Mamba aka Fair Game (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Y'know this was actually a fairly good recipe to make a very low budget film look like a glossier production.

Here's the premise: a millionaire software genius wants to kill his wife before she can claim her share of the loot in a divorce proceeding. He procures a snake which was been hormonally engineered to be instantly fatal, he adds his own electronic enhancements to the snake, thus allowing him to track the snake and exercise some control over his movements. He also slips a tracking device on his wife. He locks the wife and the snake in the same loft, turns on his laptop, and watches the snake icon follow the wife icon through a CADD floorplan of the loft.


Trudie Styler shows her buns in the tub, getting out of the tub, and undressing to get in the tub. No breasts are seen at any time.

About half of the film consists of the wife locked in the loft. Trudie Styler spends virtually the entire main body of the film pretending to run away from a snake, looking back over her shoulder, cowering, climbing, etc. Imagine Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, except without the tomatoes. During that time, the only break from that set is when they show the software guy following the action on his computer screen. Since he designs video games, his read-out of the situation looks like a variant of Pac-man, except in a Commodore 64 version. The beginning of the film is a two person set piece which takes place in a shack in the desert where the software guru buys the supersnake from some crazed desert loner (stock movie character #28). The end of the film is the guy and the wife in the loft together, a situation which results from his frustration at the snake's performance on its own.

That's it. Only three people are ever on camera. There are no extras, no flashbacks, no crowd or traffic scenes, just those three people, as if in a one-act stage play with a brief prequel in the desert. There is a main snake, and a box full of other snakes. There are basically only two locales - the loft and the shack. There is one lap-top computer with really cheesy Atari-like graphics.

This is about as low-budget as a film can get, allowing the filmmakers to stretch their budget enough to do a good job with some of the remaining elements, thus giving the appearance of a slick production. Is it any good? No, not really, but it does have some good elements. The musical score was provided by multiple Oscar winner Giorgio Moroder (Top Gun, Midnight Express, Flashdance). The art direction was done by the guy who won an Oscar for The Last Emperor, and the costumes were done by the guy who won an Oscar for Barry Lyndon. Of course, there wasn't much needed here in the way of set design and costumes. There was basically one set. It was nice, but it was just somebody's loft apartment, so I suppose the Last Emperor guy just suggested adding a few knick-knacks. The costume job was even easier. Gregg Henry wore a suit, Trudie Styler wore her underpants, and the snake seller was seen mostly from the chest up. So the Barry Lyndon costume dude had kind of an easy payday, and I think we can safely assume that he spent quite a bit less time on this than on Barry Lyndon.

The photography seemed to me to feature three basic repeating themes:

  • long shots of Trudie in the loft space, shot from a steep 3/4 overhead angle
  • the official David Letterman "snake cam", to show the snake's perspective. I think Donald Trump probably enjoys this POV.
  • the one-shot facial close-up

DVD info from Amazon.

  • bare bones

  • full-screen format

There is some good news:

  • From the very beginning of the tape to the very end of the closing credits, the entire running time is 81 minutes. The film itself ends at the 77 minute mark, so figure maybe 70-75 minutes of meat. Sometimes you have to know when not to overstay your welcome.
  • The performers do a pretty solid job.
  • The musical score was effective in the moment, but it was the basic horror movie stuff - sudden screeching noises when the snake appears from out of nowhere, staccato violins, you know the drill. The basic "woman trapped in a closed, perilous space in her underwear" movie music.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online.

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Barely watchable . In fact, some parts of it are not watchable, but some nail-biting moments with Trudie and the snake save it from utter cheesiness.

Return to the Movie House home page