Stanley (1972)

AUGUST 12, 2008

GENRE: PREDATOR, HERO KILLER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

I’ve never seen the original Willard, but I quite enjoyed the remake. And after seeing Stanley, which was admittedly inspired by the original film, I really should get on that. But that’s a review for a whole other day. Maybe a Thursday.

Stanley is about Tim, a weirdo with a deep affection for his pet snakes, particularly two named Hazel and, you guessed it, Stanley. Early on they have little snake babies, and it is very precious. But there are some redneck locals, and assorted other undesirables, so you should pretty much know how the movie plays out.

But, like a lot of 70s movies, it’s just really “off”, which makes it lovable. The last 15 minutes are particularly batshit, as Tim kidnaps a girl who doesn’t seem to mind much, and even when he threatens to rape her, she’s pretty much OK with the situation (they then make consensual love and she seems more interested in him than he is in her!). This is preceded by an endless montage of the two of them traveling down the river, set to a song that reminded me of Julian Lennon’s “Valotte”. Also, Alex Rocco, as the film’s primary villain, is just gonzo. He wears a very effeminate robe, constantly lifts 1 lb weights, checks out his non-sculpted physique, etc. His death scene is also hysterical – it includes a nonsensical freeze frame that I actually thought was the end of the film.

Plus it’s just funny how ineffective both Tim and the snakes are, as most of the deaths are sort of the folks’ own fault. The big bad’s two henchman, for example, just drown in quicksand trying to escape a snake-waving Tim. He just wanted them to leave for all we know. Later, a 3rd henchman kills Hazel and the snake babies, and it takes Tim like half an hour to kill him.

I also want to point out the depressing/hilarious outcome of this series of events – we see Tim burying Hazel with a little makeshift cross above the ‘grave’, and then the camera pans to reveal three SMALLER crosses and dirt piles for the baby snakes. The only way the scene would be more amazing would be if Tim (or Stanley, even better) looked to the sky and let out a good "Nooooooooooooooooo!"

There’s also a great bit where Tim randomly walks into a strip club and sees a woman eat a snake’s head. So he stalks her and the club owner, who sleep together on the couch (but don’t get it on), and then breaks in and throws an endless number of snakes on them (or it’s just one snake shown being thrown 20 times). It’s a completely extraneous scene, obviously meant to pad the film and add some more bloodshed, but it’s still a delight.

Director William Grefe, Chris Robinson (not Black Crowes’ guy, the guy who played Tim), and writer Gary Crutcher were on hand for the screening, a rare trifecta for these Grindhouse night movies, as the guys are often dead or no one knows where the hell they are (one night they had the film’s sound recordist and no one else). Their Q&A was enjoyable, if a bit long (Grefe likes to ramble), and they also signed posters. All that, combined with the other movie (Impulse), resulted in this being one of the longest Grindhouse nights ever – we didn’t leave the theater until 1 am (we sat down at 7:30). But it was, as usual, a blast, and I urge you to check out the film when it hits DVD later this year.

What say you?

7 comments:

  1. This movie started rolling slow, but once it got going, it rocked.

    Other notable goodies...
    --Rocco's incestuous dialogue with his slutty daughter. Hilarious.

    --Tim's dinner with the rattlesnakes complete with mouse snuff.

    --Tim going batshit on the snakes when they refuse to kill the girl. The snake snuff was pretty intense. Tim grabs the snakes by the tail and starts whipping them against the wall and floor. One of the most violent things I've ever seen on film. Oh and Hazel legit getting blown away by a shotgun was also intense, but that's 70's exploitation for you.

    -- Oh yeah and the murderous hippie, Psycho (aka John Lennon on PCP). Needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

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  2. I can't wait to get this one on DVD. For more Grefe fun, check out the Death Curse of Tartu/Sting of Death double feature from Something Weird.

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  3. i watched this movie this weekend. i enjoyed it except for the last 15 minutes and the killing of snakes.

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  4. I think I saw this movie about 30 years ago (how many snake-related horror movies from the 1970s can there be where two of the bad guys die by sinking into quicksand?). I always wondered what it was called.

    Doesn't it include a scene where some guy dives into his swimming pool, and as he's falling into the water, he notices its full of serpents? That really bothered my when I was 9 or 10.

    I saw this a few months after seeing the far superior "SSSSSSS." You've seen that, right? If not, damn, you need to add that to the top of your que! Its a genuine contender for Best Horror Movie of the 1970s. I'm not exaggerating.

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  5. If anyone cares, Chris Robinson starred on the very popular soap opera "General Hospital" as Rick Webber.

    I thought Stanley was surprisingly good. This little treasure can be found on Gore House Greats DVD Collection (12 films) which I found at a Books A Million for less than $6! Also, included is "Trip with the Teacher" starring a very young Zalman King of Red Shoes fame.

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  6. Like Karen, I found this on the Gore House Greats DVD collection. There are some real duds in the set but this was a stand out. The actor playing Tim (too lazy to scroll up) does a decent job as coming across as likable and crazy. By the end of the movie, after kidnapping Susie, he has gone past the point of redemption.

    I also give the actor credit for working with real live rattle snakes in almost every shot of the movie. Of course, they are seriously drugged and (probably) drained of venom. He still plays the scenes non-nonchalantly and with absolute trust in the animals.

    I can't imagine this movie has a "No animals were harmed in the filming of this movie"! The graphic destruction of the snakes was actually the low point of the movie even if it was the goriest and most gruesome aspect. I hate snakes but don't approve of any animal deaths especially for a movie such as this.

    It's also too long! The freeze frame you mention was clearly the perfect point to end the movie. It was about 85 to 90 minutes into the damn thing (long enough to be considered a full length movie) and the last 15 minutes are just pointless padding: they add nothing!

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  7. I'm watching this movie as I write IS HILARIOUS!! It really started slow but now this is getting intense...

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