In 1955 Universal released a powerful film that at last would reveal the horrible truth about Snake-worshipping. After years of battling with the powerful Snake-Charming lobby and the U.S. Viper Council, Cult of the Cobra finally hit the big screen, and forever changed the way the world viewed the occult.
Alright, alright, I made all of that up. (Except the title of the movie and the year it was released. Those are correct as far as I know). The truth is, that with the Academy Rewards approaching, and everybody talking about important movies like Breaking Dawn: Part 2, Resident Evil: Retribution, and Battleship: You Sank My Battleship, that my article might go unnoticed. So I thought I might exaggerate a little…but forget it. I don’t need to prove that this little thriller from the 50’s is just as praise-worthy as any Piranha: 3D (starring TV’s David Hasselhoff).
Incidentally, have you noticed that all the popular movies these days have a colon in the title? Maybe I should change the title of this movie to Cult: Of The Cobra. That might help. And maybe I could include how many “D” it has. Cult: Of The Cobra: 2D. Or maybe Cult: Of The Cobra: Double D!! There, now we have a title worthy of an Oscar winner! Let’s start over, shall we?
Cult: Of The Cobra: Double D!
Our tale begins during the last days of WWII in “Asia”. (That is as specific as they can get–at least with a typical 1950’s movie-goer. References to such obscure, unfamiliar places like “China” or “Hong Kong” would be over their heads I suppose.) During this pivotal time of the war a group of six young military officers has been deployed to this remote area with the sole purpose (it would seem) of taking touristy photographs. They are stumbling through the crowds of an outdoor market, pointing and laughing, and generally perpetuating the well-earned, shitty reputation that we Americans have. Their mission is interrupted, however, when they encounter a snake charmer named Daru. In addition to being the only legitimately asian actor cast for this bustling market scene, he is also a member of a secret society of mysterious snake-worshippers known as the Lamians.
As an aside, I decided to do some digging in regards to the subject of Lamians. I enjoy movies but I am first and foremost a lover of knowledge and academics, as is evidenced by the Dictionary.com and Wikipedia bookmarks permanently affixed to my browser’s toolbar. According to the internet, Lamians are a type of Chinese noodles that are “usually served in a beef or mutton-flavored soup but sometimes stir-fried and served with a tomato-based sauce.” I have absolutely no clue how this might relate to snake-religion, but kudos at least for the screenwriter getting the right part of the globe.
The Snake-charmer is looking to make some quick cash–presumably to upgrade to a more realistic looking rubber snake–so he quietly offers to sneak the Americans into a Lamian snake ritual for just $100! Naturally they accept, and so he leads them all, disguised in enormous hooded robes, to a hidden cave where they discover a crowded temple full of sinister Lamians! (The officers seem to go to a lot of troubling hiding their American faces from the Lamians. However this appears to be completely unnecessary because all the “Asian” Lamians are actually caucasian actors doing exactly the same thing with their own hoods.)
It should come as no surprise that ultimately, despite VERY CLEAR instructions from Daru that there may be “No Flash Photography Please”, one of the Americans whips out a gigantic camera, blowing their cover with one flash of his bulb. When the Lamians discover them, a saloon-style brawl ensues (the Asian affinity for martial-arts was somehow overlooked here) after which our boys manage to escape. BUT not without the high priest calling a curse down upon them (in perfect, fluent English I might add):
“The Cobra Goddess will avenge herself! One by one you will all DIE!”
And that is just what happens.
…More or less. When the men arrive back in the States one of them (Tom) meets a mysterious woman named Lisa. Lisa is a girl of many unusual talents. One of them is the unsettling ability to stare blankly into space without blinking or moving for a complete scene. Another, less impressive talent is that she can transform into a vicious cobra at will. Using this limited, but very specialized set of skills, Lisa quickly steals the spotlight from the other characters and becomes the focus of the story. As well she should, because she is actually the Cobra Goddess!
So, there are a bunch of scenes where we get to see Cobra/Lisa kill people from the snake’s point of view, which is fun. I call this “Snake Vision” (see photo at left) and you’ll know if you are watching a scene in Snake Vision when the camera lens is covered by an oblong, transparent soap bubble. Nobody really knows how snakes perceive the world, so a soap bubble is as good an approximation as any I suppose. After say, 4 more people get killed, one of the surviving officers, Paul, finally puts one and one together and comes up with snake-eyes. Lisa is the killer– the Cobra Goddess!
To cut to the chase, the film cuts to a chase scene where Paul rushes to a theater in order to stop Lisa from murdering anyone else, and she is quickly captured with a shawl and tossed out a window (in her snake-form), to her death. Hooray.
Care for a clip?