Cult of the Cobra
Cult of the Cobra is a 1955 American black-and-white horror film, produced by Howard Pine, directed by Francis D. Lyon, that stars Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, and David Janssen. The film was released by Universal Pictures on a double bill with Revenge of the Creature.
|Cult of the Cobra|
|Directed by||Francis D. Lyon|
|Produced by||Howard Pine|
|Screenplay by||Richard J. Collins|
|Story by||Jerry Davis|
|Music by||Irving Gertz, William Lava, Lou Maury, Stanley Wilson (all uncredited)|
|Edited by||Milton Carruth|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Six American officers witness the secret ritual of Lamians (worshipers of women who can change into serpents). When the soldiers are discovered by the snake cult, the High Lamian Priestess vows that "the Cobra Goddess will avenge herself". Once back in the United States, a mysterious woman enters into the life of each service man, with disastrous results: "accidents" begin to happen, and before each death the shadow of a cobra is seen. Critics noted similarities of the film with Val Lewton's movie Cat People having been released thirteen years before.
Shortly before shipping home at the end of World War II, six American Air Force officers explore an Asian bazaar. A snake charmer, Daru, allows the men to take pictures of him holding a cobra. Paul Abel mentions the strange cult of the Lamians, who worship snakes and believe that there are people who can transform into them. Daru says quietly that, for a price, Paul can see this for himself.
Daru takes the men to the secret Lamian temple, while warning them that if caught, it will mean their deaths. The six observe a ceremonial dance symbolizing the rescue of the Lamian people by their Cobra Goddess. As the lithe female dancer slides back into a woven basket, the drunk Nick Hommel ignores Daru's warnings and takes a photograph. The temple erupts as the Lamians react in outrage, and their high priest pronounces a death curse on the intruders.
Nick fights free of two Lamians and grabs the woven basket, now containing a cobra, from the temple's platform. Daru is killed by his fellow Lamians, while the other servicemen set fire to the temple to cover their escape. They speed away in their jeep but slam to a halt when they see Nick lying in the road, a woman standing over him. Tom Markel pursues the woman, but she vanishes. He returns to Nick, who is suffering from a snake bite. Paul looks worriedly at the empty woven basket lying in the road.
Recovering in the hospital, Nick apologizes and assures his friends that he will be fit to ship out the next day. As he settles into sleep, something appears from the darkness and slips into his room through an open window. It rears up over him as Nick opens his eyes and screams. Devastated by Nick’s death, his friends must make their plans to ship out. Paul worries aloud that the high priest’s curse may have been more than words. The others scoff, as the conversation turns toward their plans for civilian life.
Back in New York, while alone in his apartment, Tom is startled by a scream coming from the apartment across the passageway. He forces his way in and finds a beautiful, terrified woman named Lisa Moyer, who speaks of an intruder. Tom calms her down and persuades her to spend the day with him. Arriving home that evening, Tom invites Lisa into his apartment. There, she shows an intense interest in a photograph of the six friends, taken during their Air Force service in Asia.
Later that night, Rico Nardi, one of the six, locks up his bowling alley and begins to drive home. In his rear-view mirror, he catches sight of something moving in the back seat that strikes at him. The car swerves, crashes, and flips over, and Rico is killed. As a crowd gathers, a breathless Lisa slips away into the shadows, one of which is shaped like a cobra.
Carl Turner and his roommate Pete Norton, two of the remaining six, host a party. Carl comes on to Lisa, and Tom jealously punches him. Tom and Lisa leave, and when he doubles back to return her left-behind gloves, he finds Lisa gone from her apartment. She has returned to the party, but it is over and Carl is cleaning up. As he fixes her a drink, a cobra is suddenly there. He throws an object, striking it as it lunges at him, but its movement drives him backward, which carries him out an open window to his death. Bystanders gather below as Pete returns and notices Lisa in the crowd, favoring her arm. The police question him, and Lisa returns to her apartment, where she finds Tom dozing. She begins to tell him that she's in love with him, something that is a new experience for her.
The next morning, while Tom and Paul have breakfast, Julia Thompson joins them. Shes is not only Paul's fiancé, but Tom's old girlfriend. They get a phone call about Carl's death and both go to police station while Julia cleans up. Lisa later comes over and notices Julia looking at books on cults, including ones where people transform into snakes.
Lisa feels threatened, but a dry cleaner comes by and Julia leaves to get ready for her show. Paul gives the police his theory about the curse they received in Asia and thinks that Lisa might have metamorphosed into a cobra to kill them. Tom, angry about the accusation, leaves. The inspector dismisses the theory, so Paul requests that they do a toxicology test on Carl and Rico's bodies.
Later, Lisa is about to go to Julia's show when Pete surprises her at Tom's apartment. He sees the scratch on her arm and insinuates that she is the killer of his friends. Now cornered, she transforms into a cobra and goes after Pete. At the police station, the toxicology results show that Carl and Rico were killed by cobra venom. Paul and the police arrive at Tom's apartment, where they find Pete's dead body and Tom and Lisa gone. Paul calls Tom at the theater about Pete's death. He wants Tom to find Lisa and keep her there until the police arrive. Lisa, however, has gone into Julia's dressing room. When Julia returns, a cobra tries and fails to strike at her. Tom rushes in and covers up the cobra, then uses a coat rack to lift and then push it out a high window. The cobra transforms back into Lisa as she lays dying on the sidewalk below. Standing over her now lifeless body, Tom covers his face and walks away into the shadows.
- Faith Domergue as Lisa Moya
- Richard Long as Paul Able
- Marshall Thompson as Tom Markel
- Kathleen Hughes as Julia Thompson
- William Reynolds as Pete Norton
- Jack Kelly as Carl Turner
- Myrna Hansen as Marian Sheehan
- David Janssen as Rico Nardi
- Leonard Strong as Daru
- James Dobson as Cpl. Nick Hommel
- Edward Platt as Snake cult priest
Universal released Cult of the Cobra on DVD in a boxed set called The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. 2, which features 4 other classics as well (Dr. Cyclops, The Land Unknown, The Deadly Mantis, and The Leech Woman).
- The film became a cult favorite after being syndicated to television and later on home video.
- Most of the film's actors later went on to star in more than one, and in some cases several, of their own network TV series, such as Jack Kelly in Kings' Row, Maverick, and Sale of the Century; Richard Long in Bourbon Street Beat, The Big Valley, and Nanny and the Professor; Marshall Thompson in Angel and Daktari; William Reynolds in The Islanders, The Gallant Men, and The FBI; and David Janssen in Richard Diamond, Private Detective, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury, The Fugitive, and Harry O.
- Maine, David (14 March 2013). "'Cult of the Cobra' (1955)". PopMatters. popmatters.com. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
- Erickson, Glenn (September 13, 2007). "The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. 2". DVD Talk. dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
- Hendershot, Cynthia (2001). I was a Cold War Monster: Horror Films, Eroticism, and the Cold War Imagination. Popular Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780879728496. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
- Parla, Paul; Mitchell, Charles P. (2000). Screen Sirens Scream!: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir, and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s. MaFarland. p. 71. ISBN 9780786407019.
- "The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection 1 & 2". DVD Beaver. dvdbeaver.com. Retrieved 3 September 2017.