Saturday, February 06, 2021

Night of the Cobra Woman – review

Director: Andrew Meyer

Release date: 1972

Contains spoilers

This was a joint US/Philippines production and I might have looked at it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ but there is definite eating of youth within it. It’s a low budget affair and the internal lore didn’t seem too well thought through but it was entertaining enough – probably due to Marlene Clark (Ganja and Hess) as the primary lead.

Does that mean it’s a good film, oh no, not at all, but it does give us another example of a snake vampire, even if that is a tad confused due to the confused lore.

The cave entrance

It begins in the Philippines during World War Two and two nurses Lena (Marlene Clark) and Francisca (Rosemarie Gil) are out gathering herbs. They come across a cave, with cave art on its walls, and Lena wants to go in whilst Francisca refuses – saying she will keep an eye out for Japanese soldiers. Inside Lena is bitten by a cobra with a strange red marking, but the effects of the venom are strange. She falls but then seems to transform developing the same mark on her throat and her eyes becoming weird.

Lena changing

Outside a Japanese soldier (Vic Diaz, Vampire Hookers & Blood Thirst) finds Francisca and rips her uniform away before raping her. Afterwards he shoots her and leaves the area. In the cave Lena comes to, and sees the snake that she now displays a reverence for and affinity with; picking it up she leaves the cave. She sees Francisca and holds the snake over the bullet wound, which heals.

Joy Bang as Joanna

Cut forward some 27 years and Joanna (Joy Bang, Messiah of Evil) is in the Philippines with UNICEF researching snake venom. The Doctor in charge, Tezon (Vic Silayan), has assigned all the UNICEF researchers with projects. Joanna was taken by his story of a rare cobra that a woman named Lena was meant to have so, despite him saying that it was myth and years before, she goes to find her. Getting to a house believed to be Lena’s she is met by Francisca, now aged. Francisca suggests that Lena would not wish to be disturbed but Joanna waits until a hunchbacked and mute man, Lopé (also Vic Diaz), steals her feathered hat, freaking her out and causing her to run away.

Duff and Joanna

Joanna goes to the airport to pick up her boyfriend Duff (Roger Garrett) – they give a lift to a random GI, Sgt Merkle (Slash Marks) and, after dropping him off, Duff buys an eagle from a street vendor. After some (off screen) rumpy pumpy he decides to check out Lena’s place whilst Joanna goes to the lab. He gets out to the countryside but a snake (indeed Lena’s snake Malvini) bites him. Lena finds him, bending over him (and presumably sucking the venom from the wound)...

Vic Diaz as Lopé

When Duff comes round, he is in the house and Francisca is there. He discovers that Lopé is her son and was a handsome man until he slept with Lena and it corrupted his body. He asks Francisca to get a message to Joanna and ask her to come to him – and bring the eagle to keep him company. Francisca reveals, in conversation with Lopé, that she hates Lena by suggesting that the eagle will be a large enough bird to kill the snake and break Lena’s power.

fanged and shedding

So – the convoluted story is that Joanna does come and steals some milked venom, The snake is aware of this and attacks her so she releases the eagle and it kills the snake. Lena then sleeps with Duff – he seemingly uncaring that her skin on her arms has become scaly. Indeed no man seems bothered by the state of her skin when they sleep with her. The aftermath leaves Duff aged – she says she has siphoned off his youth to remain human. With its snake body gone the spirit of Malvini has entered her and is trying to make her a snake (whereas before it kept her youthful). She injects Duff with some venom, which makes him young again. So he needs venom regularly (but Joanna has stolen the sample) and she needs men.

Marlene Clark as Lena

It is interesting that, at one point, Lena does develop fangs. She also peels off the scaly skin, shedding her skin as it were as part of becoming youthful. The entire cave area looks something like a temple to a snake God and a deity is invoked in a couple of scenes. The premise of the film was interesting but not drawn in a cohesive manner, nevertheless it was worth a watch despite its limitations. One of those limitations was the dialogue, which was clunky and, for the most part, not well delivered, being too steeped in melodrama. However Marlene Clark slithered through the film with a cold grace befitting the role. 3.5 out of 10 reflects the quality but it is worth catching for fans of cheap 70s horror.

The imdb page is here.

On demand @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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