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Snakes in Movies
The Sadist (1963)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
The Sadist The Sadist The Sadist
The Sadist The Sadist
The Sadist The Sadist The Sadist
"A Human Volcano Of Unpredictable Terror!"
"What Fiendish Passion Twisted His Mind--Made Him Torment, Torture, Kill?"

I'm going to spoil the ending here, but that shouldn't ruin the rest of the movie - you already know the bad guys are going to die at the end.

This is a minimal 1963 black-and-white no-budget single-location B movie with 5 unknown actors and a simple script that despite of it all is a really excellent thriller. It's based on the 1957-1958 Starkweather-Fugate killing spree that also inspired Badlands and Natural Born Killers and probably every other story where an alienated young guy and his teenage girlfriend go on a road-trip killing spree, including Bruce Springsteen's song Nebraska.

Three schoolteachers driving to Dodger Stadium from Lancaster stop at a junkyard in Newhall to fix their car but they become hostages held by Charlie Tibbs "the sadist" (played with perfect insanity by Arch Hall Jr.) and his girlfriend Judy who have already killed a bunch of people in Arizona and along the way through California including the junkyard owners. A voiceover at the beginning told us all about sadists and their violence and Charlie proves to be a world-class sadist who loves to torment, humiliate, beat and kill people.

Before becoming a hostage, the female school teacher Charlie calls Miss Goody Goody sees a snake skin and is terrified by it, saying that she can't stand snakes. Another teacher assures her that it's only a skin saying "they shed this time of year" and "I hear they get to be as much as 9 feet long" and "this part of the country's loaded with them." That makes her even more terrified when she sees a rubber hose, thinking it's a snake. This was such obvious foreshadowing that she was going to encounter a real snake later that I was on the edge of my seat waiting for it. When it finally came at the very end I was surprised that it wasn't her encounter - it was even better. (Although there are rumors of an alternate ending where she is about to ket bitten by a rattlesnake as it ends.) Since none of the schoolteachers was smart or brave enough to rush Charlie and take his gun, what finally stops him was falling into a pit full of snakes. It might seem impossible that an abandoned desert ranch would have an underground shaft or well full of snakes at the bottom, but I've actually seen one very much like it so it's totally possible. It's rare that rattlesnakes are the good guys, but I suspect that most of the audience was too terrified by the snakes to cheer them on as I did, happy to see Charlie finally get what was coming to him.

As always, the snakes they use aren't all appropriate for the location but there were some right ones with the wrong. The pit was full of Gophersnakes, California Kingsnakes, Boa Constrictors, Burmese Pythons, and Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes and we saw cutaway shots of a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake coiled and striking.