We review the obscure B "Animal Horror" classic. When I read the synopsis for Stanley, I was immediately intrigued. Seminole Indian Tim, who also happens to be a 'Nam vet, has isolated himself from society with only the accompaniment of his pet snakes. When local white men begin hunting the snakes to fashion their skin into belts, Tim teaches them a lesson with the help of his best-friend, Stanley...and Stanley is a rattlesnake. This being the early Seventies, I was anticipating naturalist themes and plenty of social commentary. Stanley certainly delivers on those aspects, as well as a tubular soundtrack and surprisingly good cinematography.
The most striking feature of Stanley is the lead's incredible snake handling skills. While plenty of films have disturbed me, I still don't think I've never been more uncomfortable watching something. Seeing Tim cuddle with the rattlesnakes as if they were kittens is stomach-churning. The filmmakers wisely utilize the human's seemingly innate fear of snakes, as well as religious significance, as a theme throughout. It confronts common mistakes about snakes being slimy or cold, or even evil—human beings are shown as being much more capable of committing evil acts.
Ahem...Moving on, there are plenty of other great moments to make Stanley worth a watch. The hippy music montages (done better than they were in Last House—sorry Wes!) and retro cinematography are top notch. One shot in particular of Tim throwing snakes on top of people in bed (which is one of the worst deaths I can possibly imagine) is quite good. The low angle on Tim's dark silhouette is terrific, as we see snakes falling toward the camera in slow motion. However, this is a grindhousey film after all, and so the shot is milked a bit too much, as they must have taken 15 shots and cross-dissolved them one after the other. Speaking of milking shots, the entire movie feels like it's a bit stretched out, but I think that speaks more to the time period than it does to the actual film.
We're so impatient with movies now, it was nice to take a break and watch Stanley, which is not boring, but certainly moves along at its own pace. If you're in the mood for it, I highly recommend checking this one out, especially if you're a fan of snakes!