Saturday, August 26, 2017

201. Women of Devil's Island

Image from IMDB
201. Women of Devil’s Island aka Le prigioniere dell’isola del diavolo (1962)
Director: Domenico Paolella
Writer: Domenico Paolella
From: Drive-In
Women exiled to a French prison island and forced to mine for gold try to both survive and escape their venal captors. Salvation seems to come with the arrival of a compassionate captain, but his motives are unsure.
This movie’s curious just on a physical level, before we even get to any of the content of the movie. The version I have is from American International Pictures’ television distributors so this is the TV cut. That’s fine, but this not only clearly a bad VHS rip—tracking errors are still present—it’s taken from an original print so old and worn that all the color has been leeched away. This movie isn’t in black and white, it’s all in sun-bleached sepia tones, which was not the intention. On top of all that, there isn’t even a title card. There’s never a moment on my copy where the actual title of the movie appears. I have other movies from these sets where that happens, but I’ve never had the distributor’s logo pop up and then cut directly to the movie. The opening credits were actively removed at some point which is just strange.

We open with a group of women being taken to the titular Devi’s Island to serve out prison sentences for various crimes—thievery, sex work, etc. Among them is Martine Foucher who’s been sentenced to live on the island, seemingly for political reasons. Her father was a bureaucrat who fell out of favor, he sister was previously exiled to this island, and now it’s her turn.

They arrive and are introduced to the evil Lt. Lefèvre who’s intent on working them to death. Martine finds her sister posing as Jeanette, a woman sentenced for sex work but who died on the way over. Jeanette is working on a plan to escape with several other women and brings Martine in. However, they don’t invite another prisoner to join them and she rats them out. All the escapees are captured and Jeanette is shot in the back.

The “Old Testament logic” I’ve mentioned before on this blog is kind of in play here. Jeanette sleeps with Lefèvre to facilitate the escape and get access to the island’s gold. Despite being one of the good guys, in terms of movies as moral spaces, she dies for having sinned. Likewise, at the end of the movie, the rat dies as well. It’s a noble death, but she’s sinned so the movie has to punish her.

Anyway, a French ship arrives early and Captain Vallière arrives, taking control of operations from Lefèvre. The captain’s first orders are that the escapees be released from torture and that the women not be abused or sexually assaulted by the guards. He starts falling in love with Martine, but it turns out he’s a pirate posing as a French officer and steals all the gold.

He’s not a bad pirate, though. He’s stealing to fund the revolution and so goes back to the island to save Martine and one of his comrades that got left behind. His boat crashes on the island, he’s found by the rat who protects his secret, and Martine accidentally leads the guards to his hiding space. As he’s about to be hung, the rat grabs a torch, admits to what she’s done, and sets fire to several barrels of gunpowder.

The captain arms the women, they start fighting the French guards, and the pirates arrive on the shore. Martine kills Lefèvre, the guards are all killed by the women and pirates, and the survivors all leave on the ship to join the revolution. THE END.

The movie’s a little odd structurally. The plot of a woman being exiled to a prison island, finding her sister there, and then participating in an escape plan should be enough to carry a movie on its own, but that’s just the first thirty minutes here. The sister’s dead a little under halfway through (the TV cut is very short, by the way. IMDB says this is 86 minutes long. My copy was 73) and then Martine kind of becomes a supporting character. The movie becomes the captain’s story, and even that runs through several iterations before the movie ends.

In the end, the whole thing’s just kind of weird. I don’t know what they were aiming for story-wise, the print is really messed up, and it’s never really that interesting. It’s not bad, but that means it’s not funny-bad either. As a whole, it’s pretty mediocre and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

Friday, August 25, 2017

200. Horrors of Spider Island

200. Horrors of Spider Island aka Body in the Web aka Ein Toter hing im Netz (1960)
Director: Fritz Böttger
Writers: Fritz Böttger, Eldon Howard, and Albert G. Miller
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org
A group of dancers flying to Singapore crashes in the ocean and washes up on a deserted island. Their boss gets bitten by a giant spider and transforms into a murderous monster. Will they survive long enough to escape the island?
The 200th movie! Due to repeats on these sets, this is movie 251/400 which means I have only 149 movies left to go—74 and 1/2 more weeks of this. I’ll be doing this until January 26, 2019. Jesus, how is this my life? However, while it was random chance that Horrors of Spider Island came up as the 200th film, it’s kind of appropriate. I watched this more than nine years ago during the first iteration of the PD project, uploaded it then, and there’s an MST3k version of it. The whole purpose of getting these Mill Creek sets and watching all the movies in them was to find public domain films that I could add to the Internet Archive so they could be used—by me or others—in an MST3k-style midnight movie show. By sheer luck, this movie brings all those elements together in one package.

Naturally, it sucks. I mean, c’mon, irony rules o’er all and Murphy’s Law always applies. Despite this movie’s short runtime (just under 75 minutes) very little happens and there’s a lot of padding. We start with the would-be dancers sitting outside the promoter’s office waiting for a chance to audition. He arrives, they each take turns performing, and he accepts or rejects them according to some standard. The purpose of the scene is just for him to ogle the women and to give the audience the chance to do the same.

They fly to Singapore, but the plane crashes in a hilarious bit of stock footage intercut with screams. The survivors (it’s never clear how many, if any, of the women died) eventually find an island with a cabin containing the body of a scientist in a giant web. The promoter cleans the cabin out and they all settle in.

“Settling in,” by the way, means starting to snipe at each other and competing to attempt to seduce the promoter. He’s the only man on the island so what else are you going to do?

Not much, apparently because, on the first (second?) night, he takes a walk and gets bitten by a giant spider that’s been mutated by the uranium on the island. He turns into a weird-looking monster and runs away for the majority of the rest of the film.

The women strike languorous poses, argue with each other, and cavort in various swimming holes for a month before a ship arrives with two men. They find the girls, one falls in love with one immediately while the other keeps shifting his attention from girl to girl. The monster shows back up, kills some of the girls, the womanizing guy, and then the survivors drive him into quicksand where he drowns. Then they all get on the boat and leave. THE END.

It’s empty, silly, and dull, but at least it’s in the public domain. I think it’s telling that Mystery Science Theater 3000, which had its share of boring flicks, left this one alone until the tenth and (then) final season. The movie’s in the public domain so they could have used it at any time. That they waited so long to do it and that ShoutFactory, who’s currently distributing all the DVDs of the show, waited until seemingly the penultimate set of episodes to release it speaks to how empty the film is. I mean, there are a few hilariously bad shots early on, but that’s about it. You basically have an hour of nothing going on.

As I mentioned above, I uploaded a copy here years ago and you can read some reviews there. The one-star ones are usually the funniest. I don’t particularly recommend it outside of editing projects. You get some nice monster shots which could be fun for a video or a background mix for Halloween, but that’s about all.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

199. Panic

199. Panic (1982)
Director: Tonino Ricci
Writers: Victor Andrés Catena and Jaime Comas Gil
From: Chilling
A bioweapon infects a scientist in a small British town, turning him into a monster and leaving the city in quarantine. As the residents start to panic, they find themselves harried both by the monster and their own fears.
We open with lab rats attacking each other. Men in biohazard suits rush in, but one gets a facefull of some sort of chemical leaving smoking green lesions. The lab’s lead assistant is then talking to the head of the company about the importance of keeping it all a secret. Meanwhile, something stalks a couple making out in the backseat of a car and kills them both.

Captain Kirk (no, really, that’s the character’s name), is tasked by an intelligence agency to investigate the chemical spill and the seeming disappearance of the lead scientist. The chemical company, it turns out, only makes light pharmaceuticals like aspirin and whatnot as a cover for their multi-million dollar chemical weapons projects. Captain Kirk is paired with a local cop who’s leading the investigation into the murder.

More deaths happen and the cops notice that there’s no blood left behind. The higher-ups are getting nervous and so enact “Plan Q” where the entire town will be liquidated to prevent both the disease as well as information about it from getting out. The town is put under quarantine and has all telephone and broadcast capabilities cut off. Kirk now has a deadline to find either the doctor or a cure before everyone gets killed.

People in the town start getting antsy. They’re seeing people die, soldiers are surrounding the town, and no one is telling them anything. A long line of cars tries to challenge one of the blockades, but the soldiers shoot the lead car and scare everyone away.

Eventually Kirk and the cop figure out the doctor is traveling from point to point through the sewers and the assistant, being an idiot, keeps refusing to cooperate with Kirk, insisting that they don’t know the doctor is actually the monster or that he’s even infected. She eventually develops a cure for the disease, but it’ll take several hours to take effect and the plane carrying the bomb is already less than an hour away.

They find the doctor in the sewer, the assistant figures out where he’ll pop up and meets him there with the cure. Kirk shows up, though, and starts hosing the doctor down with a different chemical weapon that finally kills him. Just before time runs out, Kirk gets a message to London and the plane turns back. THE END.

The movie never decides what it wants to be. You have a monster movie with the doctor as some zombie vampire CHUD wandering the sewers, but he’s barely in the movie and only attacks about four people. There’s Kirk’s investigation which is played up as a mystery, initially, but is always kind of obvious. You have the townspeople gradually becoming aware of what’s happening and responding to the quarantine, but that’s only for one scene even though the movie’s called Panic. And on top of all of that, there’s the story of these high-level bureaucrats making the decision to murder an entire town of people rather than let the disease escape. There’s just too much going on.

That said, the movie still manages to be boring. You have all this plot, all this incident, but never any tension. Even though the final scene of the plane approaching the town with the bomb has a timer running in the corner, there’s no sense of impending disaster. It’s counting down from two minutes. You’d think that timer would continue to run as we see Kirk and the assistant trying to get the message to London, the higher-ups in London trying to get the message to the plane, all of it as the timer gets closer and closer to zero. Instead, the timer’s running, we see the pilots, and one gets a message calling the thing off with about a minute to spare. The movie never has a moment’s tension and so isn’t a recommend. The monster make-up, in the very end, is pretty good, but not enough to tip the scales to encourage anyone to see this.

Friday, August 18, 2017

198. Alien Species

198. Alien Species (1996)
Director: Peter Maris
Writer: Nancy Newbauer
From: Cult Cinema
In the environmentally-devastated post-apocalyptic Earth of 1999, a new group of aliens arrives with plans to colonize the planet.
Arriving at your local Blockbuster the same year as Independence Day comes the mockbuster Alien Species. At least, I think it’s trying to rip off Independence Day. Species itself was 1995 and this doesn’t seem to be aping that movie much. All this, though, is a delaying tactic to spare me from having to discuss this cat turd in a candy wrapper generously called “a film.”

We open with an extended sequence of cheap 90’s CGI which, granted, made me nostalgic for the truly “bless their heart” worthy moments among backyard filmmakers. “Cut a movie on your PC and score it with SoundBlaster16!” This, though, isn’t the work of people eagerly angling to make a film by any means necessary. This is much worse.

Over the CGI we get the story of the Earth as it is now: In the far-off future of 1999 (three years after this movie was released), a “mighty armada will dominate the Earth” leading to massive environmental devastation. Don’t expect to see any of that or any lingering effects of the armada, by the way. That’s just backstory. To nothing.

In a basement laboratory that turns out to not be in a basement, two scientists are tracking a bootlegged signal from NASA satellites. Their boss, the professor, is off on vacation and so unreachable when they realize they’re seeing evidence of UFOs approaching Earth. When they calculate the rate of speed and the broadcast delay, they realize the aliens are arriving RIGHT NOW! But without the energy implied by all caps or an exclamation point.

Several abduction sequences of no consequence later, we cut to a small town Sheriff's office where the biggest name in the movie, Charles Napier, is making everyone wonder why Bruce Campbell isn’t playing his role. He’s the Sheriff who’s idiot brother-in-law is tasked with transporting two prisoners to county. The prisoners and the two cops escorting them get in the “police van” (bread delivery truck) and leave. Charles Napier stays in town, starts seeing evidence of the invasion, shouts at the media, and gently vanishes from the film to cash his paycheck.

Thus we arrive at the central story: the police truck gets waved down by a trio that have had an accident—the professor, his granddaughter, and his assistant. The professor is injured and the cops, after pointing their guns at trio, take them into the police van. Aliens blow them off the road and the entire group runs to take shelter in nearby caves.

The caves, of course, turn out to be an underground base for the aliens. They’ve been here for a while, but the government didn’t listen to the professor and his warnings. Inevitably, everyone dies except the assistant, the granddaughter, and one of the prisoners who wasn’t actually bad. The trio set off an explosion at the heart of the base, escape with a bit of alien tech, and that should be the end of the movie.

But it’s not. The nerd from the basement in the first sequence, somehow, comes across them in his car and starts explaining about the invasion. They realize the aliens are following them because of the tech they stole and, somehow, realize it’s the secret to disabling the ships’ shields. The criminal pulls a bazooka (?!) from the car, the nerd uses the alien tech to hack into the ship’s systems, and the criminal shoots it with the bazooka. The invading force flees, but the criminal says they’ll be back with bigger weapons since they now know we can fight back. DUN DUN! THE END!

God, this is remarkably stupid. I mean, everything I watch from these sets is bad, but this is Best of the Worst, maybe even Wheel of the Worst fodder. Everything looks like outtakes from a SegaCD game. I, in a very real way, don’t know how to talk about it.

Everything is terrible. The acting is bad, the story makes no sense, the effects are garbage, and it’s dull. It’s thoroughly dull throughout. The movie made me want to learn how to make gifs because even the level of greenscreen using during the driving sequences rivals Toonces, the Driving Cat, but I don’t know that a gif could communicate it. Just the unending cascades of awfulness in this film.

I mean, to focus on just one element, it has that intro talking about the invading armada, but everything happens in the world as we know it without any reaction as though aliens have already invaded. Except, in the end, the characters make reference to the previous invasion of the armada. And then there’s a bazooka? I just… My brain hurts thinking about this.

I don’t want to recommend it, but I almost feel like I have to. It’s such a garbage fire that it really is a “seeing is believing” moment. I mean, it feels like a porno with all the sex scenes cut out, but with worse acting. This may be the first movie I’ve watched in this project that has legitimately left me agog. The Patriot is a colossal mess, but at least it’s ridiculous. This… I’m still left asking myself, “Did I really just watch that?”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

197. Blue Money

197. Blue Money (1972)
Director: Alain Patrick
Writers: Nick Boretz from a story by Alain Patrick
From: Cult Cinema
Jim is an underground porno producer/director trying to make enough money to pay off his boat so he and his family can leave the industry. However challenges from crooked distributors to police busts keep pushing him deeper.
How does Wikipedia describe this movie? “Blue Money is a 1972 American soft core porn film written and directed by Alain Patrick as Alain-Patrick Chappuis and based upon a story by Nick Boretz.” Hoo boy. And let’s note that Patrick is also the star of the movie. So it’s a porno written, directed, and starring one guy. I’m sure it’s going to be a measured character study.

Oh wait, no, this is going to be on The Room spectrum. My patience for this flick is right near zero from jump street. First thing I notice, Patrick’s delivery is just a step above Tommy Wiseau’s. This bites.

The story, in brief. Jim is a porno director/producer. The cops are monitoring him because they’re trying to bust all the distributors and producers. Distributors are screwing Jim and his partner over, always shorting them by exactly $1,000, and Jim is starting to face marital problems from the stress of his job. He loves his wife and kid and is constantly working on finishing the houseboat they’ve been building so they can get away from it all, but, as his wife notes, he’s become more distant and depressed the longer he’s been working in the industry.

Jim becomes infatuated with a new actress which makes him resistant to casting her, but she begs and he relents. Then he has an affair with her. Which doesn’t come to much until the very end when his wife sees the two of them together, ironically right after he’s told the mistress he’s not going to cheat on his wife anymore, which leads to a big fight.

At the same time as the fight, the cops are cracking down on every level of the industry and Jim’s partner bails because he’s obtained funding for an independent film. Jim, desperate to make one last movie and finally pay off the boat, shoots in his own house (after his wife has left him, temporarily). The cops raid the house, arrest everyone, which leads to a discussion between Jim and the cop about how the courts will let him off because of free speech, but they arrested him just to inconvenience him and cost him money. The cop specifically says it’s to bring Jim down to everyone else’s level. Jim responds that all the “normal” people the cop wants him to be like are the ones buying the films and it’s not up to the cop how he lives.

The movie closes with Jim and his family relaxing on their boat.

God, this sucked. It’s slow, joyless, and self-important. It’s a nudie flick with a message. What that message is, though, I couldn’t tell you because it doesn’t seem to be particularly on the pornographer’s side. So how are we supposed to read his argument against the cop at the end? Is he right to be pushing back against this authoritarianism or is he just offering shallow self-justification? On the other hand, can you honestly draw an anti-porn message from a softcore porn flick?

One big thing holding the movie back is just how joyless it is. This is a porno film that’s slow, dim, and miserable. No one’s having any fun—are you turned on yet? You could tell an interesting story about porn as a business, how it’s work, and, in being work, how it can be dehumanizing, and that movie is Boogie Nights. This movie’s trying to have its cake and eat it too—being a softcore porno, existing exclusively to showcase female nudity and simulated sex acts, but offering up criticisms of pornography. It’s a movie that’s trying to sneer at the very thing it is.

So a big ol’ skip recommended here. It’s a nudie flick without any fun that thinks it’s being bold. Let it sit in the corner smelling its own farts while you do something more fun with your time.

Friday, August 11, 2017

196. Savage Journey

196. Savage Journey (1983)
Director: Tom McGowan
Writer: Philip Yordan
From: Cult Cinema; Drive-In
The story of the rise of the Mormon church and it’s eventual settlement in Utah.
We open with a scene of Joseph Smith being kidnapped from his home. He’s about to be lynched when a local preacher stops the mob, noting there are too many of them present to get away with it. So they tar and feather him instead, leaving him tied up. The preacher’s wife shows up and cuts him loose because what’s been done to him is wrong, and the movie is off and running!

Or generally limping along.

I’m not going to go through the plot of this movie because there isn’t one. It’s about Joseph Smith meeting Brigham Young and how the latter ends up developing the church into what it is today. Only it doesn’t communicate that story. There’s no sense of drama, tension, or focus. Rather than focus on a particularly dramatic moment in the development of the Mormon church, it tends to gloss the entire history, never focusing much on any one thing.

If there’s a narrative throughline, it’s the story of Samuel. Brigham Young, during his first mission trip, encounters Samuel and his wife Claire. They’ve immigrated from Europe and Samuel has become an atheist or at least an agnostic due to his rejection of aristocratic corruption. His position is, “How can God be good when He allows such suffering?” Basically it’s the question of theodicy which has never been satisfactorily answered. Claire, though, becomes a member of the church and the couple follow Smith and Young across the country as the church is routinely driven from their homes.

Samuel, narratively, is supposed to be the point-of-view character, the outsider who’s eventually won over to the faith thereby communicating the righteousness of Mormonism. The movie doesn’t spend enough time with him to do that, though, only checking in with him in each town for him to say, “I ain’t a Mormon yet,” and, “What? We’re moving again? Oh, c’mon!” At the end, of course, he converts. If that’s the story you want to tell, fine, even my unbelieving heart likes stories of faith journeys, but actually tell it.

Instead, we generally follow Young (Smith is killed by a mob halfway through) and there’s no real character there. He’s deeply dedicated to the faith and that’s about it. Various things happen, but I’m not Mormon so their importance or significance don’t register, and the movie is counting on you having that context. This isn’t a dramatization of the early Mormon church, it’s an illustration. You have to plug in the details yourself. “Oh, this is that moment. So that’s what it looked like. Oh, the Governor is lying to Smith right now! This is tense.” You have to come with that knowledge. The movie doesn’t give you any of these cues itself.

Initially, I thought this was going to be propaganda or a proselytizing work, but it doesn’t even reach those levels. It’s very much addressing an audience with a shared context and not making a great effort to talk to anyone else. There are nods to outsiders—the church’s stance on race (officially anti-slavery, but fails to mention their belief that non-white people are marked as cursed by God) and polygamy—but they feel incidental, like literal asterisks. Regarding polygamy, Young finds out about Smith’s declaration of it, tells his wife he’s not interested in having a second wife, then she picks a young widow for him to marry. The way it’s played up is, instead of having a harem, it fills Young’s house with a gaggle of gossiping women. Later, when representatives from the government ask Young about the church’s stance on polygamy, he plays it up as a mercy, as widows and spinsters being taken in and given a home—it’s not some creepy sex thing, it’s like an animal shelter, for women!

The movie’s kind of just nothing. If it focused in more on a specific moment, it’d be more interesting, but that’s not its goal. This is a movie for Mormons, part of that genre of Christian media whose primary purpose is to fill time to prevent secular media from having a space. It’s not being held to the standard of being good, it’s being held to the standard of being ideologically correct. As long as it reinforces the central message of “keep thinking about the church,” it passes. Unsurprisingly, the pair behind this movie did another one just called Brigham. I imagine it’s a very similar script.

McGowan and Yordan themselves are an interesting pair, though. Yordan wrote the script for the hallucinogenically bad Cry Wilderness, episode 2 of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return and the two of them did Night Train to Terror (forthcoming on this blog) and Cataclysm aka The Nightmare Never Ends. In other words, they’re exploitation hacks. Here they’re just exploiting an audience that’s willing to be pandered to. It’s neither offensive nor dramatic and just kind of meanders along. I don’t particularly recommend it, but it’s not hard to find if you’re curious.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

195. Primal Impulse

195. Primal Impulse aka Le Orme (1975)
Directors: Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli
Writers: Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli from a novel by Mario Fanelli
From: Sci-Fi Invasion
A woman awakens to discover she’s lost three days. She starts to follow little clues scattered through her life that lead her to a small seaside town. Only, once she arrives, the mystery deepens.
We open with a man being stranded on the moon as part of an experiment. Who he is, why he’s being left behind, and what the experiment is aren’t revealed. It turns out this is all a recurring dream of Alice, an international translator.

And while that would normally be a red flag in a movie—opening with a dream sequence—it kind of works here. There is an overriding dream-logic to this movie. Grindhouse Review describes it as “Lynchian,” which is apt, and I think there are tonal elements that hearken back to Argento. There are layers of reality and performance at work here. Alice’s dream, for instance, is of a movie she saw as a child called Footsteps On the Moon (an alternative title for this movie) that terrified her so much that she never saw the end of it.

Alice is awoken from the dream by a friend asking to be picked up from the airport, but Alice had forgotten she was coming to town. She sits down to finish up transcribing and translating a tape and then goes to work. It’s Monday. Before she leaves the house, she finds a postcard for the Hotel Garma torn into four pieces laying on her floor.

When she gets to work, though, she learns that it’s actually Thursday and another person had been brought in to do her job. She tries to figure out what happened over the course of those missing days and eventually goes to Garma since she has some vague memories of the place.

Once she arrives, she meets a child who recognizes her as “Nicole” and says she’d been there the previous week. She starts to find more clues that fill in the gap of her lost days, but also starts to wonder if there isn’t something else afoot.

An interesting little flick that’s diminished by a cheap translation. There are long periods without background music and, what music there is, tends to be one piano cue over and over. However, the central story, that central mystery, really carries the piece. A detail here, a detail there, all start pointing to something. Unfortunately, the mystery is more interesting than the revelation. That may well be a challenge of having a good mystery, though. Few things could satisfactorily answer the questions of Alice’s situation, but, even keeping that in mind, the end still felt like a bit of a cop-out. Because I did find the mystery so compelling, though, I haven’t revealed the end here and won’t. Also, Rotten Tomatoes notes that there are various versions of this movie so a different cut may have a better ending. The description they have there doesn’t follow the order of events on my copy and they offer run times ranging from 88 to 110 minutes (my copy is 92 minutes).

I’d call this a light recommend. Because of the flat colors and so-so ending, it’s not as good as it could be. However, it’s not bad and manages to be naturally compelling. I was constantly asking, “What’s going on?” but not in the way I do with most of these movies. Every new detail, every revelation just drew me deeper into the story, and that’s an accomplishment. However, it might be worth hunting down the original Italian version and watching that.

Friday, August 04, 2017

194. Rattlers

194. Rattlers (1976)
Director: John McCauley
Writers: Jerry Golding, John McCauley
From: Cult Cinema; Drive-In
Watch: archive.org
A herpetologist investigating unusual rattlesnake attacks starts to uncover a military conspiracy.
We open with two shitty kids going to play in a canyon. They fall into a snake pit, get all kinds of bit, and die. Frankly, great start, really great start. Until the credits are done, I’m convinced this movie has its heart in the right place.

Then we get to the main character, Tom. His names important because it’s what distinguishes him from Dick and Harry, you know, the trio of uninteresting, indistinguishable men. Tom is a herpetologist and a college professor—think Indiana Jones, but without the charisma, charm, or excitement. He’s asked by the local sheriff to come down and inspect the bodies in case there’s anything unusual. He looks, says, “Them’s snakebites,” and collects his check.

Only more people start dying from snake attacks. A kid is attacked in a barn and his mom is overwhelmed by snakes in her house. A plumber gets bit and the snakes attack the woman in the house by crawling through the pipes. I think there are others, but I can’t remember or care. The deaths aren’t given any weight whatsoever in the movie so each scene of a new character just becomes a dull countdown to their inevitable death by snake.

Tom returns at the sheriff’s request and is paired with a photographer, Ann. Tom is very upset that Ann’s a woman since there’s no way she can handle the work ahead—some light hiking and overnight camping. She’s just back from two years in the Vietnam press pool, by the way, but, yeah, sure, this will be too much for her delicate feminine sensibilities.

This isn’t me being PC, the movie makes a special point, several times, to complain about “women’s lib” and Ann not being willing to know her place. All this despite her being more than capable of doing the work. And the movie actively takes a stand against her. She calls Tom out for there not being enough women in various fields and says he has the power to change that. He brushes her off, but this is literally right after he’s fought with the sheriff over having her assigned as his partner—he’s actively preventing a woman from doing work she’s capable of, but she’s the crazy one.

Anyway, they eventually realize there’s a military base nearby all the attacks and go there. They learn from doctor in the lab who specializes in biological materials that a soldier died from particularly aggressive snakebites a few months prior. Then a helicopter pilot tells Tom about depositing a container of something in an abandoned mine.

Tom and Ann investigate the mine, find a massive nest of snakes, and go have a romantic weekend in Vegas. No, that’s literally how the story progresses. They’re looking for the source of all these snake attacks, find it, then bounce to Vegas without telling anyone about the nest.

They return to their tent where they’re attacked by snakes but saved at the last minute by the military. Two soldiers have been killed by snakebite and the doctor isn’t willing to keep quiet anymore. Twist! They were working on chemical weapons at the base and disposed of a leaking canister of something that makes animals hyper-violent. The base Colonel was the mastermind, kills the doctor, and runs to the abandoned mine for one last standoff for reasons. The whys of any of this will constantly elude you. He shoots at some cops, cops shoot back, he trips while holding a grenade and falls into a snake pit where he blows up, sealing the mine once again. Tom and Ann drive off together to settle back down near the college. THE END.

The movie is just so much nothing. No tension, no mystery, no humor. It’s just stagnant from the word “go.” Even the riffing from the Cinematic Titanic version I watched couldn’t energize this sodden lump. The movie has plenty to make fun of and vast stretches of silence, but it seemed like even the riffers were drawn into the fetid languor of the whole thing and half-dozed through their jokes. And I say this as a fan of Cinematic Titanic. I was lucky enough to see them riff a total of six movies live. Rattlers sapped any energy they had.

So, obviously I’m not recommending it. The movie is, at least, in the public domain so you can find a copy at archive.org. I can’t add a new copy because Mill Creek wiped themselves on both copies I have. Not a great loss, though. Like I said, there’s not much here to watch.