Tuesday, January 14, 2020

By the Gods!

High Priestess Naja (Maria Montez) oversees the sacrificial offerings ceremony in COBRA WOMAN (1944)

Directed by Robert Siodmak (THE LAST ROMAN 1968), and co-written by Richard Brooks, this short movie (at 71 minutes long) is a little gem which has gained a cult following since its release. There was talent behind it and the final product gained from it. The movie obviously influenced the PEPLUM genre: almost every scene is a PEPLUM cliché.

The story itself is a template of almost every PEPLUM movie: Ramu (Jon Hall) is about to marry Tollea (Maria Montez) on a peaceful Pacific island. Before the marriage takes place she's kidnapped by a mute (Lon Chaney Jr.) and brought to Cobra Island. Ramu and stowaway Kado (Sabu) head for the island to rescue her. Due to chance, Ramu follows a royal procession, headed by a woman who looks like his bride. Ramu jumps into a pool where the woman takes a bath and the two lock lips. Ramu believes it's Tollea but  in fact it's her twin sister Naja (also played by Montez). Hall eventually meets the Queen (Mary Nash), grandmother of Tollea and Naja. She tells Ramu that she had Tollea kidnapped so she could replace evil Naja and stop her evil ways.

The list of clichés is never-ending. And I love it for it. At such a short runtime, the movie never overstays its welcome. Production never looks cheap. It has plenty of cool matte paintings and the score is excellent. The gorgeous production was shot in Technicolor, making one of the most colourful productions of the era. The sacrificial ceremony scene is out of this world. My favourite Montez-Hall-Sabu movie.

COBRA WOMAN was recently released on Blu-ray and I took these screenshots from that edition.

Ramu (Jon Hall) sees a royal procession on Cobra Island.

One of many matte paintings in the movie.

Sabu is Kado

Mistaken identity: Ramu goes after the bathing Naja, thinking she's Tollea


Scott Ochiltree said...

COBRA WOMAN is one of four Technicolor fantasy movies starring Maria Montez during the grim days of WWII.

These films offered audiences welcome distractions from the ongoing war. SUDAN (1945) was the last of the four.

Maria Montez was a terrible actress who never learned to speak unaccented English. Nevertheless she reigned as the "Queen of Technicolor."

Anonymous said...

What gorgeous color. And that matte is excellent. I'll have to see this film.