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Snakes in Movies
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Snakes in Movies
The Inhuman Woman (L'inhumaine) (1924)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is a French silent movie with a venomous snake used to kill someone. The plot is trivial but it's worth watching for the art direction and artistic sets, including a futuristic laboratory.

Claire Lescot (Georgette Leblanc) is the inhuman woman - a wealthy unmarried opera singer who lives in a mansion where the servants wear happy face masks and the the dining room is in the middle of an indoor duck pond. Maybe that was the typical life of rich people in 1924 France. The title card tells us even Claire's friends call her an inhuman woman, and we learn why when one of her guests encourages her to do something to help "the progress of humanity" and she tells him: "Your humanity leaves me cold: only superior beings interest me." Regardless of her arrogance, she is such a great singer that when her audience starts rioting, they calm down when she starts to sing.

Claire throws a fancy party, inviting only men - a clown, an academic, a former minister, a boxer, an engineer, a powerful businessman, and the Indian Maharaja Djora de Nopur (Philippe Heriat) who we are told is a practitioner of despotism. Every man at the party is probably making a play for her. We see the Maharaja pursues her, and a businessman and a young scientist Einar Norsen (Jaque Catelain).

After Claire rejects him at the party, Einar the scientist pretends to kill himself, which gives him a second chance with her when she finds out he's not dead. He takes her to his lab and shows her his work. The Maharaja promised her a crown and the life of a queen, but Einar has a lot of cool toys - radio broadcasting equipment, a giant flat screen television on the wall, and a machine that can resurrect the dead, so Claire chooses him. (Television was first successfully demonstrated in 1927, but it had been in development since 1920, so it wasn't totally speculative in 1924.)

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The snake scene

When he finds out about Einar, the Maharaja threatens Claire's life, but she ignores him. He goes to her car waiting to take her home after a performance and sends away the chauffeur. Then he puts on the chauffeur's uniform. A huge flower arrangement is delivered for her from Einar, so he puts it in the back seat. Then he takes out a small cage with a snake in it. The title card tells us it's a deadly reptile from Asia. (This is unusual in a movie, since most movies expect us to assume that all snakes are deadly.) He loosens the top of the cage and puts it inside the flower arrangement. We see the snake escape through the open lid into the flowers. Claire gets into the back seat and he drives away. She is impressed by the flowers and puts her hand inside the arrangement, then the snake bites her. She looks scared and we see a bite mark on her hand, then she falls over. When they get to Einar's home, he pulls her out of the car and carries inside and puts her on a bed then he goes into his mad scientist laboratory to try to invent a cure for her to bring her back to life. He fails at first, but tries again and finally she wakes up good as new.

This is an early use of a snake used as a weapon in a movie. As I've said before, releasing a venomous snake and expecting it to kill someone is a really stupid way to kill someone, even if you're trying to avoid the appearance of murder, because there's only a very small chance that the snake will actually stay around long enough to bite the intended victim before it tries to escape. And I have to wonder, where did the Maharaja get a venomous Asian snake in France? Did he bring it with him from India in its little wire cage? Did his servants feed it and keep it warm just in case the Maharaja needed to kill someone? And what happened to the snake after it killed Claire? We see the Maharaja drive away in the car. He should have been worried that the snake would crawl up to him and kill him, too.

You can watch the whole movie and read a synopsis of it at