Something Weird Video // 1976 // 185 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 25th, 2003
They're waiting to slither you!
In a small town near the Mojave Desert, some unsettlingly snake shenanigans have been going on. A couple of tow-headed pre-teen boys, during a surprisingly non-sexual game of Chicken, are overrun by a rabble of Rattlers and are fanged to death. A portly plumber on a surprisingly non-sexual house call gets a pissed-off python up the pants leg. Rigor mortis ensues. And a housewife, while setting a surprisingly non-sexual dinner table for her imaginary family, is overwhelmed by a vast array of vipers. The sheriff decides that experts are needed to solve this antagonizing asp issue, so he hires herpetologist (what STDs have to do with the rash of snake slaughters is...oh, wait) Tom Parkinson, and then for 1970s themed political philosophizing, they saddle him with a proto-feminist photographer named Ann Bradley (again, what STDs have to do with...sorry). All investigative roads lead to the local army base, where Dr. Drunkard and Colonel Crazy spin a wild yarn about a dead soldier, some sinister sidewinders, an experimental nerve gas classified as "CT3" and -- wouldn't you know it -- an abandoned mine shaft. It doesn't take a rocket launcher to figure out that Uncle Sam and his unprecedented post-Vietnam military build-up just might be responsible for the marauding mass of randy reptiles.
Rattlers is a really good, really goofy grade B horror/mad animal on the loose movie that throws everything but the boudoir bidet into the presentation to make sure it has all of its actual and potential enjoyment bases covered. There is a microsecond of nudity, some decent effects, and even a heated gender issues debate to maximize the amusement. Director John McCauley does a fine job with this tall tale of brash boas on the warpath, always knowing where to put the camera and how to crib from better, but not too big to be bastardized, blockbusters. The cinematic references (Jaws, Grizzly, etc) are pretty obvious as are the gloriously deranged Dr. Strangelove asides. Dan Priest, as the crackpot Colonel, gives old Sterling Hayden's precious bodily fluids a run for their purity of essence when he finally goes over the rainbow and starts screaming about his cherished chemical weaponry. Constantly treading the fine line between the realistic and the ridiculous, about the only thing Rattlers fails to champion, slither-wise, are those really insane souls who believe that manhandling diamondbacks in a sanctified setting will get them a few bites closer to heaven. A lack of true snakehandlers aside, this is an incredibly fun flick.
Unfortunately, Something Weird Video has to go and ruin a good time (and thing) by doing us the sorry favor of incorporating the tedious 1968 Mexican horror hooey known as The Snake People to the DVD as an added feature. While there is a connection via name, that's about it for this tired tale of witch doctors, plantation ownership, zombie field hands, and forbidden thrill kill cults. A film like this should been an equally whacked out wedge of warped wildness. It's got exotic locales, masked muerto style high priests, the living dead, women in jeopardy, midgets in tall hats, and skeleton clown makeup and lots of faux voodoo froufrou. Heck, it's even got an inordinately dilapidated Boris Karloff! And yet this movie should be labeled "The Snail People" for its narrative pace and performance energy. It takes a lot to make the ritualistic sacrifice of comely lasses tedious, and yet this movie meanders from stale plot point to rote set piece so slowly that infirmed old ladies in Depends, shuffling around on their walkers, are screaming for it to hurry the hell up. The identity of High Priest Dambhalla is never a secret since there is only one name actor in the entire cast, and he's a long way from the days of playing Shelley's reanimated reject. Singlehandedly lowering the quality of all jungle jive movies, The Snake People really sucks.
Thankfully, the other extra content here more than makes up for the inclusion of the aforementioned Hispanic hack job. Rattlers is presented in a pristine, full screen print that looks almost brand new. The Snake People looks like it was found under a sombrero and left out in the Central American sun to bake in the bad image quality. Giant/angry animal horror movie trailers are always a twisted treat, and SWV piles on a plethora of them. Equally entertaining are scantily clad women doing a literal serpentine with various members of the genus Acanthophis. Several of these slinky short subject sequences are offered to satisfy one's slimy scaled shimmy shivers. Along with a gallery of comic book art with Dead Elvi accompaniment that seems to recycle the same 70 covers and four songs ad nausea, this is a mixed blessing of a release. For every delightful dancing snake charmer, there's an overly plump dive bar beauty teaching a serpent about tonsillectomy scars. For all the fun and frenzy of Rattlers, there's the death knell droopy drawers of The Snake People. Overall, this DVD from Something Weird Video is a must own, if only to satisfy your craving for creepy crawlies. You'll be hard pressed to find a better forked tongue free-for-all, Karloff's calamity aside.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 185 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Snake-O-Rama Shorts
* Extra Added Attraction: Boris Karloff is the evil leader of a Cult of Voodoo Worshippers in the Mexihorror feature "The Snake People" (1968
* 90 min.)
* IMDb: Rattlers
* IMDb: The Snake People