Friday, August 21, 2009

Fangs Of Terror

I don't know anything about author Joseph L. Gilmore, but his 1978 novel RATTLERS reads as though he was auditioning to pen the latest Irwin Allen TV-movie. Although Harry Novak produced a 1976 film of the same title, this Signet paperback has nothing to do with it, but it offers a plot, story structure, and characters that would have fit expertly into the era's many "animals on the loose" films, such as TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO and ANTS, which shares a very similar plot.

Millionaire Norris Bradley and his war-vet construction guy Sam DeBlase are working hard to build a luxury hotel on a Southern California hillside that will cater to the creme de la creme of society. Trouble is, not long after the bulldozers start digging, a massive den of hissing rattlesnakes--literally hundreds of them--is uncovered beneath the site.

Although the no-nonsense DeBlase puts up an argument (though not much of one, considering his financial stake in the project), the decision is made by the money men to keep working, while DeBlase hires a young snake expert from the local university and a handful of trained dogs to track and kill the serpents.

Yeah, it sounds crazy, but it just might work. And by the time of the hotel's lavish grand opening, when not a single snake had been seen for weeks, it looks as though the plan did work. But, no. Oh, no, no, no.

About halfway through Gilmore's story, he begins introducing a disparate group of supporting characters, which we identify immediately (from Irwin Allen movies like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) as cannon fodder. We have to learn a little about them, so, theoretically, we give a damn whether they live or die.

It takes Gilmore most of the book to get to the good stuff (only one dead body in the first 170 pages), but the climax is a good one, featuring hundreds of hungry rattlesnakes invading the posh hotel and chomping on the screaming aristocrats.

RATTLERS is a very entertaining potboiler. Predictable and over-the-top, yes, but if you remember having a good time watching stuff like DAY OF THE ANIMALS and THE SAVAGE BEES on television back in the day, you'll get a kick of this fast-mover too.


Anonymous said...

The only good part in the "Rattlers" movie is when the soldiers make a comment about "going to Barstow to pick up chicks".

If you've been to Barstow, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Joe was my grandfather.