Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This is the third movie in the franchise about the world's worst archeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) following "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc" (1981) and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984.) We learned in the first movie that Jones is afraid of snakes. This movie begins with an extended section that shows us the origins of some of Indy's trademarks - Where he got his hat, where he got his whip, where he got the scar on his chin, and how he developed his fear of snakes.
It begins with a scene of the young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) and a group of boy scouts on horseback who stop to explore some caves in the southwest desert. Indy and another boy climb together into one cave where they find a group of men looting it. They watch the men discover an ancient gold cross. Indy tells the other boy to go report the looters to their troop leader, but the boy feels something crawling on his lap. Indiana pulls a harmless garter snake off of him and taunts him for being afraid of it, telling him that it's only a snake. We learn here that Indiana Jones was not always afraid of snakes.
The other boy runs off and Indy steals the cross and runs out of the cave with it as as some of the looters chase him. He jumps aboard a slow-moving circus train and pushes his way through the window of a box car full of reptiles. He is startled by a large dangerous-looking large-fanged snake which makes him fall into a large tub full of garter snakes. the same kind of snakes he just taunted his friend for being afraid of. He finds himself covered with garter snakes and we hear him screaming loudly. This is obviously the trauma that gave him his fear of snakes.
Indy craws out of the box car but he feels a snake crawling under his clothing. He pulls the snake out then climbs to the roof of a boxcar where he finds the looters waiting for him. They youngest looter tries to take the gold cross out of Indy's hands, but another garter snake crawls out of Indy's sleeve and onto the boy. The boy screams, afraid of the snake, which lets Indy escape again, but not for long.
This brings up so many questions - why exactly would a circus ever need so many snakes? Is the House of Reptiles exhibit just piles and piles of snakes? What else could they do with them? I need to see that circus. And is this the best way to transport large numbers of snakes - in open tubs with no lids - or is it the worst way imaginable? Why don't the snakes crawl away out of the tub? What on earth is the large fanged snake supposed to be and why is it just sitting in a container of water?
Later, after the young Indy flashback, when the movie becomes a hunt for the Holy Grail, we see adult Indy with some snake sculptures. One of them is a switch that when pulled, turns a fireplace around to reveal a secret passage.
The snakes we see are mostly live garter snakes, but I suspect they also used some fake snakes to make the snake piles look bigger. The giant fanged snake is some kind of special effect. It may be a practical effect or maybe it's CGI. I can't tell, which means it's a pretty good effect.