Nneka the Pretty Serpent (1992)
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Cast: Ndidi Obi, Eucharia Anunobi, Ngozi Ezeonu, Kanayo O. Kanayo
Producer: Okechukwu Ogunjiofor
Director: Zeb Ejiro
Besides Living in Bondage, which is touted as the one movie which signalled the dawn of Nollywood, Nneka the Pretty Serpent remains another classic. Not only was the Zeb Ejiro directed flick a commercial success, it helped launch the careers of the likes of Ndidi Obi, Eucharia Anunobi, Ngozi Ezeonu and Rita Nzelu amongst many others. Released during the VHS, shoulder pads and punk era, the emergence of this movie saw a shift from foreign movies to Home Videos.
While critics opined the film was fashioned after Indian movie Najin, which was released in 1976, it was worth the effort. The star studded movie featured cameo appearances by James Iroha (Gringory of New Masquerade fame), late Claude Eke (Jegede Shokoya also of New Masquerade fame who passed away in 2002) and late singer Nelly Uchendu (who passed away in 2005).
Not quite the same old story
The film's storyline was simple, straightforward and this was a plus because it earned it a large following. It told the story of Nneka (Obi), a mermaid in human form who loved going after married men. Nneka's supernatural powers were all she needed to captivate any man she fancied and turn him into her zombie. She also had to contend with a number of obstacles and in turn didn't hesitate to destroy anything that stood between her and her desires. Right from the opening scene where you see a confrontation between Nneka and the wife of one of her victims, the plot is established.
Nneka is seen engaging in a verbal confrontation with the her rival who warns her to stay clear of her hubby. Nneka on the other hand shows no remorse and hence begins the spiritual and physical warfare between both parties. This movie's storyline could be forgiven or excused as not been stereotypical because it was the reality of the times. If shot recently it would be regarded as being over flogged.
The movie was shot in Igbo with English subtitles. With the subtitles running at a slower pace compared to the dialogue, the viewer had a lot of catching up to do with the action and intrigue.
The actors may have been considered top notch back then but a second look at the video today reveals a lot of line recitation, some overacting and lacklustre performances. A few acts like Sam Loco, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Anunobi displayed some intense acting thus saving the day. Obi was perfect as Nneka and made good use of the feminine charms to lure her victims.
While the soundtrack may be considered a bit annoying (and scary to kids back then), it was quite catchy and in turn, apt for the movie. Remembering the lines "Nneka M O, Obugini" brings back some nostalgia about how much Nollywood has evolved. The special effects employed in the movie also made it captivating.
Following the success of the first two parts, a third part titled The Return of Nneka was released a few years down the line. It didn't quite make as much impact as the first two parts because it faced serious contention form other movies like Rattle Snake, Taboo and Evil Passion and more so, the industry was booming. Although it's been 18 years since its release, Nneka the Pretty Serpent remains a reference point for Nollywood of old.