CULT OF THE COBRA (1955) – The Dungeon Review!
My Eisenhower and the Horror Movies feature is almost over. I will probably only get another two reviews posted by months end at this point. I am going to miss watching and reviewing the films from this period. I am really digging these black and white films! They are just so pleasant to look at. Even the crummier films look a little less crappy in black and white. It is also a nice treat to get some character development in a horror film. Not to mention characters you actually root for. Even in the 1950’s there was a certain amount of regurgitation with adaptations of the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein but the pool in which to dip was considerably shallower. Originality was abundant; one more reason to visit this particular era of horror filmmaking. What more can I say to convince you that classic horror rocks?
A group of American G.I.’s are looking for the ultimate tourist attraction as they end a tour in Asia. A snake charmer offers to sneak the men into a ritual of the Cult of the Cobra for a small fee. The outsiders are apprehended when one of the men can not resist snapping a picture. They manage to escape the angry cult members but not before a curse is placed on them. One of the men is bitten by a snake and is taken to a hospital where he quickly recovers; but mysteriously dies the next day. Fortunately the uneasy G.I.’s are travelling home to the U.S.A.; but you can not run from the deadly curse of the Cult of the Cobra!
Once back home in the U.S.A., a love triangle kick starts our story. Paul and Tom are both in love with Julia. On their return from duty Julia decides that Paul is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. It is a little weird that Paul and Tom are best friends and roommates but I chose to just ignore that. No hard feelings right buddy? One evening a woman’s scream sends Tom running to the apartment across the hall. The woman behind the scream is Lisa Moya. Lisa is new to the city and Tom who is smitten with her instantly offers to give her a tour.
I never heard of Faith Domergue before this feature. I have now seen two films starring the intriguing Ms. Domergue. In Cult of the Cobra she plays Lisa Moya and in It Came from Beneath the Sea she plays Professor Lesley Joyce. I rented It Came from Beneath the Sea from the library and it was in rough shape. A small section of the DVD would not play and it got stuck a couple times in other places which really messed up the flow. Damn shame really, because it features a giant Octopus and the effects were done by the great Ray Harryhausen! Between the DVD not functioning too well and the volume of giant monster flicks I’ve already covered, I decided not to write a review for it. One of these days I will rewatch It Came from Beneath the Sea and give it a proper review. Perhaps an entire Harryhausen feature? So back to Faith Domergue who plays strong central characters in both films. She is an interesting woman to look at. She has sultriness about her and the confidence to sell it. She is quite icy as Lisa Moya in Cult of the Cobra. Considering her true nature it makes perfectly good sense that she would lack appropriate social skills. It is not a spoiler to tell you that Lisa has the ability to transform into a snake. We see much of the film through her perspective. It is the film’s characters that must solve the mystery. I quite enjoyed Domergue and her cold demeanor and by the end of the film I even had empathy for her.
The acting is decent across the board. The G.I.’s have a good chemistry and the casual conversation felt natural. Cult of the Cobra has an intriguing opening and not too much downtime before the action begins. The film looks good and they include a particularly neat pov shot through a snake’s eye. What looked less than stellar was the snake transformation. You never actually see a transformation only the shadow of a snake on the wall. It was a cool and inexpensive way to execute but it looked like someone had their hand in a sock. Otherwise the death scenes are all lively and well done; each one is unique. I did have a wee issue with a detail in the finale but it is a spoiler so I will only say it was forgivable. They add some nifty touches like Tom’s dog being afraid of Lisa and barking when she is near. Minor flaws aside Cult of the Cobra is a damn good watch.
Cult of the Cobra is a creature feature with an intriguing story, strong performances, solid atmosphere and creative death scenes. Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5
Directed By: Francis D. Lyon
Starring: Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Marshall Thompson, Kathleen Hughes, William Reynolds, Jack Kelly, Myrna Hansen, David Janssen, Leonard Strong, James Dobson, Olan Soule