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Snakes in Movies
 
The Hellbenders (The Cruel Ones) (1967)
 
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 Hellbenders The Hellbenders The Hellbenders
The Hellbenders The Hellbenders The Hellbenders
This is a pretty good Spaghetti Western. It's not one of the best of the genre, but it was made by one of the best directors, Sergio Corbucci, with a soundtrack by the great composer Ennio Morricone. The original title in Italian is "i Crudeli" which means "The Cruel Ones" but I prefer the alternate title "The Hellbenders," because the plot involves an ex-Confederate, Colonel Jonas, (Joseph Cotten), shortly after the end of the Civil war, who commanded a regiment called The Hellbenders. (There is more about Hellbenders below.) Jonas wants to re-start the Confederacy, so he and his three sons steal millions of dollars in cash that is being transported by soldiers to be destroyed so the government can replace them with new bills. They ambush and kill dozens of soldiers then load the cash into a coffin, carried in a coach, which they pretend contains the corpse of a Confederate soldier they are bringing to Tennessee to bury. The coach is accompanied by his widow, who is a woman they hired for the job. They are pursued by the military and civilian vigilantes, but all of them are fooled by the coffin ploy.

As Jonas and the others travel east, the horses pulling the coach go out of control and hit a rock, causing the door to open and the coffin to fall out. Everybody stops to put it back in the coach when the horses start whinnying because they've been spooked by a snake on the ground near them. One of the brothers pulls out a gun and shoots the snake, and the horses run away.

That's it. It's the standard western movie cliche of shooting a snake. The only purpose it serves is to leave them short of horses. Since this western was made in Spain, the snake is not a rattlesnake, the snake that is usually shot to death in a western. It's a harmless species, most likely one found in Europe, but the audience is probably supposed to think that it's a rattlesnake.

I think it might be a juvenile Aesculapian Snake, but I don't know European snakes very well. It's hard to tell, but it looks like the snake may have been actually shot, or a small charge was set off near it. We can't see if the snake was injured, but its movements after the explosion suggest that it was.
The Hellbenders The Hellbenders The Hellbenders
The Hellbenders The Hellbenders The Hellbenders
Nuclear radiation creates a monster Hellbender of enormous size that terrorizes the Appalachian Mountains, destroying everything and everyone in its path with its toxic slime...

is what I was hoping this movie would be, but no such luck. There's not even a real Hellbender in it.

In case you don't know, a Hellbender is a huge aquatic salamander found in streams in eastern North America. All we see in the movie is a few representations of Hellbenders: one is painted on the back of a wooden coach; there are Hellbender insignias on belt buckles; and ex-Confederate soldiers have a gold Hellbender insignia pinned to their hats. (After a brutal ambush, Colonel Jonas slaps one of his sons around because his Hellbender pin fell off his hat at the crime scene, which would have been evidence against them if the law found it. The Hellbenders regimental flag, which is draped over the coffin full of cash, also has a large Hellbender sewn on to it.

Since this movie is made by Italians in Spain and Italy which is supposed to be the North American old West, we can forgive them for making the Hellbender look more like a lizard than a salamander. They should also get credit for a great idea. I thought for sure that they took the name from a real Confederate regiment, but I have not been able to confirm that, so they probably just made it up for the movie.
The Hellbenders