26. DAY OF THE SERPENT: There better be a motherf*ing snake in this motherf*ing movie.
Les Tremayne, who was one of the most popular and well-known voices of the Golden Age of Radio, working on shows like The Jackie Gleason/Les Tremayne Show, Ford Theatre, Inner Sanctum, The Whistler and more. He even had a breakfast show with his second wife. As entertainment moved into television, he was all over the dial, as well as showing up in movies like The War of the Worlds, The Monolith Monsters, The Monster of Piedras Blancas, The Fortune Cookie, Forbidden Planet, The Angry Red Planet, King Kong vs. Godzilla and The Slime People. He even played Big Daddy Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, Dr. Frankenstein on The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and the titlular mentor on Shazam!
None of those roles could have prepared him — or us — for Fangs.
As Snakey Bender, Tremayne plays a man of obsessions, obsession that we as mortal people just may not understand. There’s one day a week that he cares about and that’s Wednesday. On that day, he makes his journey into town where he visits the attractive schoolteacher Cynthia (Bebe Kelly, If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!!!), whose students perform the task of hunting down small rodents for him so that his beloved pets — he claims to be part snake by the way — have some food for the week. Then he harasses the general store employees before meeting up with his one true friend, Burt (Richard Kennedy), and they have a concert where they blast the music of John Philip Sousa.
Basically, Snakey is one of those people who seem harmless but if one thing impacts their life’s routine, the mental damage will not be visited upon him. No, it will be meted out to everyone in his path.
The first chinks in his armor appear when Brother Joy starts preaching against him, saying that snakes are the devil’s animals and that he’s making the children play on the left hand path.
And then Burt marries Ivy (Janey Wood, Pamela from Terror at Red Wolf Inn).
Unlike Snakey, Burt realizes that he’s old and that if he wants to marry a showgirl who really only cares about his money but will give him the kind of companionship a life of hard work deserves, well, he’s going to do it. And sure, the Wednesday concerts will end for awhile, but what’s the harm in that?
You can just imagine how Snakey reacts.
Actually, you can’t. Because things get worse.
It turns out that that schoolteacher likes having the snakes around because those visits are conjugal. That’s right, while Snakey is out with the kids, she’s doing whatever one does with a snake in a Biblical way. Her secret gets outed to the general store owners Bud and his lesbian sister Sis, who is played by Alice Nunn, who really has the best cameo of all time as Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure who start blackmailing her, cutting off Snakey’s rodent supply and therefore pushing him on the path to no return.
The weirdest thing about this movie is that it has such a level of scum and sleaze all over it yet has no nudity and little to no violence. Heck, it barely has all that many snakes in it. But what it has is a man who realizes that the world is changing around him and no matter what he does, it keeps moving past him. And people use his snakes as sermons or for pleasure but never really see him as anything other than that old weird man from the desert that lives with all the serpents. Except the kids, and when the kids aren’t allowed to see him and hunt vermin, well, I mean, how dare you take away vermin-gathering little ones from an old man ready to explode?
Somehow, Snakey becomes a Bond villain, able to kill people with all manner of objects and traps and, yes, snakes. All along, he told the townspeople how moronic they were and now, he’s proving it. You should have let him keep air conducting and marching around the house and paying kids for mice and just let him be. But some people have Hell inside them and you should just keep them on their maze-like path so that they don’t solve the riddle inside their head and realize that they’d be better off if they just went and killed you.
Also known as Snakes, Snakelust and the wonderful title Holy Wednesday, this was directed and co-written with John T. Wilson by Art Names, who was mostly a sound man on all sorts of movies, including being the post-production sound guy for The Astrologer, which had to be the kind of experience that destroys your mind. Actually, his sound resume is packed with aberrant films that I adore, such as Alligator; Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker; Savage Streets and The Jesus Trip. He and Wilson also co-wrote Girl in Gold Boots and The Black Klansman, so their partnership wasn’t a one and done on the weird writing ability.
By direct, I mean he put the camera down and said action, really. You don’t really consider the direction or cinematography in this, but that’s the best part of it. It just plays out in front of you, with you as the casual observer to one man’s meltdown. He just wants to be alone with his snakes and needs the help of others. And he needs that one night of marching band concerts. I guess it really was too much to ask, huh?
There are weird movies that have been made to be weird and there are weird movies made because someone had a vision that perhaps nobody could ever understand. This would be the latter and that’s perfect. My dream is to go back in time and sit in a drive-in where the blockbuster baiting tagline for this movie got some cars in the lot and then this starts playing and people start wondering, “What is this? Who is this for? Why did they make this?”
Movies are awesome, everyone.
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