D. JOHN MACAULEY
SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO
This late 70's drive in favorite is a nice example of the "Nature Runs Amok" sub-genre of horror that was popular during that decade. Movies like WILLIARD or DAY OF THE ANIMALS were quite popular seemingly because of the success of JAWS. But if you look a little closer there is more there. These movies were mostly family friendly, PG rated affairs that were just scary enough for the whole family to check out. Making then drive in perennials for years to come.
RATTLERS is hardly the best of the lot, it holds onto the cliches of the genre with an iron fist. But it IS a lot of fun. The movie opens with a particularly vicious scene of two little boys climbing rocks in the desert to find a "human skeleton" one of them saw. They happen upon the den of rattlesnakes and are bitten multiple times until dead. It was pretty rare for a movie to open with the double killing of kids, especially one rated PG.
Our hero Dr. Tom Parkinson -insert your own distasteful joke here- (Sam Chew Jr.) is introduced in a hilarious scene where his assistant accidentally lets a cobra loose in their lab (that looks a helluva lot like a garage). Tom charms the cobra by waving his hand dangerously close to its mouth until it gets tired and almost falls asleep. Tom and his buddy discuss that the local Sheriff has asked him to come lend his expertise to these snake bite deaths. Tom is overjoyed at the prospect of earning a whole "Two Hundred Dollars!" for his work.
Soon he discovers that there is a lot more snake bite deaths in this little town than anyone knew. We see a small farm get laid to waste by a whole pack of rattlers that kill all the livestock, the family and even burn down the place. They are destruction in action!
Tom is assigned a pretty, perky breasted camerawoman, (Elizabeth Chauvet) to which he immediately takes a big dislike. His chauvinism is loud and clear as he asked the Sheriff (Tony Ballen) why he can't have male photographer as this is "no job for a woman". he's not gay he just hates women. Once out in the field she just will not shut up about her place in the workforce and how she is better than the other people vying for her jobs until the point that Tom has to put her in her place and yells at her for all her beliefs. Go men!!!
A harpy of a woman calls the plumber because she has no hot water. She manages to get into the bath anyway while he works under the house. We see her bare ass in a reminder that PG used to get away with a whole lot more than it does now. You guessed it. The snakes attack him and crawl through the pipes to get her in the bathtub. One snake is not reacting well to being in the water and makes a break for it out of the tub and out of the scene.
The dynamic duo of snake hunting search around and end up at an Air Force Base. The chopper pilot tells Tom about how they dumped and sealed some giant container in the local mines. It takes Tom a little while to connect the dots, but once he does he is NOT happy. Naturally the military stops cooperating with him at this point.
The movie plays out as expected with a showdown with the psycho General who was in charge of the whole operation that made the snakes go crazy. Tom really never does much of anything to save the day or help the cause. Usually the military guys come running in at the last minute to help out. Naturally Tom and the girl fall in love as she throws all her women's lib beliefs out the window to be with this woman hating jerk.
The snake action here is surprisingly unsettling to watch as people are clearly, and over and over again, put well with in striking reach of these snakes for good shots. They were probably de-fanged, or at least one hopes they are. But also unsettling is the fact they kill many snakes on camera. No PETA monitored action here as snakes are hacked, shot and drowned for our entertainment.
The unbridled misogyny is a little surprising too. The photographers portray of a liberated woman who just melts when she meets a strong man is just the leaping off point. ALL the women in the movie are harpies, bitches or just plain stupid. There isn't a decent strong portrayal of a woman anywhere in sight.
RATTLERS is an entertaining, and sometimes outrageous little nugget of the time long past. In it's own way it is a little shocking too, and not always for the best. I need to watch STANLEY the other killer snake movie of the era to see how they stack up against each other. Or the Hong Kong KILLER SNAKES which is really over the top.
Review © Andrew Copp