Thursday, August 8, 2013


After watching WHERE DANGER LIVES yesterday afternoon, I found myself in the mood last night to watch another film starring Faith Domergue. I chose CULT OF THE COBRA (1955), since I had the film on DVD on my shelf. Oddly enough, the film is part of a box-set of ten classic 1950s science fiction films all produced and distributed by Universal-International (with the exception of DR. CYCLOPS). CULT OF THE COBRA is most certainly not a science fiction film by any means so it's strange that it's included in this set. I'm not complaining mind you as I love all of the movies in this collection.

CULT is very routine story about six service men somewhere in Asia in 1945. The war has just ended and the men have yet to be sent back to the United States. They meet a strange man in the city marketplace (a bizarre character in a bazaar setting!) who tells them that he is a Lamian, a member of a cult that believes humans can change into snakes and back again. He promises to take them a forbidden ceremony later that night. The price is steep and no photographs are allowed.

During the ritual, Nick (James Dobson), snaps a picture and all hell breaks loose. A fight erupts and Edward Platt (the Chief on television's GET SMART) appears (uncredited) for about five seconds to yell "seize the infidels!" or something like it. The men manage to escape but Nick has nabbed the snake basket as a souvenir.

That's a bad move as the contents of the basket (a deadly cobra), bites Nick and then appears to turn into a human figure who disappears in the dark. The men get Nick to the hospital where his life is saved but during the night, the cobra returns to finish the job. When Nick is found dead the next morning, military doctor Olan Soules (choir director John Masters on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) is stumped.

The men return to the states and their civilian lives but a strange beauty (Domergue) soon shows up in town and, wouldn't you know it? one by one the men begin to die mysterious deaths.

CULT OF THE COBRA is a routine melodrama with a supernatural twist. There's not much to recommend it in terms of direction (Francis D. Lyon phones it in) or screenplay (it appears they filmed the first draft of Jerry Davis's script). No, there's only two reasons to bother watching CULT OF THE COBRA.

The first of course, is the lovely Domergue who does an admirable job as the gal who can turn into a cobra and back into a perfectly dressed woman. She's cold, alien and inhuman but she begins to feel strong emotions for one of the men and that, of course, spells her doom.

The other major reason to watch this film is for the cast of young actors who play the service men. All of these guys must have been under contract at Universal and for all of them, CULT was just another assignment.The remarkable thing is that five of the men would each go on to star in hit television shows in the 1960s. What are the odds of having so many future TV stars in one low-budget 1950s B-movie?

Check out this lineup: Richard (THE BIG VALLEY) Long, Marshall (DAKTARI) Thompson, William (THE F.B.I.) Reynolds, Jack (MAVERICK) Kelly and David (THE FUGITIVE) Janssen. Janssen is the first victim of the cobra woman, followed by Kelly and Reynolds. Thompson and Long survive and it is Thompson that Domergue falls in love with. And I am the only person who sees the resemblance between Marshall Thompson and former University of Texas head football coach Fred Akers?

Marshall Thompson

Fred Akers

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