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Lon Chaney Jr.,
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Upon discovering his fiancée Tollea has been kidnaped, Ramu and his friend Kado 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, worship the cobra. The island is ruled over by Tollea's evil twin Naja, the Cobra Woman, who, besides having designs on her new prisoner Ramu, also desires to eliminate any competition from her benevolent sister. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
"No drug-fevered brain could dream up the horrors of Cobra Island!" But, apparently, two Universal Script-writers could. This immortal camp classic stars the sublime Maria Montez as twin sisters - one Good, one Evil. Considering La Montez could not even play one part convincingly, her dual role is something of a stretch. She may not be able to act, but she does look gorgeous trying.
The action takes place on one of those Technicolor South Sea islands where a volcano is always rumbling, gongs are always banging for the next human sacrifice and a supremely irritating chimpanzee is always gambolling about in a pair of Paisley-pattern diapers. Lon Chaney Jr is on hand as a deaf-mute priest. Lucky man, he doesn't have to speak any of that dialogue!
As the aged Cobra Queen, Mary Nash looks a tad bewildered. Wasn't it only yesterday she was playing Katharine Hepburn's mother in The Philadelphia Story? Lo, how the mighty are fallen! Sabu beams away in his role as Hollywood's favourite racist/colonial stereotype. Jon Hall spends his time looking for excuses to unbutton his shirt and show off his muscular chest. I for one am not complaining.
Still, nothing and nobody can ever upstage our Maria. As the depraved sister Naja, she writhes about wickedly in her Cobra Dance - clad only in a floor-length silver lame evening gown, with matching silver f**k-me shoes. (Uncharted this island may be, but every drag-queen in the world seems to go shopping there.) And lest we in the audience harbour any lingering doubts about her acting skills, she follows up every speech with the deathless words - "I HAVE SPOKEN!"
The insipid good sister Tollea really is no match. In this part, Maria does little more than pose beside the nearest pond or palm-tree - gazing into the Technicolor sunset and dreaming of better scripts. (Believe it or not, Jean Cocteau offered her the role of Death in his film Orpheus, but couldn't afford her fee!) Yet it's fascinating to see director Robert Siodmak sketching out the schizo psychology he would explore fully in films like The Spiral Staircase and The Dark Mirror.
Appalling as much of it undoubtedly is, Cobra Woman may still be the greatest film of its kind...and if anyone can work out what 'kind' that is, please write and tell me.
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