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Snakes in Movies
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Snakes in Movies
Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)
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 rare R-rated Tarzan movie is little more than a vehicle to show off Bo Derek, with an endless stream of glamour close-ups of her face, and several nude scenes. It was nominated for lots of "worst movie" awards to which I would respectfully submit a nomination for "worst snake scene."

It wasn't a terrible idea to tell the Tarzan story from the perspective of Jane, and she does throw in some feminist comments about women's lack of freedom, but there's very little Tarzan. We don't see him for 45 minutes. It seems like the apes get more screen time than he does. Tarzan never says a word, but everybody else's dialogue is laughably bad. Of course, nobody watches this movie to see Bo Derek act, and besides, Richard Harris over acts so much that they couldn't fit any more acting on screen if they wanted to. But there is one scene that's not to be missed - Jane announces to herself, with a bit of surprise, that she's still a virgin (she expected/hoped that Tarzan was going to rape her.) Then we see her peeling a banana and talking to an unconscious Tarzan, working it out in her head that he must also be a virgin, as she slides the banana into her mouth. The movie is full of these sexual innuendos. Bo Derek produced it and her husband directed it so I can't complain that the Hollywood system exploited another poor young actress, forcing her to take her clothes off onscreen. Bo gladly exploited herself. She knew what her fans wanted to see and she gave it, and the movie made plenty of profit.

I watched this to see the scene where Jane is attacked by a huge snake. Yes, I was disappointed that Derek was clothed for the scene, but I was even more disappointed in how boring the scene is. It's not even so bad it's good bad, which is usually the best one can ask for of any snake scene in a movie.

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Before the big snake fight scene, there is another snake scene at the beginning of the movie. It's 1910 and Jane has paid to be taken on a boat up a river in Africa to find her father who is searching for an elephant graveyard. During the opening credits we see her at night on the boat. She's behind some mosquito netting when she sees a snake that is climbing in at the top of the net and she screams. We see a small part of the snake, then back to the credits. This scene foreshadows the later snake scene and lets us know that there is danger lurking in the jungle. As if we didn't know that.

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In the big snake scene, we see Jane alone in the jungle after she escapes from Tarzan and is trying to get back to her father. She walks behind a large tree and just disappears! This is done intentionally because they had to get her out of the picture so somebody could bring out the snake and drape it over her without us seeing it happen. That's expert filmmaking. She re-appears screaming with a large python hanging in front of her. The poor python they used for the scene was so tame that they had to film it in slow motion, with Bo struggling to hold the snake up as she makes different faces. This is supposed to make it look like the snake is attacking her, but it ends up looking more like she's having sex with the snake. Then we see the snake wrapped around her body as she struggles to free an arm to escape. She slides down into the river with the snake still around her and pretends to fight off the snake in the water. Tarzan swings across the river on a vine and drops into the water to help her. This is where things get even weirder. Apparently the snake was so unthreatening that just waving it around in the air didn't look believable so instead of seeing a tense action scene we end up seeing a bizarre sequence of slow-motion out-of-focus double-exposed images of Bo and Tarzan and the snake with no splashing or screaming sounds - no sound at all except dramatic music. This goes on for two full minutes until finally Bo walks over to the riverbank and Tarzan follows her and the splashing sounds and bird calls re-appear.

That's it. The snake just disappears. I guess the idea is that Tarzan removed the snake from Jane and simply left it in the river - he is friends with wild animals after all, but what a letdown. Come to think of it, this might be the only Tarzan movie I've seen where he didn't dive underwater and stab a crocodile with his knife.

Later, after Tarzan picks up Jane and carries her screaming to his hangout, he suddenly collapses on the ground. Jane gets a chance to look him over and she touches him, saying that she's never touched a man before. Then she notices blood on his neck and says that the snake bit him. This makes no sense at all, and it makes less sense later when Tarzan just gets up and swims away. So much for snake venom. Then the banana scene happens.

I have to give the movie credit for having one of the most bizarre/boring snake fight scenes I've seen. The snake is a Reticulated Python, but it appears that maybe two different snakes were used, maybe even two different species, but it's all a blur. You can watch the scene for yourself on YouTube if it's still there. It's missing the part with Jane next to the tree. It begins when she has the snake wrapped around her body and slides down into the river.