In the 1950s, Universal Studios had their last great run at the science fiction, fantasy, and horror pictures they’d been pwning since the monumental releases of Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931. They had zipped through the previous decade mainly cranking out sequels starring different conglomerations of their famed Universal Studios Monsters, but those horror worthies were relegated to facing off against Abbott and Costello by the end of the decade. Universal rather admirably turned to a series of new monsters, and while some of them were a little out there (The Monolith Monsters, anyone?) having all new beasties to marvel at was probably more exciting than a ninth or tenth entry on the Frankenstein monster’s resume.
The story here gives us six servicemen stationed in Asia in 1945, looking for kicks as World War II nears its end. They hear tell of a local cult who worship snakes and are even legendarily able to transform into snakes. One well placed bribe later, the sextet find themselves duded up in robes and watching one of the cult’s rituals, warned to keep a low profile or face possible death. The ritual itself seems to consist more of variety show dancing than snake transformations, but finally there is a snake on a string that comes out of the same woven basket a woman crawled into. It’s not much different than a bad Las Vegas magic show, but that doesn’t stop the dumbest member of the group whipping out his trusty camera, which of course is the size of a lunch box and is equipped with a giant flash bulb.
Flash! Sure enough, this causes no end of consternation among the cultists, and the film’s biggest surprise occurs when the boys are summarily cursed by none other than the Chief of Control himself. While Ed Platt wonders why he is uncredited in the movie, one guy runs a bit faster than the others, and he is soon after found snakebit outside the cult clubhouse. Luckily this doesn’t kill him, but a second run-in with a snaky shadow in his hospital room sends him to the Great Beyond. Wow, that’s just like what Ed Platt said, but the rest of the boys have to get packed to head home, so la-de-da.
Back in America, the guys go about getting back to their lives, with Long and Thompson rooming with each other and fighting over the winsome Julia (Hughes). Then just as Julia decides to go Long, Domergue shows up as a mystery woman and new girlfriend for Thompson, and shortly after, the boys start to find themselves facing off against that same snaky shadow, now backed up with low level snake-eye camera shots. Although the deaths seem to be accidents (car crash, fall off a balcony) only Long notices the bite marks seeping deadly cobra venom…
What is Domergue’s secret, and will Long be able to convince Thompson she’s not what she seems? Or will Thompson assume Long is just c-blocking him again after winning over Julia? The answers await those brave enough to face… the Cult of the Cobra!
This is not a bad little flick, helped immensely by the presence of familiar faces like Long, Kelly, and Janssen. Top billed Domergue is okay, a little too conflicted in her mission perhaps – it might have been more fun if she took more evil delight in her misdeeds, but that’s a quibble. The movie is also a little light on monster action, as we only get a few shots of that String Cobra, er, I mean, King Cobra, in action, mainly making do with the aforementioned snake shadow and snake-eye camera. But it’s fun in that 1950s horror-flick way, with almost nobody working any kind of visible job – Hughes is in some kind of show, and Janssen runs a bowling alley back in the states, but the rest just hang out, drinking and smoking and not worrying about death curses. For that alone, this one gets a recommendation.