Cult of the Cobra (1955)

*. A pompous and obscure title card is revealed: “Slender hangs illusion, fragile the thread to reality.” Then there’s some other stuff before we are told “The time is 1945. The place is Asia.”
*. “Asia.” Asia is very big. I assume we are in India, but it’s never made clear. There weren’t that many American soldiers stationed in India in World War Two, were there? And while the part-Creole Faith Domergue looks slightly exotic, as the priestess of the cobra cult she doesn’t look a bit Indian. I mean, with a bit of make-up Leonard Strong can play an ersatz native (he actually made a career out of playing “Asians,” as well as other ethnicities), but they don’t even try with Domergue.
*. The story here gets going when a group of servicemen sneak into a ceremony of the cobra cult. They’ve actually paid a hefty sum ($100) to one of the Lamians (that would be Leonard Strong) in order to see a person turn into a snake or vice versa. What they get is a crappy floor show featuring a woman in snake tights. When they give themselves away as interlopers they proceed to act as boorish Americans abroad, beating up the Lamians and torching their temple. This earns them a curse: the cobra cult will hunt them down and kill them one by one.
*. Revenge comes knocking in the shape of Lisa Moya (Domergue), who follows the doughboys back to New York City and turns into a cobra to start picking them off. They are remarkably quick to twig to the fact that this has something to do with the cult’s curse, but alas one of them has fallen in love with Lisa and she has reciprocated.
*. I’ve heard this one described both as a cult favourite and a “minor camp masterpiece” (Leonard Maltin) but I didn’t enjoy it even as a good-bad movie. It has none of the energy or panache needed to make its ridiculous premise work. The transformation scenes are weak, even when presented indirectly. The CobraVision business should be funnier but just comes across as awkward. The business of Lisa falling in love and losing her faith cracks a smile but that’s it. It’s all very silly, but really not as much fun as it sounds.

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