When M. Beaucaire, a handsome barber, catches the Duke of Winterset cheating at gambling, Beaucaire exacts Winterset's cooperation in sneaking Beaucaire into a great ball, disguised as the ... See full summary »
COBRA (Paramount, 1925), a Ritz-Carlton presentation directed by Joseph Henabery, offers an odd or misleading title to a love triangle starring the legendary Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926) in one of his final screen performances. With its opening credits super imposed over that of a cobra, one would expect this product to be set somewhere in Burma where hunters fall victim to a dangerous and largest of all venomous snakes. The cobra in this case is a symbol, categorized later in the story to be one of the female characters depicted through a close up of a bronze sculptured cobra mesmerizing a tiger. Nita Naldi assumes the role of the temptress symbolizing the cobra while Valentino, the tiger, becoming its prey, and reciting these words, "You are infamous - you are poisonous, like a cobra!"
"There are times when friendship becomes the most important thing in a man's life, stronger than love, equal to any sacrifice -- even that of love itself," marks the first inter-title as the plot begins amusingly on the terrace of Cafe Del Mare as Victor Manardi (Hector V. Sarno) arrives looking for Rodrigo Torriani (Rudolph Valentino), a young Italian count who's been romancing his daughter, Rosa (Claire De Lorenz). Wanting to settle an account with him, he mistakes the visiting American, John "Jack" Dorning (Casson Ferguson), for the count. The disruption has Rodrigo entering the scene posing as an Italian interpreter, proving Dorning to be whom he is and not Torriani. Torriani then takes Jack with him to his debt-ridden palace where he tells of his life story and family history. Because his playboy lifestyle finds him with female complications, Jack helps him to forget women by inviting him to sail with him to New York where he's to become his partner at his antique shop, Dorning & Sonm which he readily accepts. Believing New York a great place to avoid female troubles, Rodrigo soon encounters Mrs. Huntington Palmer (Lillian Leighton), a dowager, who introduces him to her niece, Elise Van Zile (Nita Naldi), a fortune hunter. Learning Rodrigo to be penniless, Elise soon turns her affections towards Jack. Though Jack is loved by Mary Drake (Gertrude Olmstead), his loyal secretary, he marries the flirtatious vamp who, in turn, uses Rodrigo as her lover on the side. Arranging a secret rendezvous at the Van Cleve Hotel, Room 1002, Rodrigo, due to his loyalty towards Jack, rejects Elise's advances and leaves. The next day Rodrigo reads in the newspaper the startling news of the hotel burning down, claiming Elise and an unidentified man as victims. Guilt-stricken, Rodrigo is torn between telling Jack the truth about his unfaithful wife or keeping her illicit affairs a secret.
Seldom revived Valentino melodrama, COBRA has turned up on cable television's Nostalgia Channel as part of its Saturday night line-up of "When Silents Were Golden." In its March 19, 1994, broadcast, COBRA consisted of a print with piano sound score composed by Bob Mizzell (Copyright 1979 by Big Eopper Music/Mizzell Films). While it was commendable for Nostalgia Television's dedication to rare and hard to find feature films from the silent screen era, the series was regrettably handicapped by frequent and long-winded commercial breaks. Other video or DVD distributors as Kino Video and/Or Grapevine Video featured different scoring and time frames (70 to 75 minutes) while Image Home Entertainment contains average orchestral score by David Shepard (1998).
Not quite an important film in a sense of greatness, COBRA still owes some of its modest degree to the short-lived leading man status of Rudolph Valentino. Nita Naldi might be another reason for her title-influenced characterization. Naldi, who vamped Valentino most famously in BLOOD AND SAND (Paramount, 1922), does the same here, but not so memorably this time around. Her career as a silent screen vamp would soon come to a close before the end the decade. Cemented into his image as a great lover, COBRA offers Valentino one of his few chances to enact a portrayal true to his Italian origin as well as appearing in a product in contemporary setting as opposed to others taken from another time or place. Often categorized as a disappointing Valentino melodrama, it somehow works on a level of choice, whether accepting COBRA for what it is or simply laugh at its outdated acting style and material. Casson Ferguson (1891-1929), a name nobody knows, who, like Valentino, succumbed too early in life, dying from pneumonia four years after the release of COBRA. Ferguson's role of an American business owner who hires the Italian count to be the expert on Italian antiques is acceptable but forgettable in its final result. Gertrude Olmstead (1987-1975) gives an commendable performance as the secretary who comes to a decision which man she truly wants. Also featured in the cast are Eileen Percy (Sophie Binner, the blackmailer, "Believe it or not, she's a lady"); Henry Barrows (Henry Madison, Manager of Dorning & Son); and Rosa Rosanova playing Marie.
While the COBRA title had been used a couple of times subsequently, the basis from this story were never remade, not even as the 1986 action thriller starring Sylvester Stallone. For this 1925 edition, no cobras here, just fine actors doing what they do best, rising above an average story scripted by Anthony Coldeway, adapted from the Martin Brown play, some venom by Nita Naldi, the presence of Rudolph Valentino and the films for which he appeared that have survived through the passage of time. (**)
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