cobra woman | robert siodmak | gene lewis | richard brooks | maria montez | jon hall | sabu | universal | cult | ritual | adventure | drama | romance | united states | kidnap | edgar barrier | mary nash | lois collier | samuel s. hinds | moroni olsen | lon chaney jr.
Film: Cobra Woman
Director: Robert Siodmak
Writer: Gene Lewis and Richard Brooks
Starring: Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu
I decided to check this film out when it was listed in a horror film encyclopedia. Since I’m out to check out every horror film I can, so I decided to seek it out. The official synopsis for this film is upon discovering his fiancée Tollea (Maria Montez) has been kidnapped, Ramu (Jon Hall) and his friend Kado (Sabu) set out for a Pacific isle where all strangers are to be killed on arrival and the inhabitants, who are frequently sacrificed to an angry volcano god and worship the cobra.
This film kicks off on an island where Ramu and Tollea are set to be married. We see Kado as he is walking and meets up with Hava (Lon Chaney Jr.). He claims to be blind and unable to speak, as his tongue has been removed. He looks across a pond to Tollea. Ramu joins her and we see they’re in love.
There is something interesting when we learn that there is a guard watching over Tollea. An alert is raised that the guard was killed and she is missing. It is now that Tollea’s father reveals the truth about her and where she is. Ramu decides to go save her and Kado offers to come too. He is told to stay put, but he doesn’t listen.
They go to the island and there Ramu meets Naja (Montez). He thinks it’s his fiancée, but soon learns she is the twin sister. The Queen (Mary Nash) is behind Tollea’s kidnapping, for good reason. Naja is ruling the island with her religion that involves execution with a king cobra. Ramu has to try to find Tollea and figure out what can be done to save those that live here.
Now this is interesting as it is a lesser known Universal horror film. I didn’t even realize it was until I did a little research. This film came out though in the latter era and I believe is one of the last ones to. This film is in color, which I also found to be interesting. I liked to see Chaney was in it, but I wonder how far into his alcoholism he was. He doesn’t have any lines and it was quite odd, almost like he didn’t want to do the film and was there collecting a paycheck. I’ll get back to him later.
This film has some interesting aspects to it. The first is that this island is ruled by women. I like really this idea and for a film being out this early, it is interesting. Now going from there though, they don’t need a male to help them. The Queen doesn’t have a king. Martok (Edgar Barrier) wants to marry Naja, I think mostly because he wants to be the ruler. He does handle the enforcement of their laws. Naja also shows interest in Ramu when he thinks she is Tollea. I like that she is an independent woman that will tell these men what they want to hear.
Something I also really liked was the concept of religion. They follow their own where they believe the volcano is a god. When it starts to erupt, they decide it is angry and that they need to sacrifice their people to appease it. This is a very pagan way of thinking, since this is a natural thing that is happening and not a god. On top of that, they use a king cobra to sacrifice. This wild animal will attack anything that it feels threatened by, so it really has nothing to do with guilt. I love that the religion is used to keep everyone in line and afraid, because I feel that’s what religion has been and still is used for today.
The pacing of the film is fine. It has a short running time, like most films from the era. It kind of actually has some subplots to it, which you don’t always see. I do think that it really moves along at a good pace. The ending was predictable, but that is mostly due to the censorship that they had to deal with. I thought it was fine for what they were going for with this one.
The acting is also pretty solid. I have to give Montez credit. She gets to play two different characters who are the complete opposite. Tollea is a good person who wants to please those around her. Naja on the other hand is a solid villain and I really liked her more. Hall is solid as the hero. I do find it interesting that he comes on to Naja, as he doesn’t realize Tollea had a twin. Sabu was a fun character. I was glad to see Chaney, but it is a shame to see that he is playing a character that his not his own ethnic background. I can’t blame him or really the film that was just what they did at the time. I did find it odd that he had a non-speaking role and makes me wonder if he wanted to do this film or if he was forced to. The rest of the cast was fine for the film and rounded everything out.
There wasn’t really a lot in the way of effects, but they didn’t really have the capabilities either. The snake was real for the most part, but there is a moment where it was fake. The real one was great and the other I wasn’t a big fan, but I won’t hold it against the film. Everything else was practical, which were good for the time. The film was shot beautifully and the colors really popped.
Now with that said, this film was quite interesting. As I’ve said, it is one of the lesser known Universal films and I actually enjoyed it. It has some interesting subplots, which you didn’t always see. There are also some deeper issues the film explores, which I really enjoyed. It was paced well and moves at a good pace. The acting was solid. There weren’t a lot of effects in this one, but for the most part, they were good. The score of the film didn’t stand out, but it also didn’t hurt the film. I will warn you this film is from the 1940’s, so if that’s an issue, I’d avoid this one. If not, I would recommend it as a solid film that I enjoyed.
My Rating: 7 out of 10