Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
Leave it to sex-and-scatologically-obsessed Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, to come up with some great funny new ways to deal with rattlesnakes in his Western parody instead of using the usual cliches like shooting the snake or somebody getting snake-bit.
In Arizona in 1882, Seth MacFarland is Albert and Charlize Theron is Anna. One night they're sitting on a bluff overlooking their small town talking when they hear a rattlesnake rattling on the ground close to their boots. They freak out as if the snake is a live grenade, which is what everybody does in movies, but then Albert simply says they should just sit perfectly still and wait for it to go away. That was a big surprise. They do exactly what they should do, and turn it into a comic moment.
I thought there might be a rattlesnake in the movie, but from the title I expected that it would be involved in one of those million ways to die. (It does happen later.) But here, Anna and Albert both freeze, sitting still rigidly, glancing down at the snake occasionally but they quickly forget about it and continue chatting away with their mouths shut tight until they both laugh and move around which causes the snake to rattle. That scares them again and Albert apologizes respectfully to the snake. That's it. We never see that snake again. The suspense of the moment where we expect something terrible to happen because we know that a rattlesnake is a vicious killer, is simply used to deliver dialogue that probably wouldn't have been as funny without the tension, and the result (whether intended or not) is that a rattlesnake is shown to be not so vicious after all. We already knew by this point in the movie that Albert is a "coward" who doesn't act the way a man is supposed to act on the western frontier. He prefers a peaceful resolution to a potentially violent situation, and this scene just confirms that and proves that it's the better way to act. But don't worry, Macfarland isn't losing his edge, later in the movie Neil Patrick Harris craps in somebody's hat.
Another herp joke in the movie is at the County Fair when we booths in the background offering the "Exotic Wonders" of birds and reptiles.
Later in the movie, Albert is hallucinating from a drug given to him by some Indians he befriended who help him find his path, and we see him in a hallucination-dream sequence. He sees giant sheep guarding an enormous door with a metal door handle that looks like a rattlesnake. (I want one of those!) The handle-snake comes alive and strikes at him when he tries to grab it to open the door.
I just assumed that this handle and the animated sequence was designed and made completely on a computer, but not so. It was based on a real sculpture, which you can see below. A friend saw the pictures on this page and told Jennifer Cook, the artist and herp enthusiast who was commissioned to do the door handle for the film, so she sent me a picture of the early version of the sculpture before it was finished for the movie. She doesn't own it or have it for sale, but she might
have something similar soon, and she makes other snake items.
Finally we see the rattlesnake-involved way to die in the west, but not the one you expect - here only the snake's venom is used as a weapon. We see the same Indians milking venom from a western diamond-backed rattlesnake and putting it into a hollow-tipped bullet so that it will poison whoever gets shot with the bullet. Unfortunately, we also hear Albert lecturing that all you need to do is get a little bit of the venom of a diamondback into someone's bloodstream and they'll die, as we see happen quickly as he lectures. That's the same load of bull about rattlesnake venom that we see in most movies, but I get the feeling Seth MacFarlane is aware of that and is using it as another joke on us, the gullible Western movie audience.