Serpent Filmography 

This is a list of all films known to the editor in which the serpent appears at least briefly. Please send an email if you know of any others which should be on this list.

Click here for Serpent Discography

Video Information                       Description
Video Yesteryear, Sandy Hook, CT
The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn; Peter Sellers & Spike Milligan
Serpent is shown but not played
This film is the prototype for the Pink Panther films; the serpent is the visual manifestation of the battlehorn of the film's title.
1981 Time Bandits; John Cleese & Sean Connery, directed by Terry Gilliam
Serpent appears as part of a theatre pit orchestra (comprised of only a keyed bugle and the serpent) in a city just conquered by Napoleon (Ian Holm); the two instrumentalists are handed the sheet music for "Me and My Shadow" by the time travelers, and they take their best shot at the strange piece. The serpent is mostly glimpsed from behind a music stand, and the sound might or might not be from some other instrument (the keyed bugle seems to be a kazoo)
This film is the first of Gilliam's 'Dreamers' trilogy, which also includes Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
BBC (?) 1995/1996 Pride & Prejudice; Colin Firth, directed by Simon Langton
Phil Humphries, serpent
Serpent appears (visible & audible) for an extended period during the pivotal dance sequence
This is the film adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.
? Quills; Geoffrey Rush & Kate Winslet & Michael Caine, directed by Philip Kaufman
Dave Powell, serpent
Serpent appears (visible & audible) briefly during the presentation of a play in the asylum
Story of the incarceration of the Marquee de Sade in an insane asylum.
1994 Return of the Native; Catherine Zeta-Jones , directed by Jack Gold
Serpent appears (visible & somewhat audible) briefly in the Christmas party, country dance, and wedding party at the end
This is the film adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel.
1935 version The Scarlet Pimpernel; Leslie Howard & Raymond Massey & Nigel Bruce & Joan Gardner, directed by Harold Young
Serpent appears (visible; soundtrack does not appear to match the group seen on screen) in the opening parade sequence
Well known film version of a classic adventure story.
Philips # 70254
reissued as part of
Decca # 074 3212
(see below)
Symphonie Fantastique; Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, directed by John Eliot Gardiner
Stephen Wick, serpent & ophicleide; Stephen Saunders, ophicleide
Serpent appears throughout the symphony, but is most apparent during the Witches' Sabbath movement
Filmed during audio recording of the symphony by Hector Berlioz (see Discography for audio CD).
A&E # AAE-17132 (1998) Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Justine Waddell, Jason Flemyng, directed by Ian Sharp
Phil Humphries, serpent (with The Mellstock Band; see Discography for CDs)
Serpent appears (visible & audible) in two extended sequences: the opening dance practice & the market day dance. Contrast with the BBC TV miniseries, which has far less serpent footage.
This is the film adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel.
Masterpiece Theatre Far From the Madding Crowd; Nigel Terry, directed by Nicholas Renton
Serpent appears (visible & audible) briefly in county fair dance
This is the film adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel.
Hallmark/Warner Home Video (2000) A Christmas Carol; Patrick Stewart, directed by David Jones
Serpent appears (visible & somewhat audible) briefly during party scene
This is a made-for-TV adaptation of the Charles Dickens story.
HBO Video # 90307
Hemdale Film Corp. 1990
Chattahoochee; Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Frances McDormand, Pamela Reed, directed by Mick Jackson
Craig Kridel, serpent
Serpent appears (visbible & somewhat audible) briefly in the party sequence as part of the 'lunatic band' playing "Happy Days Are Here Again"; NOTE: the three tubas and serpent that comprise the lunatic band are played by competent musicians doing their best to sound awful, and the strange noises made by the inmates mostly drown out the music anyway. Still, there are a couple of fine profile shots of a serpentist in action.
Story of Emmett Foley's attempts to make government aware of inmate abuse at Florida insane asylum.
Tai Pan; Bryan Brown, Joan Chen, directed by Daryl Duke
Serpents appear briefly during the beach auction scene (DVD chapter 11 "Pay in Cash") and later dance scene (DVD chapter 13 "The Ball"). In the first of these scenes, the serpent is audible playing the bass line in "Soldier's Joy" and  clearly audible in Beethoven's "Minuet in G". In the latter scene, the audible bass line is played on some other low brass instrument instead of serpent.
This is the film adaptation of the James Clavell story about Hong Kong.
Journey to the Center of the Earth; James Mason, Pat Boone, directed by Henry Levin
Don Cristlieb, serpent
Serpent is very audible as a sound effect in several scenes; DVD chapter 29 (at 1 hour 34 minutes) "The Mushroom Forest" (as iguana/dimetrodon), chapter 36 (1:55) "The Way Up", and chapter 38 (2:00) "Monsters & Earthquakes" (this last scene has the most serpent playing, whenever the giant red lizard menaces the company).  Composer Bernard Herrmann often called for serpent effects in his film compositions, and Don Christlieb was one of his regulars, and he apparently had a serpent. The serpent playing is 'bad' here, but possibly this was deliberate to sound like a giant lizard!
This is the classic film version of the Jules Verne novel.
1971 The Devils; Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave, directed by Ken Russell
Christopher Monk, serpent
The film soundtrack alternates between period pre-renaissance music and modern music for the more horrifying scenes. Serpent is very audible and sometimes visible two scenes; (at about 6 minutes into the film) with a walking band playing the Dies Irae as Oliver Reed's character Father Grandier leads a funeral procession through town, and (at about 1 hour 30 minutes) during Grandier's execution. The period music is performed by David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London (which included Christopher Monk' on serpent), and the modern neo-classical selections are by composer Peter Maxwell Davies. None of the performers' faces are visible, as they all wear masks; George Lawn, who was also in the on-screen band, reported on Monk's participation.
This is the controversial and shocking film treatment given to Aldous Huxley's historical book "The Devils of Loudun" by director Ken Russell. The film tells the true story of the famous excorcisms at the Ursuline convent in the French town of Loudun, as researched by Huxley. Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII wish to break ability of any independent towns to defend themselves against their influence, but Loudun's is run by strong church leader Father Grandier, who opposes Richelieu's plans. Agents of the cardinal conspire to frame Grandier as a witch and have him executed. The politics of 17th Century France are central to the story, which is handled by the film makers as a mixture of drama, horror, camp and comedy.
1997 The Woodlanders; Rufus Sewell, Emily Woof, Cal MacAninch, directed by Phil Agland
Phil Humphries, serpent (with The Mellstock Band)
The serpent is audible but not visible in two brief scenes; (at about 19 minutes into the film during the dinner party at Giles' home-DVD chapter 3- playing "Enrico", and at about 46 minutes at the post-honeymoon party-DVD chapter 7-playing "Redolia Polka"). This is not a perticularly good example of serpent in film, as the instrument cannot be seen, and what can be heard is not distinct enough.
This is the 'Channel Four Films' version of Thomas Hardy's novel about the tragic ways of love; not a happy moment in the entire story. Still, a quality film of a classic story
BBC/Warner Vision International #
(DVD-PAL Region 2 only)
also as Masterpiece Theatre/WGBH
#41419 (NTSC)
Casanova; Peter O'Toole, David Tennant, Laura Fraser, Rose Byrne, directed by  Sheree Folkson
This was reported to feature Phil Humphries, serpent (with The Mellstock Band), but Phil has stated he was not involved in this film. If the name of the serpentist becomes known, it will be added here.
The serpent is present in one scene at about 35 minutes into the film (or at 37:15 into the episode, including the Masterpiece Theatre introduction, if viewing that version of the DVD) during the "Bellino" castrato scene which is during the first of the three episodes (it was a TV mini-series). A brief glimpse of that scene appears at the start of the second episode. Unfortunately the ball room scenes elsewhere in the film use modern instruments.
This is the BBC version of the classic story
The Private Life of Henry VIII; Charles Laughton, Merle Oberon, Wendy Barrie, Robert Donat, directed by Alexander Korda
The serpent is visible but not audible in two brief scenes; (at about 31 minutes into the film during the dinner song "What Shall I Do For Love?", and at about 64 minutes at the after dinner scene). The serpent is a heavily-keyed English military type and is clearly visible in the front row of the band on the balcony overlooking the dining hall. Unfortunately, the actual music heard from the band consists only of a flute and some sort of stringed instrument.
This is the classic film about how King Henry VIII came to have so many wives. It is a combination of history and comedy, and is one of the few well-known films to feature Wendy Barrie, a relative of the 'Peter Pan' author, and the first actual girl to be named Wendy.
Born Into Brothels; directed by Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman
Steven Silverstein, serpent
The serpent is listed in the credits as being part of the soundtrack band, and Steve Silverstein did play it during the recording session, but the serpent sound is not apparent in the film and the instrument is of course not part of the story and is hence not visible.
This is the famous documentary about children born to prostitutes in Calcutta, India, and a western photographer's efforts to break the cycle of poverty by getting them admitted to schools, paid for by selling photographs taken by the kids.
Blue Dolphin # BDVD 2009
(DVD-PAL only)
Mill Creek Entertainment
(see text at right)
Halas & Batchelor Animated Classics (inludes Tales from Hoffnung and Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore)
The serpent appears briefly as one of the vignettes in "The Symphony Orchestra" part of "Tales from Hoffnung"; the sound that accompanies the cartoon at this point is a bassoon. The cartton shows a serpentist playing In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg), until the serpent comes alive and eats the player, anaconda-style. The cartoons are animated based on the original Gerard Hoffnung single frame humorous drawings.
These cartoons are part of a series for BBC television in the 1960s.
****The Symphony Orchestra section is also listed as one of the cartoons in the Mill Creek Entertainment DVD set titled, "150 Cartoon Classics", and this is available in DVD-NTSC format. HOWEVER, the cartoon listed as Symphony Orchestra is actually another Hoffnung cartoon titled Palm Court Orchestra - it is NOT the same cartoon, and the serpent does not appear in it.****
2006 Amazing Grace; Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Ciarán Hinds, Rufus Sewell, directed by Michael Apted
The serpent appears briefly in the miltary band standing in front of the Scottish pipe band, playing "Amazing Grace", just prior to the credits (but after the main actors are identified). Only the top half of the serpent is visible, and the player's hand is (incorrectly) holding it by the first bend. The soundtrack clearly is recorded by a modern brass band, not a period band.
The story of William Wilberforce's efforts in 18th century Great Britain to abolish the slave trade.
Becoming Jane; Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith, directed by Julian Jarrold
The serpent appears briefly below the pulpit of the church where Rev. Austen (James Cromwell) gives a sermon in one of the first scenes of the film. The church band is not playing at that time, so no serpent sound is present.
The story of the youth and first love of future novelist Jane Austen.
2002 (TV)
2005 (DVD)
Acorn Media
Midsomer Murders: Death and Dreams (Set 6, Volume 2); John Nettles, Daniel Casey, directed by Peter Smith
The serpent appears repeatedly and prominently in the home of the village 'chemist' & amateur bandmaster, Gordon Leesmith, but is not played.
One of the dramatized novels of Caroline Graham.
1954 The Golden Coach; Anna Magnani, Paul Campbell, Duncan Lamont, Riccardo Rioli, directed by Jean Renoir
The serpent appears as part of the band that accompanies the theatrical troupe. When it is being 'played', the sound is a baritone saxophone. Look at 8:30 (8 minutes and 30 seconds into the film) as the actors arrove in town, at 11:30 being played, at 12:40 being held incorrectly by the player, at 17:50 in the band, at 44:00 - 45:40 in the fight scene, and at the ending.
In an 18th Spanish colony in Century Central America, an actress tries to decide between three men; the local viceroy, a bull fighter, or an army captain. The eponymous coach figures into her dealings.
Barabbas; Anthony Quinn, Jack Palance, Ernest Borgnine, directed by Richard Fleischer
Don Cristlieb, serpent (as reported by Phil Teele, the Los Angeles based bass trombonist who has recorded 1000 movie soundtracks)
The serpent does not appear, but can be clearly heard doubling voices and/or as a solo in three places:  at 0:14:00 and 0:16:20 during the crucifixion of Jesus, later at 2:01:10 as Barabbas takes his friend's body from the pauper's grave, and finally at 2:09:15 during the burning of Rome.
A fictional story of what happens to the criminal Barabbas after he is released by Pontius Pilate instead of Jesus.
Bedtime Stories; Adam Sandler, directed by Adam Shankman
The serpent appears briefly a couple of times during the first bedtime story fantasy scene in a castle, as part of a small band that also includes a crumhorn, recorder, lute, etc. The sound of the serpent is not present.
The Adam Sandler character tells betime stories to two kids, and elements of the stories have a way of coming true the next day.
BBC four-part miniseries
Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne, Hans Matheson, directed by David Blair
Phil Humphries, serpent (with The Mellstock Band) and Colin Dipper, serpent (with another band)
Serpent appears (briefly visible & audible) in the opening dance practice (and walk to the practice) starting at about 2:48 in the first episode, and the market day dance in the tavern at about 37:00 in the first episode, and the girl's dance again at about 55:00. In the fourth episode at about 1:55:00 is a flashback to the opening dance during the execution, without the musical soundtrack. The band in the country dance scene is The Mellstock Band with Phil Humphries, and Phil reports that there was another band for the tavern dance, led by Colin Dipper who also played serpent in that scene. Contrast with the film version, which has much better serpent footage.
This is the BBC TV adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel.
Berlioz Historical
Approaching the Serpent, An Historical and Pedagogical Overview
Douglas Yeo, serpent
This is an educational video in four parts:
- Historical overview of the serpent in its various forms (French church, English military, Serpent Forveille, early Cimbasso, bass horn, etc)
- Serpent lesson with Doug Yeo
- Duets, where the viewer can play along with Doug on either part (PDF files of the sheet music are also on the DVD)
- Overview of current serpent makers
Overall video is 1 hour, 53 minutes
Decca # 074 3212
(part of this was
originally on
Philips # 70254,
see above)

Berlioz Rediscovered; Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, directed by John Eliot Gardiner
This DVD contains the Symphonie Fantastique, originally released as video tape on the Philips label, as well as the Messe Solennelle, which has not been released on any kind of video prior to this DVD.
Stephen Wick, serpent & ophicleide; Stephen Saunders, ophicleide; Marc Giradot, buccin (buccin does not appear in the Symphonie Fantastique)
Serpent and ophicleide appear throughout the Symphonie, but is most apparent during the Witches' Sabbath movement. All three instruments appear in the louder sections of the Messe, namely the Kyrie, the Resurrexit, and the Agnus Dei.
The Symphonie was filmed during audio recording of the symphony by Hector Berlioz (see Discography for audio CD). The Messe was recorded two years later in Westminster Cathedral, London.
Warner Archive Collection
The Beggar's Opera; Laurence Olivier, Hugh Griffith, directed by Peter Brook
Serpent appears (briefly visible, sound by a tuba) in a tavern or similar festive gathering at about 32 minutes into the film.
This is the classic film musical version of John Gay's 1728 opera.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, directed by Peter Jackson
Serpent appears briefly, but not heard, in a musical celebration in Laketown before the Company proceeds to the lonely mountain Eribor. This serpent is brown in color and has a hexagonal cross section, similar to the modern do-it-yourself patterns produced by Scott Hall.
This is the second part of the film trilogy based on the JRR Tolkien children's book that was the introduction to The Lord of the Rings novel.
Acorn Media #AMP-8602
Poldark - The Complete Collection: Series 2, Episode 6; Robin Ellis, Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates
Serpent appears starting at 8 minutes and 12 seconds into the episode, as part of an outdoor wedding celebration. The serpent is both seen and heard in three brief scenes.
This is PBS Masterpiece Theatre television series about the gallant Captain Ross Poldark and his adventures following the Americal Revolution, based on the novels by Winston Graham.
Eclipse series of the
Criterion Collection,
Series 16
Rembrandt; Charles Laughton, Gertrude Lawrence, Elsa Lanchester, directed by Alexander Korda
Serpent appears in several shots during a tavern scene starting around 44 minutes into the movie. The serpent 'player' is clearly only mugging for the camera, and the sound appears to be a tuba or trombone.
Historical drama about the adult life of master painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
White Witch Doctor; Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, directed by Henry Hathaway
Serpent does not appear, but its sound is used in the Bernard Herrmann score in four places: starting at 32:55 when the witch doctor tries to kill the nurse using a tarantula, starting at 1:10:50 when the nurse arrives at a secluded native village, in duet with a tuba starting at 1:18:44 when the chief arrives to see his sick son, and starting at 1:27:40 when healing is taking place.
Drama about an young American nurse in the Congo who arrives to replace a deceased older doctor who was treating the natives, the resulting jealousy of the local witch doctor, and the nurse's growing love for her hired guide.

The Serpent Website: Return to Index

Copyright Paul Schmidt 2002
revised November 2017