Monstervision Host Segments for
Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
"THE SERPENT AND THE
I'm Joe Bob Briggs, and now we've got one of the
all-time most requested Wes Craven flicks. People ask me about this movie
soooooo much. I'm sitting there trying to have my chicken fried steak and
they'll say, "Joe Bob, how bout that thing 'Serpent and the Rainbow,' you
know that voodoo thang?" So we're showin it again. I think it's the only
movie in the last 40 years actually FILMED in Haiti. Some amazing scary
stuff in this baby, and a lot of weird stuff happened to the people who
were making it. It's the story of this Harvard guy who goes down to Haiti
to study Voodoo Fu so he can try to find out the secret formula for turnin
people into zombies. Unfortunately, once he gets down there, the chief of
Papa Doc's secret police starts jumpin into his dreams like Freddy Krueger
and makin snakes come out of zombies' mouths and eat him alive and giant
jaguars chase him with slow-motion Zombie Cams. Since the flick is made by
Wes Craven, Mr. Nightmare on Elm Street, it's sorta like Freddy Krueger
puts together a reggae band and starts slime-dancin behind your eyeballs.
The deal is that the secret police guy just MIGHT be zombifyin the
population, stealin their souls, hackin off their body parts, and forcin
em to fly Pan Am. It's terrifying. So let's take a look at those drive-in
We've got two breasts. (Of course, we will NOT be seeing
those on TNT.)
Six dead bodies.
Four undead bodies.
Graveyard voodoo Catholic candle zombie face-eating.
Gratuitous face needles.
Froth-face debutante Fu.
Check it out, and we'll be sitting right here where it's safe.
[fading] See, I told you these movies are related. It's the
whole Black Magic thang. Drink one potion, marry Sandra Bullock. Drink
another potion, turn into an undead amputee Harvard experiment. You don't
wanna get THOSE mixed up in the medicine cabinet. Can you imagine comin in
after a night of partying, reaching for the ole Bufferin, and WHAP!,
you're a potted plant.
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #1
might be based on a true story, but it IS a Wes Craven film, so we have
burning coffins, needles to the eyelids, a guy buried alive, an Amazon
jungle hallucinogenic jaguar attack, a dead man with worms crawling out of
his mouth--and that's all in the first 15 minutes. This movie was based on
The Serpent and the Rainbow, written by Harvard anthropologist
Wade Davis, who went down to Haiti in 1982 and discovered the drug
teterodotoxin. It's what the voodoo priests use to create the appearance
of death in people. David Ladd, who is one of the sons of Alan Ladd, got
the rights to the book, showed it to horror director Wes Craven--who else
would you show a zombie book to?--and Wes right away wanted to make it.
Not only did he wanna make it, but he wanted to actually travel to Haiti
to make it, even though no American movie had ever been filmed within the
borders of Haiti--and he quickly found out there was a reason for that.
It's not really a safe place. But he persisted, and so that funeral
procession you see at the beginning--that's the real magilla, shot with
more than 2,000 native Haitian extras--extras you'll be seeing again as
the movie gets stranger and stranger. Roll it.
[fading] You know
how they always say "The natives are restless"? Well, these natives
started getting restless. I'll tell you the story later. But you don't
wanna have 2,000 restless native Haitians surrounding you when you're the
funny-lookin rich guy from Hollywood with the expensive camera, you know
what I'm saying? Cause they do WEIRD stuff down there. "Oh, look, this
used to be Wes Craven--there are his intestines hanging over my
fireplace." Strange people.
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #2
Bill Pullman, as the Harvard anthropologist, in his first starring role.
He'd only made two other movies--"Ruthless People" and Spaceballs--when
he got this job. And that's Cathy Tyson as the local
psychiatrist--daughter of Cicely Tyson, making what was her second movie,
after being the call girl in "Mona Lisa." Anyhow, I wanted to tell you the
story of how the film crew had to flee Haiti. They were supposed to be
there for about a month, filming in one of the villages, and all the time
they were there they used about 2,000 extras a day at five bucks apiece.
But when it got close to the time to LEAVE Haiti, the locals started
realizing that, once the Hollywood people were gone, the five-bucks-a-day
gig would evaporate. So three times they threatened to strike unless they
got raises. And each time the producers gave them a little raise to keep
em happy--mainly because, when they negotiated, they all had rocks in
their hands. Actually, various local leaders would negotiate. This guy
represents 50 people, this guy over here represents 300. And the Haitian
government kept saying, "We'll be happy to send in government troops to
keep them under control," but the producers weren't too crazy about THAT
idea, cause they didn't think having 2,000 Haitian villagers beaten over
the head with rubber truncheons would look too good in the tabloids. And
then one day all the Haitians came to the production office and announced
that they wanted more money right then--that night--or else they would
start rioting. And David Ladd, the producer, stood up on top of a car and
talked to them with a bullhorn, and they all had rocks in their hands, and
he promised em some more money. The only problem was, they didn't have
that much cash in the production office. So they had to call somebody to
fly cash in from Miami. Meanwhile, the producers gave the order for
everybody to get out of the country, and they finished the rest of the
movie in the Dominican Republic. But meanwhile there were three people
trapped in the production office, and they couldn't get out until the last
villager was paid. But that wasn't even the strangest part of it. Four
crew members had voodoo experiences--all bad. And one guy went completely
insane and had to be sent back to the states. He was a raving paranoid for
four more days, and then he became perfectly normal and couldn't remember
what happened. And Wes Craven believes that one of the local priests had
put a curse on him. And from the moment they arrived, at least
three-fourths of the crew was sick at all times. But Wes never got sick.
And he was the guy who took the voodoo the MOST seriously. Okay, back to
[fading] I guess we won't be getting any more of those
commercials from the Haitian Tourism Council, huh?
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #3
sure that the Roman Catholics of Haiti would agree with Mariel when she
says that the Virgin Mary and voodoo are the same, and in fact, when they
were shooting "The Serpent and the Rainbow," they had trouble with the
Catholic church. After they had to flee Haiti because of a near-riot by
2,000 surly Haitian extras, they ended up in the Dominican Republic. But
the Archbishop shut down their production for three days, because he said
it was sacrilegious to make movies on Easter weekend. And the government
refused to cross him. Still, this is my favorite sequence of the movie,
one of the most beautiful things Wes Craven ever filmed, where they follow
the Catholic voodoo procession to the ancient temple, they have the
midnight nightmare snake-to-the-face attack, and then in this next
sequence they go to the natural waterfall cathedral. The thing is so
beautiful that you sometimes miss how great the performances are. That's
Paul Winfield as the con-man cockfighting nightclub guy who sells em the
zombie powder. Paul is probably best known for playing Martin Luther King
in the miniseries "King," and he was nominated for the Oscar for his work
in "Sounder" in 1972. And of course, he had his face eaten off by killer
cockroaches here a few weeks ago in "Damnation Alley." Grew up in Watts.
Classical stage actor. Same thing with Bill Pullman. He didn't get much
credit for this performance--there were even critics who said the part
should have been played by a black man--but I think he does a great job.
All right, back to the picture.
[fading] Christophe the Zombie, by
the way, is played by Conrad Roberts. Another great character actor. Hard
to do a good zombie. Zombies were kinda ruined by George Romero. Hard to
get people to WATCH a real zombie. They expect em to start doing that
Herky Jerky Walk and rollin their tongue around or something.
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #4
in pain] Excuse me while I double over in pain. Yow! That might be THE
most painful scene in the history of the movies. The only thing that even
comes close is the bathtub scene in "I Spit On Your Grave," but this one
is worse because you really BELIEVE this guy. Usually, in the movies, the
guy says, "Okay, Mr. Smart-aleck, I'm gonna take this hammer and this nail
and I'm gonna DRIVE this nail through your SCROTUM." And the guy says
"Please don't do that." Or somebody comes through the door and blows away
the torturer right before it happens. But this guy--he says "I'm gonna
nail your scrotum," and then he NAILS HIS SCROTUM! Do you know what a male
FEELS when he sees that? We all have to go to the urologist Monday morning
now. Good GRIEF. One reason that's so scary is the performance of Zakes
Mokae, as the leader of the Haitian secret police, the Ton-Ton Macoute.
He's a South African guy, one of the most famous stage actors in South
Africa--starred in all the plays of Athol Fugard, who, as far as I know,
is the ONLY playwright from South Africa, cause he's the only one who ever
sends any plays over here to America. Anyhow, Zakes Mokae was in that
movie "Cry Freedom" in 1987, and then he made this one in 1988, and ever
since then he's been in America, doing Hollywood movies, because
obviously, the man is SCARY. Okay, I'm gonna go run some cold water over
my scrotum now, as we return to "The Serpent and the
[fading] You know the REAL head of the Haitian secret
police lives in Queens? Yeah, we gave him political asylum. The Haitians
living in New York are kinda TICKED OFF about it. They have these
protests, but they're not too crazy about getting very close to his house,
you know what I mean? Fear of scrotum loss.
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #5
Brent Jennings as Mozart, the guy who mixes the zombie powder and sells it
to Bill Pullman--another great performance. You know, of all the hundreds
of zombie movies ever made, there are only THREE that are kinda based on
the truth of the Haitian voodoo zombie. The first one, White Zombie, in
1932. Then there was "I Walked with a Zombie," which many consider the
best one, in 1943. And then "The Serpent and the Rainbow," which I think
is by far the most accurate one. And I forgot to mention one more horrible
thing that happened while they were making the movie. After the filmmakers
almost got killed by the extras in Haiti, after everybody got sick, after
one guy went totally insane and had to be sent home, after three other
people thought they were under voodoo curses, after they moved to the
Dominican Republic and the Archbishop refused to let em shoot on Easter
weekend, THEN one of their Dominican production assistants filed a lawsuit
against the producers. And under Dominican law, if a lawsuit is filed
against a foreigner, they just arrest the foreigner and you have to stay
in jail until the case goes to trial. So the producers were put under
house arrest! And eventually they used the tried-and-true failsafe
Hollywood system: they spread a little cash around and they were allowed
to leave. So it's not so strange that Wes Craven would take the book by a
Harvard anthropologist and mix it with the political situation in Haiti to
create the horror of the film. All right? Back to the
[fading] Now here's the part I don't understand. The guy's
on a plane. He's going home to Harvard. He has . . . a wounded SCROTUM.
Wouldn't you think he would STAY in Massachusetts from now on and drink
cappuccino on Harvard Square? But NO! He wants more Haitian
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Commercial Break #6
buried-alive scene from "The Serpent and the Rainbow." It doesn't get
scarier than that, does it? All right, time for the conclusion of Wes
Craven's greatest film, I think-better than Scream, better than "A
Nightmare on Elm Street," better than my second favorite Wes Craven film,
The Hills Have Eyes. This flick has everything. You know, it's
interesting that Wes Craven had to take out some footage when this came
out so he could get an R rating. Otherwise they were gonna give it an X
for violence. But that's something that's happened with every film he's
ever made, beginning with "Last House on the Left," the ultra-low-budget
film he made in 1972 that's still one of the most intense of all horror
films. When "Last House on the Left" came out, they kept sending it back
to the MPAA Ratings Board, and every time they sent it in the board said
"X rating." They'd take out more footage. "X rating." They'd argue with
the board. "X rating." So finally, Wes put all the violent and gory
footage back in and he went to his producer, a Boston theater owner, and
he said, "Do you have any of those little pieces of film that go on the
front of the movie saying 'This movie is rated R'?" And he said, "Sure."
And so Wes just ASSIGNED HIMSELF an R rating and started showing the film.
And he never got caught, because what member of the ratings board is ever
gonna go watch a violent horror film in its natural setting? Downtown
theaters, drive-ins in the Deep South. And so I asked Wes, "Why don't you
do that on your movies today?" And he said, "Because, unfortunately, now
I'm Wes Craven. I can't get away with it." My kinda guy. Okay, roll
[fading] You guys ever seen Wes? Mild-mannered former professor
of philosophy. Kind of a pipe-and-slippers kinda guy. Ward Cleaver. With a
VERY active imagination.
"THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW" Outro
Great scene at the
end--Post Toastie Zombie Bashing. Peytraud is fried to a crisp, but he
keeps on coming! Wes Craven LOVES to work with firesuits. That was an
excellent effect when Peytraud bursts into flames. Best zombie movie ever
made. "The Serpent and the Rainbow."
Okay, I wanna thank Wanda
Jackson for stopping by. And also remind you that next week is H.G. Wells
Night on "MonsterVision," when we'll have two versions of his great novel
"The Time Machine"--first "The Time Machine," from 1960, then Time After
And speaking of time, I'm Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that
hard work pays off in the future, but laziness pays off now.
you guys hear the one about the guy who runs into a veterinarian's office
carrying his dog, screaming for help? The vet rushes him back to a room
and has him put his dog down on the examination table. The vet examines
the dog's limp body, and then tells the man that his dog is,
unfortunately, dead. The man won't accept it, demands a second opinion.
The vet goes into the back room and comes out with a cat. He puts the cat
down next to the dog's body. The cat sniffs the body, walks from head to
toe poking and sniffing the dog's body, and finally looks at the vet and
meows. The vet says to the man "I'm sorry, but the cat-scan shows your dog is
dead, too." The man is still unwilling to accept that his dog is dead. So
the vet brings in a black Labrador retriever. The lab sniffs the body,
walks from head to tail, and finally looks at the vet and barks. The vet
says to the man "I'm sorry, but the lab thinks your dog is dead, too." The
man finally accepts the truth, thanks the vet, asks how much he owes. The
vet says "650 dollars." The guys says, "650 bucks to tell me my dog is
dead?" Vet says, "Well, my initial diagnosis was only 50. The additional
600 was for the cat scan and lab test."
Joe Bob Briggs, reminding
you that the drive-in will never die.
[fading] Guy lives real far
away, and is unable to attend his father's funeral, so he calls his
brother and tells him, "Do something nice for Dad and send me the bill."
Later, he gets a bill for 200 bucks, which he pays. The next month he gets
another bill for 200 bucks, which he also pays, figuring it's some kinda
incidental expense. But every month, he gets another bill for 200 bucks,
so finally the guy calls his brother to find out what's going on. The
brother says, "Well, you said to do something nice for Dad. So I rented
him a tux."
The Drive-In will never die!
Serpent and the Rainbow can be seen free of charge at Hulu.com
Serpent And The Rainbow availability from Amazon.com
Host segment transcript ©1999 Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved