Perhaps looking to profit off the momentum of 1971’s Willard, independent filmmaker John Burrows produced Stanley, a borderline horror (more so revenge) film directed by William Grefe (Mako: The Jaws of Death) doused heavily in hippie ecology, and slithering with 100% real snakes from reel to reel. Why would a man choose to live in such a manner? Well according to what Tim tells some fellow members of the Seminole Indians who come to visit, he hates the “white man” and what he has done to his people. How they ridicule and stare, and treat them like animals. Snakes and Tim have a common foe. Man.
Attempting to lead a peaceful life, Tim introduces Stanley to Hazel, his female rattlesnake, and makes little beds for them to sleep in at night. He talks to them, has dinner with them, and sleeps with them – never once being struck. With no power or running water, he earns what little living he can bringing snakes to town. To the Miami Medical Center to help create snake venom antidote, and to the local strip club, where a small town, banged up looking whore uses them in her cheap act.
Having turned down his pre-war employers when offered a new job back at the factory, as well as putting the nix on any snakeskin poaching, Tim finds himself at odds with local wealthy businessman Thompkins (Alex Rocco) and his cronies. When they disregard Tim’s warnings about hunting snakes in his swamp, and go so far as to admit they shot his father in cold blood when he was fishing off the Indian reservation, Tim resorts to an-eye-for-an-eye philosophy that Stanley seems to be in tune with, biting several victims in order to deliver his dirty work– injecting them with rattlesnake poison – leaving them to die.
This is where the film takes off in regard to rattlesnake action. It should be known however (as I’d personally purchased this film as part of the Gorehound Greats DVD collection) there is little to no blood in the film. Bites are red dots, and this is about as bad as it gets. Until the cronies hire Psycho (Paul Avery) as a hit man. Psycho finds Tim’s shack in the swamp and literally murders his snakes. Later Tim snaps, giving in to the murderous, high pitched, post war whine in his brain, and does a number on some snakes himself. These actual animal killings are by themselves the only disturbing part of Stanley. The remainder of the action boils down to when Tim abducts Thompkins daughter (Susan Carroll) and takes her back to his “Garden of Eden” for a sad and tragic ending (that is really far out, man), where he reveals his inner turmoil, admitting that he does not feel “white”, or Indian – that he instead dreams of slithering on the ground, and can’t help the way that he is. It’s a semi-sad, muddled finale that undermines most of what Tim stood for during the film – thus essentially inferring, that aside from the shortsighted racism that labeled him, this snake lover and Indian recluse was actually an unstable lunatic.
Stanley is an ecologically friendly vengeance piece, with hippie music and rowboats floating through the Everglades, trumpets and badly choreographed fist fights, hairy bad guys and lots of slippery serpents. Under his character’s personal conjecture of “the only beauty in this world is when man isn’t there”, Tim snaps via man-hating, Vietnam War brain damage, and does his best to see that all animals are treated equal – with the penalty of breaking this crime in his swamp being death. Tim dispatches Stanley alongside several strong and environmentally protective points of view – naming man as amoral and doing his best to stand tall for the rights of the skinned-alive. Still, after all the grandstanding and verbosity against animal cruelty and poaching, the cast and crew make sure to blaspheme that entire message by smashing, shooting, crushing, and killing countless real snakes in the film – momma snake, her babies, all the ones you might have come to care about in the slightest – akin to the unsettling legitimate animal deaths in Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox. In the end , it’s a grainy and slightly faded, slithering and somehow entertaining adventure of a man who snaps – the likes of which you’ve probably seen before, certainly if you’re old enough and privy to 60’s and 70’s one man lawman shows. It’s one of those “bad” movies that holds its weight with several unpredictable and sincerely entertaining moments. Like Macho Alex Rocco working out with toothpick dumbbells in a robe by the mirror he set up out by the pool. Or the mega-indulgent, semi-psychedelic murderous tripout of Tim as he throws sackfulls of poisonous snakes onto his stripper scum foes. If seventies style animal themed horror is you’re flavor, Stanley is a fun, tongue in cheek, independent spectacle of low budget hippie horror to snag.