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Snakes in Movies
 
The Tender Warrior (1971)
 
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 is an adventure movie that was filmed in the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia. The local sheriff won't do anything to stop the Lucas family of moonshiners and animal poachers, so a A 12-year-old boy named Sammy (Charles Lee) tries to stop them himself. We see him manoevering his small boat through the swamp with his pet chimpanzee named Chuck. He empties the Lucas traps, freeing alligators and deer and other animals.

We see several unexplained random encounters with animals as Sammy makes his rounds. He also encounters and interacts with other animals, including a bear, a cougar, a leopard that escaped from a circus, turtles, alligators, and several snakes. The scenes with animals are really the main interest of the movie, with the plot only secondary. In one scene, Sammy rescues a cougar from quicksand, and somehow tames the leopard.

In all of the wildlife encounters in the movie (except for the leopard) we see animals that are native to the area. That is rare in any movie. The movie was made by the father-son team of animal trainers, Joseph Raffill and Stewart Taffill, who obviously had an eye for realism. The actors appear to be in some shots with the wild animals. That could be movie trickery, but I don't think so. We also see the leopard interacting with a snake and a snapping turtle. Those encounters are not faked, but they were probably closely monitored. And there's also a bear that likes to steal and drink moonshine.

Snake Scenes
Alligator Scenes
Turtle Scenes
Frog Scene

There's a good song over the opening credits "The Tender Warrior" composed and sung by Jimmy Walker with lyrics that set us up for some of the snake and alligator scenes:

"Tender warrior
Tender warrior
Danger lurks from the branches of the trees
Beware for their hidden in the leaves
And they see you every move you make
Tender warrior
Tender warrior
Tender warrior
Fury prowls through the marshes of this land
There are spots where the ground's too soft to stand
And it lures you, pulls you under
Tender warrior
Don't be blinded by the beauty all around you
For beneath its misty charm death surrounds you
Tender warrior
Tender warrior
In the black mirror waters where you glide
The cottonmouths and alligators hide
And they're waiting for your one mistake
Tender warrior
Tender warrior"


SNAKE SCENES

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Sammy sees an Eastern Coral Snake crawling through a human skull. I'm not sure what's more disturbing, seeing a venomous snake a human skull that was left in a swamp.

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Sammy paddles his boat underneath a snake on a branch as he's chased by Cal Lucas (Dan Haggarty) a poacher who is out to get Sammy.

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Cal is a character who provides a lot of comedy in the movie, as he does here. Startled when the snake drops off the branch towards him, he falls out of his boat trying to avoid it.

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In another scene, we see the escaped leopard come upon a Corn Snake. The snake strikes out at the leopard, startling it, and it runs off.

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Cal, angry at Sammy for freeing his trapped animals, decides to make a trap to get rid of Sammy. He digs a huge pit, then pours an Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake out of a sack and uses a stick to make it drop into the pit. He covers the pit with branches and leaves. The trap works, and Sammy falls into the pit. He sees the rattlesnake nearby, takes off his shirt and throws it at the snake. (He might be trying to cover the snake or maybe he's hoping the snake will crawl under the shirt and hide, leaving him alone. That's a trick I have used lots of times. (But never at the bottom of a snake pit.) Snakes don't want to get in a fight with humans any more than we want them to, so if you give them some place to hide, they will accept the offer. I like to use my hat for that.

Sammy calls Chuck and the chimp knows exactly what to do. Most humans aren't that smart, but ... it's a movie. Sammy pulls a large vine from a tree and drops it into the pit, helping Sammy to climb up and out. But when he gets out, Cal is there waiting, so Chuck goes after Cal and Sammy escapes.


ALLIGATOR SCENES

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We see Sammy with a fish in his hand. He calls a large alligator he calls "Iron Joe" and the gator swims up to him. Sammy throws the fish and the gator grabs it.

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As he chases after Sammy, we see Cal walking across a fallen tree trunk suspended over the water with an alligator underneath. When he slips and falls into the water, he starts to wrestle the gator. When he gets away and climbs onto the shore, the gator follows him, biting onto his rear end and refusing to let go. Finally Cal gets free of the reptile and we see a big hole in his pants bottom.


TURTLE SCENES

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Sammy puts a softshell turtle into one of Cal's traps, and when he reaches in the turtle grabs his finger and won't let go.

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We also see some random shots of a big Florida Softshell Turtle and a Gopher Tortoise. Then we see the escaped leopard pawing a Common Snapping Turtle. The turtle is turned over, but rights itself and the leopard finally walks away from it.



FROG SCENE

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In a comic scene, we see the Lucas family at their still in the swamp with a bullfrog in a pan of water above the still. We see the frog drop into the alcohol and get scooped out with a ladle by Pa Lucas. He's about to drink from the ladle when he sees the frog, and pours it onto the ground. We see the frog stumble around, unable to hop or walk because it's too drunk.