Movies From the Black Lagoon: Cult of the Cobra

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Cult of the Cobra - 1955, Unrated
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

Six G.I.'s run afoul of a Hindu snake worshipping group in this excellent slice of 50's horror that gets a lot of mileage out of New York locations and an ensemble of talented actors.
The film opens with our six rambunctious soldiers (Paul, Tom, Pete, Carl, Nick, and Rico) looking for kicks before they leave India to muster out in New York City. Paul gets a big kick out of a local snake charmer and tips the performer. The guy is no dummy and offers to show the group an ancient snake ritual if they pay him big bucks and observe a few simple rules, mainly arrive incognito and don't take any pictures.
Here, of course, is where they blow it. They are G.I.'s on leave so they get liquored up first and their judgment takes a holiday. Halfway through the ceremony Nick takes out a camera and takes a picture as two women transform into snakes. The dolt uses a flash so the gig is up pretty quickly. They escape during the ensuing fight but lose Nick in the crowd. They find him later but he's passed out and numb from snake venom.
Nick wakes up at the base hospital and thanks his buddies who promise to host him if he ever gets to New York. Nick never gets the chance to take a bite out of the big apple as a Cobra violates visiting hours and slithers into his room to finish the job that was started earlier.
The story picks up with the other five moving back into their Manhattan digs. Turns out Tom and Paul are roommates, as are Carl and Pete. Rico flies solo and is kept busy running his father's bowling alley. The drama starts up right away as Paul and Tom learn that their mutual female acquaintance, Julia, has decided that Paul is her man. Tom is not happy with the news but he perks up when a gorgeous, mysterious, and very tall woman named Lisa moves in next store.
Tom and Lisa hit it off so well that Julia is immediately forgotten. Tom pays so much attention to the lovely Lisa that he fails to see some obvious things. She is never around when his friends start dying and animals act up whenever Lisa is around. Paul is quicker to observe that Lisa is related to the sudden spike in the mortality rate of his military buddies, who sailed through their service to our country without a scratch. He eventually spills the beans to Tom but by then it may be too late as Lisa has set her sights on Tom as her next victim.
This is a fun one and it manages to eke out a fare share of jolts despite a lower budget. The movie works thanks to some tense scenes during which you know the snake will soon strike but the characters are clueless to its presence until the last minute. The bets bit involves Rico not realizing there is a snake in his backseat until it slides into the front seat.
This one also benefits from a dynamite cast. The soldiers who make it back to New York are played by a quintet of actors who would go on to great success on popular TV shows. Richard Long (Big Valley), Jack Kelly (Maverick), Marshall Thompson (Daktari), David Jannsen (The Fugitive), and William Reynolds) The F.B.I. play the potential victims and they have their hands full when Faith Domergue (This Island Earth) shows up to charm and harm them. Faith was a statuesque brunette who was discovered by Howard Hughes but proved to be too talented to stay in his shadow. She could really act and menaced plenty of Hollywood stars in B-movies. This is good stuff ad it gets by on talent and atmosphere rather than special effects.
Best Line: "The secret meeting is at nine o' clock."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.