle to Ssssss?   
I’m not entirely certain that it does.  However, I would urge you to think of a few movies you remember.  Is there any earthly reason they are still rattling around in your head?   

What?  You Wanted a Movie Review? 
I’ve employed another clever bait and switch.  
I have not watched Ssssss again yet.  Why?  It will break my heart.  
There is no way it’s going to be nearly as cool as I think it once was.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting to it.
That being said: I can’t write a standard review of it.  Nostalgia (the side effect of memory) will taint my critical facilities. 
Still here?  Thanks for reading.  


  1. I'm not sure Ssssss has ever received such a glowing review, to be honest. This is a flick that really wigged me out as a kid, too. It's on Netflix streaming, and I was thinking about reviewing it for Cheese Magnet, but I can't live up to what you've written about it...

  2. That's kind of you, man. I'm totally full of shit, but I'm glad you liked the (not real) review. I'm going to watch it again, maybe tonight.

  3. I'm going to have to look for this movies, sounds like a gem that nestles into a blood vessel in your brain waiting to creep to your consciousness every time a sideshow or a snake slithers by. Awesome post \m/

  4. You'll love it, Jessica! It's a great one for your blog, too. It's obviously pretty damn unforgettable if it stuck with me all these years.


    Here is a different opinion if anyone is interested.