Tonight’s article is about ssseven sssensational sssnakes.
Specifically, monster snakes from all walks of pop culture, and by that I don’t just mean “very large snakes.” (You won’t find the Basilisk on this list.) I was more interested in unearthing creatures that were predominantly snakes but still only kinda sorta snakes. Make sssense?
Enjoy the ssshow. Don’t worry, the “sss” gimmick ends here.
G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
If you’ve never seen G.I. Joe: The Movie, yes, that really is Cobra Commander. The film featured a major tonal shift from the regular cartoon series, existing as a weird sci-fi/horror/action hybrid that raised plenty of eyebrows in its day. It was too much of a departure for many fans, but I loved it.
In the movie, we learn that Cobra Commander was actually working at the behest of his freaky Cobra-La bosses, who believe that he dropped the ball on their extremely protracted global takeover plot. As punishment, he’s exposed to yucky spores that cause disturbing mutations.
Now rapidly transforming into a literal snake, Cobra Commander forms an unlikely partnership with the heroic Roadblock. G.I. Joe: The Movie has many killer scenes, but perhaps none so memorable as Cobra Commander griping over his fading humanity to a temporarily blind Roadblock. “I wassss once a maaaan!”
Near the end of the film, Cobra Commander atones for his past sins by helping the Joes in a critical moment. Course, his redemption was a tad bittersweet, since by that point he’d completely turned into a snake and was almost certainly better off dead. Pretty heavy stuff for G.I. Joe!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1992)
Among the weirdest TMNT action figures ever made, Scale Tail felt more at home with Toxic Crusaders. Thank God this guy came out so late in the line, because had Playmates gone the “mutant cobra” route even one year earlier, it would’ve just been a normal dude with a snake head. Instead we got this magnificent pile of nonsense.
Scale Tail’s absurd appearance owed to the fact that he wasn’t a traditional “mutant,” but rather an alien bounty hunter summoned from Dimension X to do Krang’s bidding. This was an important asterisk, as the whole “he’s an alien” thing allowed Playmates to replace Scale Tail’s right arm with a writhing mass of pythons. Hey, he was from Dimension X — nothing had to make sense!
I’ve mentioned this before, but the TMNT toy line was another case where slipping sales inspired batshit crazy creativity. Such a shame that far fewer people were paying attention when Playmates was doing its best work!
Evil Snake Drug Dealer!
Anti-Drug PSA (1990s)
Oh man, this guy. Longtime (and I mean longtime) readers may remember my affinity for Mr. Snake, star of one of the spookiest anti-drug PSAs ever produced.
Beginning as an everyday drug dealer, a random bad boy slowly morphs into a MONSTER COBRA, with an increasingly raspy voice to boot. The effects are amazing. By the end, Mr. Snake looks like a cross between Serpentor and a camouflaged Cloverfield monster. Gnarly as fuck, and a pretty severe sight to see during weekday afternoon programming blocks.
It was just another in a long string of anti-drug PSAs that very deliberately attempted to scare the bejeezus out of small children. Many of those spots worked like horror movies, but Mr. Snake’s felt like it was just lifted directly out of one.
Fun fact: This PSA used to air regularly during WPIX’s Shocktober marathon, so I’d associate it with the Halloween season even if it didn’t star a giant snake-man who yelled at me.
Masters of the Universe (1985)
I’ve written about King Hiss before, but it’d be criminal not to include him on a list of snake monsters. He may not seem like much in that comic scan, but as anyone who owned the action figure knows, King Hiss was way, waaay more snake than man.
(Tl; dr: He’s a pile of snakes under that skin.)
The neat thing about King Hiss is that he wasn’t another of Skeletor’s henchmen. In fact, you could easily argue that Hiss was ahead of Skeletor in the pecking order. This would become better established in future tellings of He-Man’s story, but even in the ‘80s line, kids plainly understood that King Hiss always got first dibs on the plastic thrones and the robot horse saddles.
At absolute worst, he’d have to play rock-paper-scissors with Skeletor and Hordak.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)
Tryclyde was one of the bosses from Super Mario Bros. 2. He wasn’t especially difficult to defeat, thanks to his fatal decision to nest next to platforms that made it easy to hurl shit at his head from a safe distance. (Well, heads.)
But he still looked great, and he’s another of the SMB 2 enemies that really oughta be more consistently represented in the growing Mario universe. (I’m not a big gamer, but is there any specific reason that so few SMB 2 enemies stuck? You’re telling me that you couldn’t see Mouser in the next Mario Kart?)
Dream Warriors (1987)
During A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy Krueger adopts a super huge snake form to torment Patricia Arquette.
(Man! Sometimes I wonder if I overrate Dream Warriors due to personal nostalgia, but when I remember that this crazy snake scene wouldn’t even be among my top five favorite moments from the film… no, I’m definitely not.)
Fun fact: If you’ve ever opined that the Freddy snake seemed kind of phallic, the crew shared your concerns. They actually slopped it up with a bunch of dark paint after preliminary shoots, hoping to mask the fact that Slitherin’ Freddy — originally produced in a purely fleshy color — looked like a big monster dick.
Even if Beetlejuice was too lighthearted to be truly frightening on the whole, several moments suggest otherwise. I don’t doubt that a substantial number of kids requested early exits from movie theaters upon arrival of Beetlejuice’s snake form, which was only a little less spooky than Freddy Krueger’s!
Hell, not even Danny Elfman’s clowny score could hide the fact that this was terrifying.
What are some of your favorite snake monsters? Let’s talk snakes, in the comments.
UPDATE: Several of you have suggested the snake from Dreamscape. I haven’t seen the film, but I just watched a few clips, and yes, that snake was born to be included here. Sorry, snake guy. If it makes you feel better, I’ll be completely obsessed with you by tomorrow.