Some people know that when I’m not lost in the swashbuckling world of horror movie blogging, my secret identity is that of a mild-mannered college English professor. But the fact is, I never wanted to be a teacher. It was never a calling for me. It was a job I could do that required neither my wearing a tie nor answering to some Office Space kind of upper management fuckwit.
No, I started out as a biology major. Specifically, my goal was to go into herpetology. There was, however, a problem. See, at Waynesburg College (well, now it’s a university), one needed a certain number of math credits in order to obtain any science degree, and there was no way to accomplish this without tackling algebra.
I had already failed pre-algebra in middle school and high school. I failed algebra thrice in college. Buh-bye biology. At the time, I was also sucking up a bunch of literature classes as electives. Cuz books. And I apparently wrote okay, because one day the department chair called me into his office and said, “You should consider being an English major.”
And here we are.
But I’ve never lost my love for reptiles.
And that brings us to Stanley. Stanley came out in 1972. I know I saw it some time in the 70s since I watched it on Chiller Theater in Pittsburgh. This is some good ol’ grindhouse fare–gritty, low budget ($125,000) exploitation. Or snakesploitation if you will.
I can’t figure out how it was so easy for Chris Robinson to handle rattlesnakes in this movie. They’re right docile and apparently shy if they aren’t being harassed or threatened. Still. I’ve handled my share of pythons in my life time, and they were all pretty “head tame.” I don’t know that I’d ever be ready to just pick up a rattler and casually toss it around my neck.
I’ve heard rumors about snakes’ mouths being sewn shut for this kind of thing. I’m not sure when animal cruelty laws would have been in effect. My guess is in 1972 they were pretty lax, especially considering the fact that several snakes were for reals killed on camera in Stanley. That pisses me off and makes the movie almost unwatchable (chicken in Pink Flamingos notwithstanding).
Anyway. The story itself involves a Seminole Viet Nam vet, Tim Ochopee (Chris Robinson), who has turned his back on civilization and lives in the Everglades with his snakes. His best friend is Stanley. Tim lovingly looks after Stanley, Stanley’s “wife,” Hazel, and their babies. Everything is fine until a clothing manufacturer (Alex Rocco) decides to start harvesting the Everglades for snakes in order to make belts and crap.
Obviously Tim runs afoul of this guy and his snake-huntin’ thugs (spoilers ahead, or sssssssssspoilers I guessssssss). Two of them are subsequently dispatched in quicksand. The third, a laughably drug-addled hippie stereotype named Psycho who sports a Billy Jack hat and ruby-lensed glasses, gets a toothy kiss on the neck from Stanley himself. Sadly, this is after Psycho has killed Stanley’s family. From there, Tim exacts vengeance on everyone else who has wronged him.
Still, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the actual slaughter of snakes for entertainment. Surprisingly, the story itself isn’t bad, and the acting isn’t always terrible. I enjoy the idea of the movie, but as much as I love me some grindhouse vengeance (even more when it’s venomous), I can’t in good conscience recommend this movie. See it if you must, but the more I think about it, the more I regret rewatching it.
(including 8 snakes, 1 crab, 1 mouse)
1 offscreen mouse
Available on Plex