Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's all go to the lobby and have ourselves a snake

I had to bring the plants into the sun room the other day because the first frost was about to come. This morning, I'm out in the sun room, and what do I see? A nice little garter snake! Thankfully, I'm not particularly afraid of snakes, so I was able to pick this one up with my bare hands nd throw it outside so that it can go off to wherever it is snakes go to hibernate. For some reason, I couldn't help but think of the circus freaks in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur. As you'll recall, they take in Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane as the train of circus trucks passes in the middle of nowhere. When the police inspect their truck, they spot Lane and ask what she's doing, since she doesn't look like one of the freaks. The bearded lady responds, "She's our snake charmer! She's sitting on a box of snakes so they don't get lonesome!" The joke, of course, is that we've already learned that Lane's character is frightened of snakes. It's just one more example of Alfred Hitchcock's wonderful black humor.

It's one of the more whimsical uses of snakes in a movie plot, with one of the only others I can think of being the animated snake in the opening credits of The Lady Eve. Snakes show up in all sorts of other places, largely because they're frightening to a lot of people and good for shock or horror. Probably the best known example of this would be Snakes on a Plane, which isn't exactly a classic, although it may become a cult classic a half century from now. Frankly, I prefer to think of it as a loose remake of The Narrow Margin.

And then there are the rattlesnakes that show up to threaten characters in westerns. I distinctly recall Robert Ryan having to kill one in Inferno, while rattlesnakes also show up in the John Wayne version of True Grit, as well as the non-western Capricorn One. Thankfully, there aren't any rattle snakes in this portion of the US.

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