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Snakes in Movies
 
Creeping Death (Hai sbagliato... dovevi uccidermi subito!) (aka Kill the Poker Player) (1972)
 
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
 
This is a Spaghetti western with a lot of the clichés of the genre, including lots of close-ups of faces lots of violence. I read that it had a death by snake bite, but I didn't expect that so many of the characters would be killed by snakes - six of them, including a sheriff we never see. It's the creeping killer snakes that give the movie its English title, though the original title "Hai sbagliato... dovevi uccidermi subito!" translates as "You were wrong... you should have killed me right away!" An alternate English title is "Kill the Poker Player."

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At the beginning of the movie we see several men rob a bank, killing all the witnesses. Two of them ride out into the desert with the money and make camp. A third man rides up to them, but we never see his face. (He's the main villain of the movie whose identity is a mystery until the very end.) Then, without explanation, two of the men are lying down and snakes are hovering in their faces. We find out later that someone is collecting snakes and using them to kill people, and that's what happens here, as the two men drop dead from snakes released by the third man.


The bank robbery and the death of two of the robbers bring an undercover government agent man to town named Alan Fields, who pretends to be from London working for a bank that is offering a large reward for the identity of the third bank robber. That sets off a lot of drama in town, including several attempts to kill Fields, who kicks everybody's ass, again and again, with his fists and with his guns.

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A man in town named Norton, who calls himself a medical doctor and a zoologist, is shunned by the townspeople who know that he collects dangerous snakes and carries them in a leather satchel to put in a glass cage next to his bed. He also has a safe hidden in the bottom of the snake cage where he hides his money. He seems like an obvious suspect for the snake murders, but he claims that someone has been stealing his snakes. Later he is found dead by snakebite, though that's not an uncommon end for people who like to play with deadly snakes. In one scene we see him out in the desert collecting snakes and bringing them to his home where he extracts their venom into test tubes. We see him sell some venom to the town barber to euthanize a dying horse.

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Fields meets with the saloon owner, Karl, who also seems like he could be the guilty one, until a snake appears above his head and Fields shoots it dead. It drops on Karl's desk. Fields says "It appears to me there are more snakes flying through the air than flies or mosquitoes around here." Karl says "Damn that Norton! Those damned snakes of his are getting to be a nightmare. Our previous sheriff was found dead, killed by a snake bite." The new sheriff named Burton appears and Karl tells the sheriff he wants this business with the snakes cleaned up quickly.

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In his hotel room and getting ready to go to bed, Fields is looking in a mirror when he sees something moving under his bedcovers. He turns around and shoots the bed, then discovers a snake under the covers.

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At the end there is a long climactic scene with two more deaths by snake bite. The Sheriff, a rich ranch owner named Clinton, a saloon girl named Kate, and Fields are all together in Clinton's ranch house. Sheriff Burton and Kate hold guns on Fields and Clinton. Then Burton puts a bag on a table where the two men are sitting and opens it to free two snakes. He tells the two men that the first one to make a noise will die, and the second one will be shot. (Snakes can't hear and they don't move that quickly and they are more likely to try to get away.) Clinton is the first to move and a snake suddenly flies into his neck, biting and killing him. Then the other three people duck and hide from the snakes to avoid getting bitten. We see shots of each of their faces intercut with shots of the snakes until one of the snakes flies into Kate's neck, killing her. Fields and Burton somehow avoid the lightning-fast deadly flying snakes and finish their business outside with pistols.

The movie perpetuates the absurd idea that's all too common in movies that you can simply release deadly snakes in the vicinity of someone you want dead, and the snakes will kill them. In reality, the snakes will most likely head in the opposite direction and disappear.

We see two kinds of real live snakes in the movie, and I'm pretty sure they only used the same two snakes over and over. The striped snake looks like a Four-lined Snake, found in southern Italy where the movie was made. The other snake is ready to shed its skin which makes it hard to identify. It appears to be some kind of boa or a python. The snakes we see attacking and biting people and being milked by Norton are all snake props - really bad ones. They look like painted sock puppets that someone is holding up off camera. I think they're supposed to be rattlesnakes, since the movie is set in the North American west where rattlesnakes are common, but they don't.