Rattlers (1976)


Something has stirred up the rattlesnakes in Mojave County.  They’re aggressive, agitated and travel in large numbers attacking anything in their way.  The sheriff’s department is at a loss and seeks help from the scientific community.  Harry Novak’s RATTLERS is one of the more decent mid 70s “when nature attacks” films-which really isn’t that difficult.  

An old man and two kids have been viciously attacked in a short period of time.  University professor Dr. Tom Parkinson (Sam Chew, Jr.) is called in to consult with the Sheriff’s Department about the strange increase in attacks.  The snakes next wipe out a family and most of the animals on an isolated farm turning up the intensity and urgency of the investigation.  Tom agrees to help see the case through and is assigned Ann Bradley (Elizabeth Chauvet) as his photographer.  There is instant friction beneath the two as he does not believe she can handle the job and she attacks him for his view of women.  The bodies keep piling up and the pattern of attacks seems to revolve around the local military installation.  

Improbably, one soldier on patrol points out small holes in the tire and said he thinks its a snake bite and that a rattlesnake popped the tire.  He’s right of course…and the two members of the patrol are killed in the middle of the night.  Tom is called in by the base doctor and goes out to the site where the men were attacked.  Finally he finds the snake tracks he has been looking for and they follow them back to the rattlers den.  After he and Ann narrowly escape death the two of them go on a hot date in Vegas ending up in bed together in their tent.  Tom knows without a doubt that the base commander is involved when soldiers show up and save them from dozens of snakes the next morning.  This leads to a final showdown between the sheriff’s department, the colonel and the rattlers.  

The acting is wooden as can be with expressions changing even less than the snake stock footage used as filler.  The dialogue is stilted and cheesy.  The first 30+ minutes try to educate on snake behavior and there is a cobra catching scene that drags on forever.  Bit player Sam Chew plays the lead in this one and thankfully goes back to minor roles afterwards.  Chauvet goes from annoying to cloying.  The military personnel are stereotypical and the sheriff is an “aww shucks” kind of guy.  The effects are minimal.  There is a little blood and a big explosion at the end.  The film was counting on the snakes of course…and maybe the helicopter.  The expansive desert makes for an amazing backdrop but the mine is laughable.  

Overall all of this adds to the ‘B’ movie character of the film.  The film has a vicious mean streak for a PG13 film.  Not only is the lead a sexist boor but the film actually aces two tow-headed kids in the first five minutes!  Even chickens and a dog and chickens appear onscreen as victims of the evil snakes’ attacks.  Novak even manages to make sure there is a little T & A in it.  A snake bite victim is lying in bed reading a girlie mag and closes the centerfold when Tom and Ann walk in and a bitchy divorcee shows her ass as she slips into the bath tub.  RATTLERS possesses another quality found in second features…it talks a lot.  If you can’t show it, explain it.  Right?  They even chat quite a bit in the helicopter…Behold all the screen grabs of interesting conversations going on in interesting places.  Now with that jab in I still have to admit I enjoyed the hell out of this film.

The Something Weird release has a clean picture with sharp colors and is presented in 1:33:1 full screen ratio.  The DVD is absolutely loaded!  It has an extensive list of extra features.  First is a long list of trailers: RATTLERS, ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, THE BLACK CAT, THE CRAWLING HAND, THE CRAWLING THING/CREATURE OF EVIL, CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD, DEVIL WOMAN/DRAGONS NEVER DIE, DON’T OPEN THE WINDOW, THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, THE KILLER SHREWS, NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN, and SPASMITUS MIDNIGHT THRILL SHOW.  Also included is the feature THE SNAKE PEOPLE and several “Snake-O-Rama” shorts, most of them stag reels, “Snake Charmer”(a busty blonde struggles with a snake in a can gag), “Deena Newell: The Cobra Girl” (a belly dancer with a cobra headdress), “Snake Dream” (like it sounds involving a girl), “Esmeralda at the Café d’Artist” (a snake dancer working with indigos), “Snake Lover” (an improv intro and a corpulent woman putting a boa’s head in her mouth) and “Snake vs. Snake” (Pretty much what it sounds like).  There is also a comic art gallery.

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