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Snakes in Movies
The Fortune (1975)
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 Fortune The Fortune The Fortune
The Fortune The Fortune The Fortune
The Fortune The Fortune The Fortune
This movie was directed by Mike Nichols who is known for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Silkwood, Working Girl, and many other films, but not so much for this screwball comedy set in the 1920's which proves that it takes more than the great cast of Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Stockard Channing and a loud Dixieland jazz soundtrack in the background, to make a funny movie. But it has its moments, including an interesting use of a rattlesnake which is played for comedy, even though the intent is murder.

Because of the Mann Act, which made it illegal to "transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes," the not-yet-divorced Oscar (Beatty) can't leave New York state with his rich girlfriend Freddie (Channing), so he blackmails his friend Nicky (Nicholson) to marry her and come with them. After living for awhile with them in L.A. Freddie realizes the two men only want her for the fortune she stands to inherit, so she threatens that she will give it all to charity. That makes the guys decide to kill her so Nicky will get the money.

They drive out to a rural area and meet with Rattlesnake Tom (played by the great character actor Dub Taylor) who tells them "Most of your average people won't know a venomous reptile from a large garden worm." Oscar is dressed as a snake charmer complete with flute, turban, and brownface makeup looking like a silent movie star, in order to convince Tom that they need an "absolute authentic poisonous snake" for him to charm. Tom says "I ain't gonna guarantee ya you can charm a rattlesnake." but Nicky insists that Oscar has done it many times before. Nicky picks a snake and buys it for a "buck" and Tom picks it up with a forked stick, grabs it behind the neck, and carefully drops it in a bag. Somebody obviously coached him on the right way to bag a hot snake. Of course, the snake he picked up is a dead one, like all the snakes in the large wire cage, but it passes well for a live one. It looks like a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake. Tom tells Nicky to hold the bag "akimbo" from his body and Nicky drops the burlap bag in the rumble seat of the car. As they drive away, he tells Oscar his plan is to copy a famous guy "Casper de Mange" who put a snake in a canvas bag, then stuck his wife's foot in it and held it until she got bit. Oscar refuses to do that to his girlfriend and decides to take it on a picnic to make it look like it happened accidentally in the snake's territory. They put it in the garage in a wire cage with Freddie's pet baby chicken. (The rattlesnake we see now in the cage is a live one - maybe another diamond-back.) I assumed the snake would eat the chicken, but when they go look at it the next morning, the snake is belly-up and the chicken is still alive. These guys are such bumbling idiots that even their attempt to murder the wife with a rattlesnake fails and turns into comedy.