Fangs for the Memories
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 11/01/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I give "Rattlers" 3 stars, "The Snake People" 4 stars, and the extras 3 stars.Rattlers is just another one of the many barely distinguishable movies about humans attacked by swarms of snakes/spiders/bees/ants/frogs/etc. which came out in huge numbers in the 1970s. It has all the usual characters: the local sheriff, the good scientist, the love interest, the small-town victims, etc. Not bad as a time-waster, but this one doesn't even have the usual big-name B actor like William Shatner or Michael Caine to laugh at."The Snake People", which isn't even given double billing on the front cover, is not only a longer film, but far superior. It is one of several cheap Mexican films Boris Karloff made towards the end of his life (usually small, unimportant scenes filmed in L.A. sliced into the rest of the movie, filmed in Mexico). Most of these films were quite exploitative, making me wonder if Karloff knew the true contents of the rest of these films. However, this one is very tame and could easily get a PG rating. Unlike the rest of Karloff's last films, the Snake People has half decent production values (except for the titles) and is a fun movie for reasons other than its unintentional humour. This one was scripted (but not directed) by Jack Hill, who is now largely famous for being the writer and director of most of Pam Grier's hits and for being a major influence upon Tarrantino.The Snake People is about a very professional but slighty sadistic Mexican officer arriving in a village plagued by "superstitious" beliefs about voodoo in order to clean it up. He is accompanied by Karloff's temperance worker daughter who wants to wipe out alcoholism in the town and who, despite her slogan "Lips that touch the bottle will never touch mine", falls for the handsome local police Lt. who really loves the booze. Karloff plays a local plantation owner who coincidentally studies mind-over-matter in his spare time and has books on how to use snake venom to turn people into near-dead mindless creatures, but the police fail to see anything significant in this. (But the ending does manage to make Karloff's whole role in the affair rather muddy). There is also an evil midget, a guy who wants to bring back a dead woman for his own salacious purposes, a voodoo priestess, three cannibal women, a few unimpressive zombies, and many visually striking voodoo cermonies (in one, a live chicken is beheaded). The ending (I think the director was trying to be Sergio Leone) makes little sense, but that's part of the movie's fun.The extras on this disc aren't very strong, but they include the complete snake dance seen briefly at the beginning of every Something Weird DVD as part of their in-house ad."
"I don't know what it is you're looking for...man, there's n
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 05/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My girlfriend hates snakes...nay, she despises them with an extreme passion...why? I haven't the slightest idea...she's also not a big fan of horses, but that's only because one fell on her (no foolin'). At least with equines she can see them without going into a tizzy, which isn't the case with snakes. Needless to say, Rattlers (1976) is the kind of movie I could never get her to sit through, at least not without some very strong sedatives...released through Harry H. Novak's Box Office International Pictures, the film was produced, directed, and co-written by John McCauley, whose only other credit includes a feature titled Deadly Intruder (1985). Starring in Rattlers is Sam Chew Jr. (Voyager from the Unknown, Time Walker) and Elisabeth Chauvet, in her only silver screen appearance. Also appearing is Tony Ballen (Under the Rainbow), Ronald Gold (Helter Skelter), and Dan Priest (Tag: The Assassination Game, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer).
As the film begins we see two young boys leave their family's campsite in the desert to fool around on a ridge, and soon enough they find themselves in a den of bitey snakes (well, that's two less places at the dinner table tonight). We later discover this wasn't an isolated incident as snake related deaths within the Mojave County area are on the rise, so much so the sheriff (Ballen) contacts a nerdy, chauvinistic herpetologist (a specialist in reptiles and amphibians) by the name of Dr. Tom Parkinson (Chew) for help. After reviewing the evidence (the bit up dead kids), Tom thinks something is hinky due to not only to the large number of bites suffered by the victims, but also the seemingly aggressive nature of the attacks (apparently snakes don't normally attack unless given a good reason, something like, oh, I don't know, a couple of snotty children clomping around within their den). After a couple more incidents (i.e. deaths), the county ponies up and hires Tom to investigate the matter further, saddling him with a hot `liberated' female photographer named Ann Bradley (Chauvet) for documentation purposes. As the pair head out into the desert, the bitey snake attacks continue, including a hot divorcee getting nipped in her bathtub. The trail eventually leads Tom and Ann to a nearby army base where Tom gets an earful from a gabby helicopter pilot about some sort of canister he dumped in an abandoned mineshaft, one the army subsequently sealed over with a couple of tons of concrete. Tom, in a fairly large speculative leap, thinks whatever was in the canister may be linked to the recent overly aggressive reptile activity, but the colonel in charge, played by Priest, dummies up good. About this time Tom states he needs to go to Las Vegas and visit the county recorders office to get information on the mine, but really it just seemed a ploy to get Ann, who's obviously not used to camping in the desert, in a comfy hotel room to romance (i.e. nail) her proper, which he does...upon returning to the desert (we never even saw them visit any gooberment offices), things get a might bit hairy (and bitey) as the proverbial stuff hits the fan.
Rattlers wasn't a great film, but it was a lot of fun and actually featured some decent production values given the type of movie it was, that being a small scale production cranked out for the popular drive-in market of the 1970s. The story is basically comprised of a mixture of Tom and Ann running around the desert, along with numerous sequences of various individuals being attacked. The most memorable bit, without a doubt, is the bathtub scene, where a woman soon finds herself sharing her evening bath with a few slippery companions after a plumber, working under the house gets bit up and leaves a pipe disconnected, allowing serpents easy access into the pipes. There are no spectacular performances here, but there are a whole lot of snakes. Sam Chew Jr., who played the character of Tom, did all right I suppose, but he seemed better suited for a job as a weatherman on a local news program than that of a male lead in a film. I think if the filmmakers had gotten a more recognizable actor, say a William "The Shat' Shatner, for the part, I would have enjoyed the movie even more, but then one must work within ones budget. At least they had the presence of mind to toss in a relatively attractive female lead in that of Elisabeth Chauvet. Her character, the photographer, seemed pretty pointless, particularly since she snapped so few pictures and then ones she did take didn't appear to be related to the investigation. At one point she was directed to take some shot at night, which she did, but I didn't notice the flash, so either she was using some sort of infrared photo equipment or her skills as a photographer were questionable (she did engage the flash during some later shots taken at night, so I'm opting for the latter). As I said, there are a decent amount of real snakes throughout the film, but not a whole lot actual shots of snakes biting people. Given the quick cuts during the snake scenes there's an inference of people being bitten, but otherwise the action's pretty tame stuff. There were some attempts at character development (Ann relates a boo hoo story about her childhood), but this felt unnecessary and only serves to fill out the running time. I would have preferred more sequences of snakes invading and attacking the residents in the area, but whatever. One of the more humorous aspects of the film, for me at least, was how the characters of Tom and Ann where initially presented as being at odds with each other, he a chauvinistic sort who thinks women should be happy with their lot in life, and she a liberated, independent sort frustrated with a male dominated society. The pair has a few conversations expressing their opposing opinions, and then later on, out of the blue, they're involved in a romance with each other. I guess chasing snakes around in the desert serves as some sort of aphrodisiac given how hot and heavy they got towards the end. Ah well...there were a couple of good scares in the film, especially if you have an aversion to snakes. All in all, this ain't a bad way to kill an hour and twenty minutes, if you dig creepy crawly features from the 1970s.
The picture quality, presented in full screen aspect ratio, on this Something Weird Video DVD release looks decent (there's a few lines and other age related signs of wear), and the Dolby Digital mono audio comes through relatively clean. The real treat here comes in the form extra features, as thrown in as a bonus is the 1971 Mexihorror film The Snake People, starring Boris Karloff, near the end of his lengthy career. The picture looks rough, and it's certainly not one of Boris' finer cinematic moments, but it's here, and doesn't include the `SWV' imprint logo Something Weird sometimes slaps on the bottom right hand corner of its material. Also included are six `Snake-O-Rama' shorts (some featuring nekkid women), a gallery of comic cover art with accompanying music by the Dead Elvi, an original theatrical trailer, along with trailers for other films including Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), The Black Cat (1966), The Crawling Hand (1963), The Crawling Thing (1971), Creature of Evil (1971), Creature of the Walking Dead (1965), Devil Woman (1970), Dragons Never Die (1986), Don't Open the Window (1974), The Horror of Party Beach (1964), The Killer Shrews (1959), Night of the Cobra Woman (1972), and a promotional bit for something called the Spasmitus Midnight Thrill Show. I give three stars to the main feature on this release, along with an extra star for the bonus materials.
Greg Goodsell | Bakersfield, CA United States | 06/09/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"RATTLERS (1976) is a forgotten little fright film released by the ubiquitous Harry Novak that I recall playing the Drive-Ins during my youth. It failed to get an official video release, and is now winging its way to us via the good folks at Something Weird DVD! One should be warned that just because it's digital, it doesn't mean that RATTLERS is a feast for the senses: indeed, the print is brown, worn-out and ugly to the eye. In actuality, it adds to the grittiness of its barren desert setting.We know the film has its heart in the right place when two tow-headed little boys wander from their family RV to go snooping around the Mojave Desert and fall into a bed of rattlesnakes. Ah! How trash films of this era rose to the occasion ... starting a film with the deaths of two small children whose biggest sin was taking a sip from their white trash daddy's beer! Something's not right as other citizens of the sand-swept area begin to fall prey to the slithery ones .... A farm boy goes in search of his father, finds a rattler in a hayloft and falls to his death, starting a fire. A suburban ranch house becomes inundated with writhing diamondbacks. A bitter divorcee enjoys a bubble bath when her tub becomes full of snakes (perhaps taking a cue from the "parasite rape" scene in Cronenberg's SHIVERS/THEY CAME FROM WITHIN that hit theaters the year before). The Mojave Sheriff's Department enlists the aid of a herpetologist Dr. Tom Parkinson (Sam Chew Jr.) to find out the reason behind the reptilian backlash at the princely sum of $200 a day. He's paired with photographer and Ali McGraw look-alike Anne (Elisabet Chauvet). Parkinson threatens to throw Anne's "liberated ass" back to where she came from if she doesn't change her attitude, and we know that in the movies this means they're destined to fall in love with each other. In the course of their investigation, they go to Las Vegas for a night, dance, drink and return to their desert tent for a little canoodling (what, the Shriners were holding their convention that weekend?).There's a vague reason as to why the snakes have developed an attitude. Something about a military outpost and something buried in a mineshaft. The Colonel (Dan Priest) goes about bellowing orders, gunning down his opponents, and there's a not very big finale in the desert. There's even a "The End ... or is it?" that harkens back to the monster movies of the 1950s, of which this is a game retread. RATTLERS is a hokey little diversion that I'm sure played the bottom half of many an ozoner. The Something Weird DVD has snake-related shorts, trailers galore (the main reason I think many people buy them) and one of Boris Karloff's last films, SNAKE PEOPLE. Hiisssssssssss ......"
Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein | under the rubble | 05/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Oh no! The army's been dumping more horrid chemicals in the desert! This time it's effected the natural order by turning harmless rattlesnakes into hyper-aggressive killers! No one is safe from the venomous fangs of these slithery fiends! They can even bite through jeep tires! Can a herpitologist (Sam Chew) find a way to deal w/ these vipers of doom?? RATTLERS is an ok movie, w/ some mildly exciting scenes and minimal carnage. Meanwhile, SNAKE PEOPLE is a wild affair w/ Boris Karloff as a voodoo guy and exotic dancing legend Tongalele as the red hot voodoo priestess! Yessiree!! Watch also for the cannibal women!..."