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My Snake Will Kill You Now, Mr. Bond
Snakes can’t stand bad acting. That’s why they’re always trying to kill Roger Moore.

Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die

Snakes make several appearances in this, possibly the most morally objectionable of the Bond films (as opposed to merely sad and risible). In one of the opening scenes, a man is bitten to death by a snake during what is purportedly some voodoo ceremony. The snake appears to be an Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus), though I suppose it could also be a Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) a long way from home — I’m not that good at telling the difference. Although a tree boa’s bites are pretty nasty thanks to its long sharp pointy teeth, it’s decidedly nonvenomous and would not kill with a single nick. The snake makes a second appearance toward the end of the movie, along with a number of other snakes kept in a coffin; those snakes include Boa Constrictors (Boa constrictor), Burmese Pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) and a few colubrids that are probably rat snakes. It goes without saying that pythons don’t belong in the Caribbean.

Neither, for that matter, do Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki), one of which threatens Bond in his bathroom about half an hour in. Now I’ve kept two speckled kings, and while they do have a tendency to chew on your fingers, they’re quite harmless; Bond’s dispatching of said snake with an aerosol fireball is wholly gratuitous. It wasn’t even all that big a kingsnake.

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.

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.

Moonraker

Moonraker

Mr. Bond falls into a pool containing a huge, Bond-eating python, but he defies Drax’s latest attempt to plan an amusing death for him by stabbing the python in the throat with a pen. “You’re not a sportsman, Mr. Bond,” says the quotable Drax. “Why did you break off the encounter with my pet python?” Bond’s inevitably cringeworthy riposte: “I discovered he had a crush on me.” Groan.

Now, the snake in question is almost certainly not real — even in the opening frames, where it’s flicking its tongue most realistically, I think it’s a fake. The pattern most closely resembles a Reticulated Python — in this case, a morbidly obese one. But Reticulated Pythons come from southeast Asia; Drax’s lair is in the Amazon. Could there possibly have been a large, aquatic snake indigenous to the Amazon that would have been capable of snuffing the life out of gonorrheic British secret agents? I know there is one; the name’s on the tip of my tongue …

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