Friday, February 05, 2016

Night Of The Cobra Woman

Andrew Meyer is one of the rare New World Pictures directors who doesn’t have a dedicated cult attached to him.

After NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN, producer Roger Corman used Meyer one more time—to direct Lorne Greene in a few dull expository scenes in the Japanese import TIDAL WAVE—but his decision was probably based on price and proximity rather than talent. Meyer’s direction of NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN is poor, and so is the screenplay he wrote with electrician Kerry Magness.

To give Meyer some credit, he doesn’t waste any time getting to the exploitative stuff. Within a couple of minutes, Army nurse Lena (Marlene Clark) is bitten by a cobra and transformed into a snake woman while her colleague is being raped and murdered by a Japanese soldier (Vic Diaz). Thirty years later, UNICEF researcher Joanna (Joy Bang!), in Manila studying snake venom, and her boyfriend Duff (Roger Garrett) discover Lena living in the jungle, known to the villagers as the “snake woman.”

Lena is able to stay young only by sleeping with young men and stealing their youth. She sheds her skin after her sexual encounters, which sounds disturbing and probably would be with a more creative director behind the camera. It’s weird that these guys have no qualms about having sex with a woman with scales all over her body. Anyway, Duff is also one of Lena’s conquests, so to keep him from turning into Wilford Brimley, Joanna must work against the clock to find an antidote.

Almost nothing about COBRA WOMAN works. One can sense the striking Clark (who also starred in BLACK MAMBA) trying to do something interesting with her role, but there’s little to her character on the page, and she’s often stuck in unconvincing snake makeup. Adding to the confusion is Lope, her mute, feeble-minded, buck-toothed assistant. Lope is also played by Vic Diaz, but Meyer doesn’t make it clear whether he’s supposed to be the same man who committed the rape in the opening reel.

Joy Bang, who specialized in rock chicks and hippies, is hardly believable as a scientist, and it’s doubly hard to believe either she or Clark could fall in love with a dunce like Garrett. Unlike Clark, Bang refused to do nudity, and since her performance is so wooden, I assume she was hired because she would let the director throw snakes on her. Meyer works up zero suspense, and the screenplay feels made up on the set as filming rolled along. It all ends on a Biblical allegory the movie hasn’t earned.

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