Sometimes the only way to begin a conversation about an insane movie is to describe the plot. Snakes, alternately known by Fangs and other titles, is set in small-town Texas. “Snakey” Bender (Les Tremanyne) lives alone on a run-down property owned by his buddy, Burt (Richard Kennedy), who long ago moved into town. “Snakey,” a slovenly geezer who always wears greasy overalls and drives a broken-down car missing the truck hood, earned his nickname by assembling a huge collection of serpents. Every Wednesday, “Snakey” drives into town and collects mice local schoolchildren have gathered as food for his reptiles, in exchange for letting the kids gawk at the slithering creatures. After that, “Snakey” hooks up with Burt for weekly “concerts,” which involve them getting drunk and marching half-naked through Burt’s living room while listening to John Philips Sousa marches on Burt’s stereo. Then “Snakey” concludes his Wednesday rituals by visiting schoolteacher Cynthia (Bebe Kelly), the patron behind his supply of mice. What’s her angle? Every Wednesday night, “Snakey” lets Cynthia pleasure herself with Lucifer, the largest serpent in his menagerie.
But what—there’s more! The weekly routine gets thrown off-kilter when Burt marries an exotic dancer named Ivy (Janet Wood). Concurrently, portly shopkeeper Bud (Bruce Kimball) and his rotund lesbian sister, Sis (Alice Nunn), become preoccupied with getting Cynthia into a threesome—even as slippery local preacher Brother Joy (Marvin Kaplan) endeavors to expose Cynthia’s unholy arrangement with “Snakey.”
After taking forever to set up these bizarre plot threads, cowriter/director Arthur A. Names pulls things together with contrivances that turn “Snakey” against the people in his life. One by one, he lures them to his place and subjects them to torture involving snakes. All but Cynthia, of course, who—well, let’s just say she dies doing what she loves, and it’s quite a thing to see. Although Snakes is fairly tame in terms of gore and sex, notwithstanding Ivy’s lengthy striptease number, everything about the plot is so perverse that the movie has a certain forbidden-fruit appeal. Accentuating this quality is the presence of Tremayne in the leading role, since nerds of a certain age will recognize him as “Mentor” from the old Saturday-morning TV show Shazam! (1974–1977). Watching this movie makes it difficult to reconcile innocent memories of him driving around the countryside in a Winnebago with a little boy who magically turns into a muscular stud when the need arises.
Like so many other oddities from the cinematic fringe, Snakes benefits (if that's the right word) from crude execution. The lack of technical polish adds to the sense of this picture being a transmission from the outer edges of the human experience. How else can one describe a film with the following running joke? After each murder, “Snakey” loads the body into a car, pushes the car off the cliff, and struts home to the accompaniment of yet another Sousa march. Plus we haven’t even gotten to the bit when “Snakey” forces a captive Brother Joy to rub a fish all over his body, or the scene in which “Snakey” suspends Sis on a swing over barrels, or . . .