Holy Crap, It’s Real!
I can’t believe they used the real thing.

NCIS: “Twilight”

NCIS:

Corn Snakes appear in the final episode of NCIS’s second season: first in the teaser, where the victims swerve to avoid one on the road while their assassins run it over; and second, when one wraps itself around Kate’s leg at the crime scene. Tony makes a big scene about its presence, pretending that it’s venomous and making an exaggerated attempt to unwrap it from Kate; McGee spoils Tony’s fun by IDing it as a Corn Snake and asking to hold it. Everything here is accurate: they use a real Corn Snake (though it’s obvious that a fake one was run over); Corn Snakes are found in Virginia; and holding one is the sensible thing to do — they are, after all, the most popular pet snake in the world. Though they’re not necessarily tame in the wild.

Octopussy

Octopussy

Two brief scenes involving snakes in this late Moore-era Bond flick. In the first, Bond meets his Indian contact, Vijay, whose cover is as a snake charmer. “This was the wrong cover,” he says. “I hate snakes.” The actor playing Vijay, Vijay Amritraj, was reportedly terrified of snakes himself — and you won’t see him in many closeups with the cobras in the baskets. Even so, I strongly suspect the cobras being used were venomoid (i.e., their fangs were removed). They certainly didn’t look fake. In the second scene, Bond escapes from the villain’s lair into the jungle, where he encounteres many interesting animals. While hiding motionless from the hunting party, a snake crawls over him. “Hiss off,” he says. I can’t identify the species (they did film in India), but it does rather look like a harmless colubrid.

I, Claudius

I, Claudius

The opening titles of I, Claudius are famous enough that Sesame Street parodied them in one of the first iterations of “Monsterpiece Theater.” They feature a snake crawling across a Roman mosaic; the snake is, appropriately enough, an Adder (Vipera berus), a venomous snake native to Europe, and one of only three snakes found in Britain. (It’s not terribly dangerous compared to other venomous snakes, but you still don’t want to be bitten by one. Or eat the figs.)

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

The Madagascar portion of Casino Royale opens with a crowd betting on a staged cobra-vs.-mongoose fight. Trouble is, there are no cobras in Madagascar — and such staged fights are more an Indian thing, anyway. The snake itself is hard for me to identify, since I’m not a cobra specialist, but my best guess is that it’s an Indian Cobra (Naja naja). In any event, nice to see the snake win, for a change.

Copperhead Beer Commercial

Copperhead Beer Commercial

Canadian brewery Steelback markets a beer called “Copperhead” in the Bohemian pilsener style, though Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) are native neither to Bohemia nor to small Canadian breweries. They did manage to get a real, live Copperhead to appear in their ad for the beer (QuickTime, 2.5 MB), which is something. Do pit vipers work for scale?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Only one brief scene with a live snake in the second Indiana Jones movie (ignoring the dinner scene’s “Snake Surprise,” which was filled, like a hovercraft, with eels). About 33 minutes in, Willie Scott tosses away a snake dangling over her shoulder, thinking it’s an elephant’s trunk, while Indy recoils in fear. The appropriate snake for this purpose would be an Indian Python (Python molurus molurus) or light-phase Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus), and by God that’s just what they used. (Even so, they had to fly a pair of snakes into Sri Lanka, where the film was being shot; seats were reserved for Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow.) Another snake scene was planned, but cancelled before it was shot, to the considerable relief of the ophidiophobic Kate Capshaw.

Now, if this blog was called Crocs on Film, I might point out that using American Alligators in the suspension bridge scene instead of an indigenously Indian crocodilian species kind of ruins the verisimilitude, but it isn’t, so I won’t.

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

In a movie duology where all the main characters have codenames based on snakes,1 an actual snake makes only a brief appearance: Elle Driver plants a Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) in Budd’s suitcase of money. Some the wider shots (left) used a harmless stand-in, understandably — my guess is that that is a Western Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon) — but I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Tarantino took the trouble to get closeup shots (centre) of a real Black Mamba. Very brief, though, and almost certainly filmed off-set — which is sensible! The final shot (right) looks like a mamba too.

1 Elle Driver is a wuss: her codename, “California Mountain Snake,” probably refers to the California Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata), which is a dainty, harmless little thing.

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