Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Snake Dancer (1976)
Review by Mike Wood | Released by Mondo Macabro | Buy from Amazon.com

While I dare you to name another South African cult film – I say this knowing that you are out there somewhere – you are not soon to forget this classic from the land of the Boers and Apartheid. SNAKE DANCER is the true story of Glenda Kemp (who plays herself in the film), a gentle girl from a severe Christian family who, from a young age, had fixated on snakes. Attention Freudians. Her inevitable rebellion from her strict upbringing occurs in an epiphany in a strip club. Unlike the epiphanies we’ve had in such establishments, hers still seems like a good idea once she is sober, and decides to become a stripper. Soon she is united with a huge python, which symbolizes her now total freedom from parental bondage and the icy grip of guilt and shame. Now totally liberated, Glenda dances on, always to her own beat.

Given the times in which this was made, and in the repressive society in which Glenda grew up, her actions are indeed shocking and daring. That she was able to prosper as a stripper under Apartheid, where many forms of entertainment were banned, and become famous, makes her story endearing despite the amateurish production. You root for her, all the more so because her story is true.

Shot on film in muted soft tones, like a cross between 70’s porn and a Lorimar production, with a cheezy soundtrack that to the knowing viewer implies that some sort of hardcore action may be forthcoming, which doesn’t. Its nudity is so jarringly matter-of-fact – the stage show, the changing in between sets – to the point of being uninteresting. The nudity is not titillating, but rather oddly human and intimate.

Included with the DVD is a short film on the history of South African cult cinema. This short would have been more interesting had it featured more clips, and less of the academic talking head, Trevor Steele Taylor, who does his best to make you not want to see any of the films he talks about. Also included is an interview with director Dirk de Villiers.

 


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