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Snakes in Movies
 
The Velvet Vampire (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.
 
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This erotic vampire sexploitation movie features a woman vampire named Diane (Celeste Yarnall). She invites an attractive young married couple Susan (Sherry Miles) and Lee (Michael Blodgett) to her isolated house in the Mojave desert, where she hopes to seduce both of them and suck their necks. It's very strange for a vampire to live in the desert, but Diane can handle the sunlight as long as she's wearing a hat. She even drives around in a convertible dune buggy. After giving Lee a long lustful description of what it's like to drive a dune buggy that sounds a lot like having sex, Lee can't wait to get behind the wheel and bounce up and down on the dunes. After a day of desert sightseeing, they all pull into a ghost town. Susan doesn't want to explore the old buildings, so she strips down to her bikini, lies down on a towel, and starts burning her fair skin. Finally alone together, Diane and Lee run inside and start smooching. Then we see a fun sequence with a rattlesnake. We see Diane and Lee about to kiss, then we see a sidewinder rattlesnake crawling towards Susan. Then more smooching and more of the snake. As Diane crawls closer to Lee's neck, the snake crawls closer to Susan, in a mystery of which one will sink their fangs in first. The snake wins the contest, crawling on top of Susan's leg and then bites her thigh. Susan wakes up screaming and Diane and Lee uncouple and run to her. Lee grabs a stick that's conveniently located nearby and uses it to pick up and throw the snake off of Susan. Diane grabs her knife from the dune buggy. (We know she carries one because previously we saw her stab a would-be rapist to death in the city with it.) She tells Susan that if she doesn't cut the puncture open and suck out the blood, the poison will spread. We see her suck and spit and suck and spit a few times. This is the "cut and suck" practice of cutting the bite marks, sucking the venom out of a rattlesnake bite wound, and spitting it out without swallowing it. It's not recommended anymore because it's dangerous to both parties and does not work, but that has never stopped the movies from continuing to show it. In this case, however, it's kind of cool that we see a hungry vampire doing the sucking right after she was denied a full meal. All that fresh blood must be driving her crazy. But no worries, she gets to feed her blood lust later. Finally, we see the trio back at Diane's house where we can see a big mark on Susan's thigh.

I watched the snake on the actress's nearly-naked body many times (for educational reasons) but I could not figure out what kind of trickery they used, so I decided they must have used a real live rattlesnake crawling towards and onto a real live woman. That should be forbidden on a movie set, even a low-budget horror movie made in 1971. Maybe they removed the snake's venom glands, but they obviously didn't sew its mouth shut, because we see it open. This was before CGI was good enough to fool us and I don't think they had the budget for a lot of post-production, anyway. They could have used a glass barrier for part of the scene or used double-exposure or some other effect, but I don't think so. If they did use a live snake and a real woman, the close-up of the snake on the woman might have been shot with a stunt woman.

I've watched a lot of movies with rattlesnakes in them, but this is only the second one I can remember that uses my favorite rattlesnake - a sidewinder. I don't know why that is, maybe sidewinders are not kept by the businesses that supply rattlesnakes to movies, or more likely, because they're small and don't look a lot like a big scary rattlesnake. But it's definitely the perfect rattlesnake to use in this location, because they inhabit sandy Mohave desert locations like it. However, they are mostly nocturnal, and are not likely to spend a lot of time crawling exposed in sunlight as we see here. A sidewinder probably wouldn't climb up on a woman's body and bite her, either, but I know for a fact that they will crawl right up to someone on the ground, because it happened to me. (No, I wasn't sunbathing in a bikini.)

You can watch the whole movie and read a good description of it over at The Silver Scream. The sidewinding bikini biter shows up at about 31:36.

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Tag lines:

They desired her body... She craved their blood.
She's Waiting To Love You...To Death
Climax after climax of terror and desire...where the living change places with the dead.