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Snakes on a screen

McClatchy Newspapers

Mankind's fear of reptiles has been exploited by filmmakers since the beginning of film; even heroic adventurer Indiana Jones turned out to be snake-phobic. Naturally, he was forced to confront his worst fears to save Marion Ravenwood from the snake pit in which she found herself in 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

The fear has also been more directly addressed in a number of films that state the name of the terror in their titles.

"Anaconda" (1997): The studio found itself with a surprise hit on its hands with this adventure thriller about a National Geographic crew in the Amazon who is essentially hijacked by snake-obsessed, overacting Jon Voight, who gets them all in a beef with the 40-foot member of the boa family of the title. Begat a less star-studded sequel, 2004's "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Black Orchid."

"King Cobra" (1999): One of the various attempts to cash in on the success of "Anaconda," this one starred not only the late Pat Morita but also Hoyt Axton, the writer of "Joy to the World," as small-towners terrorized by a 30-foot mutated blend of cobra and diamondback. Like 2000's "Python," written by Philip Roth -- not that one, of course -- this would slither straight to video and cable TV.

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"Rattlers" (1976): The snakes weren't born bad in this Mojave Desert-set take; they were just infected by nerve gas dumped by the U.S. military.

"Venomous" (2002): More mutant rattlers, escaped from a government lab targeted by terrorists and inflicting serious damage on the residents of a California burg. Not to be confused with . . .

"Venom" (1981): Terrorists are the true bad guys here. They bungle an attempt to kidnap the child of a wealthy London couple and accidentally unleash the boy's pet black mamba, who makes no distinction between hostage-takers and hostages. The reptile-like Klaus Kinski is in the cast of this British thriller.

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