Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Our favourite ophidiophobe encounters snakes twice in the first of the three Indiana Jones movies. First, in South America, he finds himself in Jock’s plane, sharing a seat with Jock’s pet snake. You’d think that, being in South America, they’d use something South American, like a Boa Constrictor, which isn’t exactly hard to find. But no: they used a Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) instead.

Then, of course, the scene: the Well of the Souls, full of snakes. As Spielberg recounts on the bonus disc, they started with a few thousand harmless snakes, then had to add more. Trouble is, most of what they added were glass snakes — which is to say, Glass Lizards (Ophiosaurus), legless lizards that are definitely lizards, with eyelids, ears, lizard scales and breakable tails (hence the name). I spotted an awful lot of them in the scene’s wide-angle shots; as for the smaller nonvenomous snakes, I couldn’t make them out, though I think I spotted at least one garter snake (my favourite snakes, so of course I would).

There were pythons, which were easier to spot: the striking snakes were small Reticulated Pythons (Python reticulatus) from southeast Asia, not the sort of thing you’d find in Egypt; there were some larger-bodied pythons, but I couldn’t tell whether they were African sebae or Asian molurus — it doesn’t matter, since neither are found in Egypt. And look: here are the Boa Constrictors they could have used at the start of the movie!

The cobra scene was well done: actors behind clear plastic for safety, of course. But the cobra was a Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia), rather than an Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje). Egyptian Cobras are psycho; Monocled Cobras are more common in captivity and have more distinctive markings.

But no asps (very dangerous), so far as I could tell.

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