Cult of the Cobra (1955)
Universal International had a nice run of thrillers throughout the fifties once the Gothic horror phase had come to an end. None bigger than The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Still they had plenty of other titles on their resume card including this nifty terror starring Faith Domergue.
It’s 1945 Asia and a six pack of soldiers are about to head home and resume their pre-WW2 lifestyles. Before doing so the group come upon a snake charmer who promises the miracle of a snake turning into a woman at a clandestine meeting of cultists known as Lamians. They pay him off and the group including Richard Long, Marshall Thompson, David Janssen and Jack Kelly don their ceremonial robes and attend the meeting. The dance ensues and a woman in a snake skin leotard begins her dance. When the intruders are discovered an unbilled Edward Platt screams at the camera, “The cobra Goddess will avenge herself!”
Before the troop can catch their plane home to NYC one of their members meets his death from the bite of a venomous snake thus pointing the plot in it’s vengeful direction.
Settling into their old jobs it isn’t long before rebounding Marshall Thompson has a new neighbor across the hall in his boarding house. It’s the cold and mysterious Faith Domergue. She’s hooked Marshall and seems very interested in his war buddies which includes roommate Long. Mysterious deaths begin to follow and the soon to be famous TV stars Janssen and Kelly don’t do to well when confronted with the POV shots of a supposed King Cobra on the attack. If these POV shots don’t remind you of It Came From Outer Space then your not the sci-fi fan I thought you were.
Thompson is blinded by love and oblivious to the signs pointing at lovely and exotic Faith yet Long isn’t though he has a hard time believing his own crazy thoughts. The clues are adding up and pointing to our leading lady. Can Long somehow convince himself, Thompson and the police that evil is lurking behind the beauty who received top billing in this Francis D. Lyon directed black and white horror. Could she really turn herself into a Cobra?
Cobra is a fine title from the era when Universal was concentrating on the Jack Arnold productions, giant insects and things that came from outer space. This script harkens back to the curses that preyed upon those who would desecrate the tomb of Ananka and find Kharis the Mummy at their doorstep. It plays like a recycled version of the Kharis saga updating us to WW2 and the modern day NYC of the times.
The cast features young up and comers of the studios stable like the soon to be Fugitive David Janssen and Jack Kelly of Maverick fame. Richard Long had already been starring in the long running and successful Ma and Pa Kettle films as their oldest son Tom.
Faith starred in a quartet of fantasy films released in 1955. The Ray Harryhausen flick It Came From Beneath the Sea, This Island Earth and The Atomic Man. The Harryhausen flick alone will guarantee that her image will be viewed by film fans for years to come. She would drift into TV and oddities like The House of the Seven Corpses before calling it quits.
Stock footage seeps in for a couple shots and if you use your handy freeze frame button you’ll notice that Ben Johnson is starring in John Ford’s Wagon Master at the local theater. This puts the footage from 1950.
I first saw this years ago on late night TV as a kid and it’s stayed with me over the years. I picked it about a decade back in a classic sci-fi set and thought it was time for a re-visit. You should do the same.