An old-fashioned English horror/mystery. Great atmosphere, fairly good performances all around, and an interesting premise. The Snake Woman was somewhat disappointing though; it’s too talky, slow-paced, and has lapses in logic.
Elsie Wagstaff’s witchy character Aggie really steals the show. She’s sort of a collective expression of the villager’s fears. It was smart to set the film in the late Victorian/Edwardian eras, as our suspension of disbelief works better in an age when science was still regarded as a sort of modern magic.
Most of the characters are interestingly flawed. Susan Travers, as the Snake Woman Atheris, is an innocent albeit evil presence. She’s sympathetic, whereas the creepy Aggie, technically a ‘good’ side, couldn’t be more abhorrent. Dr. Adderson is certainly evil for creating the snake child/woman, yet he faces the dilemma of risking the child’s mental condition if he does nothing. Dr. Murton is morally compromised to a lesser extent. He wouldn’t have fled the house if he didn’t think Adderson was in danger. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the sheppard gets stuck with Atheris. Even the stalwart Col. Wynborn isn’t blameless; he egged on the mob that sacked Adderson’s house.
It’s difficult to accept that a constable would condone, let alone lead a lynch mob, especially in that time when privacy was sacrosanct; i.e., that ‘a man’s home is his castle.’ Another thing that doesn’t add up is that the villagers set fire to the lab, but then it looks like the entire house burns down. In later scenes the main house has survived intact.
One cool touch in the mob scene is the snake writhing through a skull. It’s fitting that Adderson is killed by one of his own snakes. Fast-forwarding twenty years makes some sense, as it allows for the child to develop into the beguiling Artheris. Given the obvious attraction that Prentice had for her, it’s too bad the movie ends before this plot line is pursued.
It might’ve been more interesting if Prentice escapes with her. As it is their last encounter has a sort of sci-fi flavor, as though he’s trying to communicate with an alien. The ultimate ending would have them together long enough to conceive another generation of snake-children.
Cool viewing experience overall; a few tweaks here and there would’ve made it very memorable. 6/10.