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Snakes in Movies
The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel) (1967) (aka The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, The Blood Demon, Castle of the Walking Dead)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
I was insulted that Amazon recommended this movie to me. Seriously, Amazon? First you think I would like a terrible trashy movie about truck stop hookers fighting the Mafia, and now you think I'd like a torture chamber movie? Then I saw the German title, which translates as "The Snake Pit and the Pendulum" and I realized how much Amazon really does understand me. (The truck stop hooker movie wasn't bad, either.)

This is a Euro-horror movie made in West Germany that takes place some time in the past when people rode around in horse-drawn carriages. (And no, there is nobody named Dr. Sadism in it.) Christopher Lee stars in it, but he doesn't have much screen time. He plays Count Regula, who murdered 12 virgins because he needed their blood to make himself immortal using some magic ritual that is never explained. His punishment was to have a spiked mask pounded onto his face then he was drawn and quartered in the town square. (Quartering is when a horse is tied to each limb and then the victim is torn into four pieces. No, I don't think this is still used in Texas, but I could be wrong.)

35 years later the four-part Count comes back to life to get revenge on Roger (Lex Barker), the son of the man who executed him, and to get the blood of Baroness Lilian (Karin Dor), the daughter of his 13th victim, the one who escaped. For plot reasons only Lilian's blood can be used to make him immortal. Of course, since this is a movie, he has limited time to do it after he has been resurrected. The hourglass is ticking.

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The count's zombie servant Anatol (Carl Lange) lures Roger and Lilian to the count's castle then abducts and drugs Lillian and forces her to wear a lavender ball gown with hoops on the bottom for the rest of the movie, which, of course, looks great on her. When Roger shows up Lillian doesn't recognize him because she has some kind of drug-induced amnesia and thinks she's the Countess of the castle. (You have to suspend a lot of disbelief if you're going to enjoy this.)

Lilian sees a silver container and assumes that it's a gift brought to her by Roger. She opens it and puts her hand inside pulling out a small python. At first she is thrilled, calls it lovely, and thanks Roger for his unusual taste. Then suddenly she becomes terrified of the snake wrapped around her arm and spins around and throws it away. We then see the snake crawling on the floor, still alive, as if the audience really cares that it survived. She sure snapped out of her amnesia fast.

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Living up to the title, there is plenty of torture in the movie. While it seems to me that wearing a corset would be torture enough for her, Lilian is tortured even more than that. She is abducted by the Count and Anatol who torture her but she doesn't get scared enough. She needs to be extremely terrified before her blood will help the Count. (This is a cheap plot device to get her into more danger, but I'll give it a pass because it gets her to into snake pit danger.) They send her into an underground place where spiders and scorpions all of a sudden appear on her arms and chest. There is even a newt on her breast! (What on earth is terrifying about a little newt?) But she's still not scared enough. Roger is also tortured. He is tied to the floor with a sharp pendulum swinging back and forth and slowly lowering down to him, like in the Poe story "The Pit and the Pendulum" that this is loosely based on. Lillian's servant is also tortured by being bound and gagged and hung over a bed of huge spikes as a device slowly tips her over to make her eventually fall and get impaled on the spikes. Now it's time for the snake pit torture. First, Lilian runs away from the creepy crawlies into a dark room.

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When a lamp is lowered from the ceiling Lillian sees that she is standing on a wooden beam that is suspended over a large pit full of snakes. She starts screaming and some nice terrified snake faces. Now that's acting. We see her face, then we see the snake pit, then we see her face, then the pit, again and again. We also see shots of her fancy little shoes to show she is standing on the beam which is slowly retracting into the wall, leaving her less and less room to stand on. Finally the beam is completely retracted and she starts to fall down into the pit, but just in time, Anatol opens the door and grabs her. Now her virgin blood is definitely ready, so Anatol drags her back to the Count's laboratory where, somehow, the 12 dead virgins he killed 35 years ago are lying around naked, still looking like they did when they died. Then more stuff happens and - spoiler alert - the good guys survive and the bad guys die. What else did you expect?

The first snake we see is a juvenile Burmese Python. The snake pit is full of maybe 10-12 real snakes, non-venomous boa constrictors I think, which we can see crawling around slowly. There are also some fake human bones and a fake arm in it because - why? Did the snakes kill someone the their corpse was left in the pit to rot? I wonder when that could have happened in the 35 years since the Count was gone. Was Anatol fooling around? But more I wonder who feeds and waters the snakes and adjusts their temperature and removes all their waste? If you don't keep the snakes healthy, what good are they in a snake pit? Movies have obviously never kept captive snakes. They never consider proper herpetocultural procedures when they show us snake pits, but I do. There are also a couple of hilarious fake snakes in the pit that look as if they are made of garden hose that someone is moving around. Whoever thought they needed to be added to the real snakes to make the pit look more horrifying had a great sense of humor.

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