harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Cult of the Cobra, continued review

Scene 33: Tom and Lisa arrive at their apartment building where Lisa thanks him for a nice evening. He invites her in to talk to her for a moment, which she accepts, though she seems distracted... probably thinking about killing off Carl.

Commentary: I think this scene may have been filmed out of sequence and with no idea of where exactly it was going to fall within the story. It's very possible that Paul and Julia's last scene in the cab was also. It feels strange that instead of following Lisa and Tom from the party to the apartment, we have Paul suddenly happily meeting with Julia.

It also feels off that Lisa would thank him for a wonderful evening right after the whole thing came apart by his decking Carl for "moving in on his girl". Unless these scenes were meant to take place during an evening after the party... a few nights later, perhaps. But the scripting doesn't make this timeline clear, so it comes off as off-kilter to the narrative.

In the apartment, the dog is again barking and whining from the kitchen (and I'm starting to think it's less about Lisa's presence than it is that he gets so little attention and apparently is never let out to do his business). Tom joins the mutt in the kitchen and again with the very pronounced shivering (what the hell did they do to this poor dog to make him shake like this).

Tom grabs the dog a snack, but he refuses to take it (probably because he's doing the pee-pee dance). Tom then slams the ice tray door shut in frustration as he finds that Paul failed in his duty to fill it.

Lisa offers her his key to go to her apartment and grab the ice cubes.

Scene 34: While he's gone, Lisa's attention is again drawn to the (publicity photo very obviously) picture of Tom, Julia and Paul sharing beaming smiles together.

She sits on the sofa and Tom reappears with his ice for his needed drink.

Lisa asks about Julia... somehow intuiting (unclear scripting again) that Tom was once in love with her. They discuss it and Tom reveals that he's fallen in love with Lisa. Lisa is of course wondering about her own newly discovered feelings for him.

After the big kiss, Lisa makes an abrupt exit, clearly disturbed and leaving Tom flummoxed... and horny, one would assume.

Tom checks on the dog (with some weird tune that's sounds like something you'd hear during an amusing wrap up on 'Bewitched'), who is feeling much less antsy with Lisa departed.

He comes back to the living room to find that Lisa has left her pair of evening gloves behind. Unable to leave the poor woman alone, he again goes knocking on her door after she's said goodnight ostensibly to return them. Tom knocks, he calls to her, he rings her buzzer (not a euphamism) and you know, is an effing pest. Worse, she doesn't immediately appear at the door, so he has no problem using the key he didn't return to let himself into her apartment.

Commentary: I'm trying Tom. I really am trying to stay on your side....

He lets himself in, calling out that she forgot her gloves (and her key, alas) and asking if she's decent as he wanders in. He finds a strangely empty apartment and invites himself to sit down and wait for her return... re-pocketing her key.

Commentary: Yeah. I'm not on your side anymore, Tom. Now that she knows where to find everyone but Pete, I'm quickly thinking your usefulness is coming to an end. And, possibly, just in the nick of time. Maybe Paul's rivalry kept your worse instincts at bay when you were in competition for Julia, because right now you're coming off as a creep. And, I hate this music. Hate it. It's soapy or too peppy or something and doesn't match at all with what is on the screen. This scene should have been left silent, or with a low-key sort of mysterious vibe, not what we're getting.

Oh, and also... Lisa has repeatedly said she doesn't smoke. Does that keep Tom from lighting up in her apartment while he's making himself at home to await her return? No. No, it does not. Thoughtless and a creep - although, perhaps those two are inextricably linked, now that I think about it.

We get a wandering camera shot to a kitchen window, left open to the breeze as all windows apparently are in New York so that we can guess how Lisa managed to leave.

Commentary: Of course, this is an entirely unnecessary shot, since there was plenty of time for her to use the door while Tom was putzing with the dog.

Scene 35: We have a quick shot of Lisa's shadow on the sidewalk (A 'Cat People' shout out? If so, it wasn't nearly as moody as it should have been, but I think it was trying.) followed by the woman herself. She's briefly startled by a police car squealing up (Again, this seems like a reference to 'Cat People' because of its linking to Lisa's shadow on an otherwise empty street and the sudden startling squealing from off screen. It doesn't work, because in 'Cat People' we were following a potential victim who we were afraid for due to the masterful direction and cinematography that played with deep shadows. Here, we already know Lisa is the predator and she isn't afraid and the scene doesn't have the areas of darkness. Maybe I'm just misreading the intent here, but the fact that I even immediately thought of 'Cat People' makes me think I'm correct.) and an officer gets out to use a police call box.

Commentary: Wow, that was cl--, no, no wait it wasn't. Why was this scene needed?

Scene 36: At Carl's apartment, he's saying good night to his guests, following a party....

Commentary: Another one? The same one that was interrupted briefly by Tom punching him out and Paul leaving to meet up with Julia? See my earlier reference to the funky timeline we're following.

Pete is escorting drunken party girl, Marilyn home, but tells Carl that he'll be back. Marilyn is all giggly and hanging on him as they get into the elevator.

Scene 37: Outside of Carl's (and Pete's?) Lisa has made her way over. She quickly ducks out of sight as Pete and still-giggling Marilyn leave.

Scene 38: In Carl's apartment, he hears a knock as he's busy clearing the bottles from his party and tidying up.

Unshockingly, it is Lisa.

Commentary: And, we do get the clarification we needed - it is the same night as the party which was interrupted briefly by the scuffle with Tom. Which makes Lisa's comments about having a nice evening even more weird in retrospect. It also adds another layer of clumsiness to the scene with Paul suddenly being in a cab with Julia and adds to my sense that these were filmed out of sequence without a clear indication of where in the story they'd be inserted. If not, then surely Paul would have had a line about having to duck out of the party early to meet the returning Julia and Lisa would have said something consoling to Tom, rather than her odd utterance.

Anyway, Lisa is coyly telling Carl that she came over to apologize for ruining his party earlier. Carl is pretty quickly offering Lisa a drink, despite the fact that it seems really inappropriate considering his friendship with Tom. We know Lisa doesn't drink, but she agrees to one so that Carl will leave the room.

The camera pans in on Lisa as she begins another metamorphisis to take out Carl.

Commentary: I'm of two minds about this specific shot. I like the idea of it. But Faith needed work done on her eyelashes because their all akimbo so they look like a mess rather than as mysterious and exotic as a close pan of her eyes should be. She also has a blemish on her forehead that is distracting in close up. This shot would have worked better if the makeup artist had her run a mascara brush through her lashes first, and if the director had the shot move in even closer, so that only her eyes were filling the screen.

In the meantime, Carl is prattling on. He asks over his shoulder if she'd like soda in her drink and when she doesn't answer, he adds more booze (reminds me of college parties I attended where my rum and cokes seemed to involve less and less coke as the night went on). Carl comes in with the drinks to find Lisa missing, though her coat is present. He glances at a door with a small smile, so I'm assuming the implication is that this is a bedroom door.

He goes to hang up her coat, when he freezes... and we cut to a POV shot with cobra-vision.

Commentary: Aiyy. Jack Kelly tips into a bit of overacting mugging here....

Carl picks up a statue to throw at the snake, rather than simply making a mad dash for the room he'd just walked in from and where the front door is. Instead he backs up until he bumps into the low veranda wall. The cobra-vision strikes and Carl goes tumbling over the side... several stories above the ground.

Scene 39: Meanwhile, Pete has finished dropping off Marilyn and is returning to Carl's (and his?) apartment as planned. In front of his apartment building, he sees a crowd gathered around a body lying on the pavement. It's reported to him that some guy just jumped and when he takes a closer look - it's Carl.

For some really nonsense reason, Lisa hung around to view the body. She looks strangely bothered by the carnage. Pete sees her and informs her it is Carl and she shouldn't look, which is some advice that has come far too late.

Lisa expresses it's horrible and starts to lead Pete away, when the ambulance arrives. A paramedic wonders if anyone knows who the man was and this pulls Pete back to the scene.

Commentary: I don't like this scene because there's some awkward acting by Faith in her "It's horrible, let's go" and Pete just willing to leave his dead friend on the sidewalk to be anonymously picked up by the emergency services. You'd think his reaction would be one more of shock and devastation and that he'd tell Lisa that he had to stay until 'help' arrived. You'd think it wouldn't take long to wonder what she was even doing there so late, without Tom. Now, I'm fine with Pete being too in shock to think of anything at the moment, but William Reynold's acting is so low-key, that this doesn't come across as shock, so much as "Wow, that sucks" shrugging.

Obviously the idea is that Lisa was going to lead Pete away to get in a twofer, and while there isn't any reason that she couldn't do that as far as her powers are concerned, it's also unconvincing to me that she'd stick around to have so many witnesses be able to notice her presence there that she'd be expected to explain later if the police suddenly wanted to question her as a possible witness. She's too close to the group through Tom for this to not occur to her surely.

We do find out that Carl and Pete were roommates, so there's another question answered. The police expect him to come with them to answer some questions, so Pete is saved while also leaving Lisa in a suddenly uncomfortable position.

Pete does give some questioning looks toward Lisa, as if he is suddenly wondering why she's there and if he should mention her to the police. She stalks away, disappointed.

Scene 40: Back at her apartment, we see the window with the breezy curtain in the kitchen again. Tom has sacked out on Lisa's sofa. We see the hand-shadow again across him. But this time it isn't the snake, but human-Lisa looking down at him from a place which would not cause the shadow we saw.

He awakens with a start. He asks where she's been at this hour and she replies a headache had been keeping her awake, so she went for a walk. He's relieved she's home. I'm thinking strongly that she should be taking him out with her for coffee, pushing him into an alley and kill him already before he can turn any more controlling.

He tells her not to go wandering off like that again and worrying him. He says this with a smile, but....

Commentary: I can't believe that they wanted Tom to come off the way he is, but damn... If Lisa wasn't a killer metamorph, I'd be telling her to run and not to look back.

They have a talk about them and Lisa expresses her confusion over her feelings. She tells him that she's believed something her whole life and now she's suddenly not sure that it was true, after all, without getting into specifics.

Tom takes this as a sign that she's in some sort of trouble and pleads to let him help, but she tries to tell him to forget about her. She further tells him that there are things she must do that she doesn't have any control over.

Lisa expresses her worry that she'll be the one to hurt him and that she's fallen in love with him, something she has never felt before.

Commentary: I can't stand this. I'm moving on, watch the movie if you're into soap-opera dramatical acting and dialog. If I want to see this, I'll return to S2 of BTVS.

Scene 41: The following morning, Paul has whipped up breakfast for he and Tom (Oh, it's so SWEET... but not at all domestic partnershippy at all... Uh-Uh).

Paul tells Tom that he must have come in late the night before as he didn't hear him come in.

Commentary: This is another scene that I find awkward, just because of Paul's cheery mood. It just doesn't seem right that one of Pete's first calls wouldn't be to Paul and/or Tom, no matter how late, to tell them about Carl. This should be a somber mood with them having been informed, even off screen if necessary. They shouldn't be in ignorance still about what has happened... not with Pete and Carl having lived within walking distance (albeit, possibly with the help of the subway) of Tom and Paul.

Julia stops by, as Paul and she plan on picking up their marriage license that day. The New York premiere of her show is that evening as well, which is the perfect opportunity for Julia to check out this Lisa girl that Paul has weird feelings about.

Julia reminds them cheerily that she needs them all to show up early to wish her luck backstage before she goes on.

Tom happily asks her if she's sure that they won't make her nervous and her response is priceless:

"I'm counting on you all to be so gay, I won't have time to be nervous!" Oh, Sweetie... No! No, I will not.

Julia asks whether Lisa will be joining him and Tom confirms. She tells him that she's anxious to meet her as Paul has said so much about her.

Tom immediately gets jealous face, but a phone call interrupts the conversation.

Commentary: I'm not exactly sure what is going on with Tom here. With Carl, I could understand his feelings because the guy was a hounddog, Tom was tipsy at the least and Lisa was being entirely too close to him with him being all flirty. But here? Well, as far as Tom knows, Paul has been entirely welcoming of Lisa into their lives and he's about to marry Julia. Tom doesn't know that Paul has undefined suspicions that something is off with Lisa and has evidenced zero attention to her that could be misconstrued as a possible repeat of the Tom/Julia/Paul triangle, so his sudden sour face as Paul is telling Julia all about the new girl in Tom's life is just... more evidence that Tom isn't playing with a full deck when it comes to women in his life.

You know, I didn't see this the first two times I watched the movie, but now that I'm analyzing things scene by scene, Tom is a control-freak with a future as an abuser as far as I can make out. For being the main focal point of the latter half of the story (which I was mildly surprised about, I thought Paul would be the central character), he's not a very likeable fellow for the audience to have sympathy toward.

Anyway, that call? It was an Inspector informing Paul that he needs to speak to him and Tom about Carl.

Commentary: Again, I object to this on the grounds that it is just wrong for Pete to have not already called them with this tragic news. Plus, Pete has been given so little to do that he deserved a scene where he could have some meaty dialog.

After Paul breaks the news to Julia and Tom, she blurts out about Paul's belief in a curse at work. This pisses off Tom and he storms out of the kitchen.

Scene 42: In the Inspector's office, Pete is brought in and asked about the broken porcelain statue found at the scene. It had blood on it that doesn't match either the victim, or Pete. There are plans to test Paul and Tom's blood when they arrive for questioning. Pete is released.

Scene 43: With Paul and Tom having to go to the police station, Julia turns to Giles-duty, researching snake worship. She's joined by Lisa who acts shocked over the news that Carl was found dead, even though Pete is a still alive witness to the fact that she already knows this.

Commentary: In fact, shouldn't Lisa have immediately switched to "hysterical sobbing" woman when she saw Tom in her apartment, so that she could have broken the news about her happening by Carl's apartment after his sidewalk diving accident. She could have twisted a tale with her vulnerable hurt-face that would have kept Tom firmly on her side as she next targeted Pete or Paul. This is just laying an obvious trap for herself to get caught in later.

Lisa notes the reading that Julia has been doing and mentions it. Julia admits that Paul has recently become interested in Cobra worship due to a strange experience that occurred while he was in Asia, which Lisa feigns ignorance about. Julia also blabs that Paul doesn't believe in the accident theory about Nick and Rico's deaths.

Lisa snaps the book shut and stalks toward Julia suddenly, and Julia stands frozen... almost hypnotized by Lisa's intense scrutiny, until a knock at the door interrupts the odd confrontation.

Julia takes a shirt delivery man (this would be back when dry cleaning was returned to people's homes) arriving as a fortuitous chance to escape from Lisa, who has frightened her.

Scene 44: Paul and Tom are being a bit too aggressively questioned by the Inspector for the circumstances (this is not your Oscar moment, Walter Coy, relax a bit). The lab guy returns with the blood analysis comparing their results to that found on the statue -- no match.

Paul explains the events at the opening of the film to the Inspector and states his belief that someone has targeted them to carry out the curse placed on them. He specifically names Tom's new gal pal of "a few days", Lisa Moya, as his prime suspect, causing a rift between he and Tom.

Scene 45: That evening, the show must go on, so Lisa is dolled up in her finery. She hears a knock at the door and invites Tom in, but it isn't Tom at all. It's Pete. Pete with a leering look on his face.

Commentary: Okay, maybe he was supposed to be 'glaring'. And, much as I'm loathe to point out weaknesses in performances, maybe there is a good reason why Mr. Reynolds wasn't entrusted with the dramatic scene of informing everyone about Carl's death. Between this entrance and his non-performance after finding Carl splattered on the sidewalk....

Well. Sorry.

So, he starts pawing at Lisa's wrap, but it isn't what it looks like. He's looking for signs of an injury, which he finds as a rapidly healing cut on her arm. He accuses her of having received it at Carl's apartment from the all-important, broken porcelain statue.

"You're crazy"

"No, I figured it out"

Blah, blah.

Bye-bye Pete.

Scene 46: We next see Lisa leaving her apartment. She joins Tom unheard, due to his apartment door being open. Conflict plays over her features as she sneaks up behind him. We start to get the close-up of metamorphisis, but she doesn't go through with snaking out.

Instead of killing Tom and rushing to the theatre to take out Julia and Paul, she feels out Tom for what he may believe is happening and for how much of Paul's theory about Cobra worshipping cults Paul might have shared with the police in light of Julia's blabbing.

Despite Tom's reluctance, Lisa is able to get out of him that Paul suspects her of being behind the killings. She swears to him she isn't responsible and that she'd just die if anything happened to him. He accepts this... clinch.

Scene 47: Back at the police station, toxicology has come back, confirming Paul's wild tale about Cobra venom being in his dead friends, although the Inspector is less ready to believe the tale of a Lamia as responsible. He tells Paul that he'll bring in Lisa for questioning.

Scene 48: In the meantime, Lisa and Tom are on their way to the theater to see Julia's performance. Lisa makes sure that Paul is expected so she "can explain" how she couldn't possibly be involved in the accidents that have killed three of their friends, probably by biting him deliberately to prove they weren't accidents.

Scene 49: The Inspector, Paul and some uniforms get into a squad car to race to pick up Lisa....

Scene 50: Meanwhile, Tom and Lisa arrive at the theater and ask after Paul. The backstage ... uh, guy... I don't know his job title, sorry, runs off to find Julia for them.

Scene 51: Paul, Inspector and uniforms arrive at Paul, Tom and Lisa's building. Paul doesn't find them at his and Tom's place, so they head over to Lisa's, where the police let themselves in with a strong shoulder and a sting of dramatic music, when there is no answer there.

They find Pete on the floor, dead, with snake fang marks on his neck.

Scene 52: At the theater, Paul has rung through, trying to warn Tom. This allows Lisa to slip off to Julia's dressing room. Julia has already gone out on stage as her show has started. Lisa assumes Paul will be up in her dressing room, not subjecting himself to his fiance's lame-ass show.

We cut back to Paul telling Tom about finding Pete in Lisa's apartment. In the meanwhile, Lisa is seeing the stunned look on Tom's face as she heads for the spiral stairs up to Julia's dressing room. Tom, stunned, affirms that Lisa is with him at the theater.

We cut back to Paul telling Tom to not let Lisa suspect anything, but to see that she stays put in the box seats until the police arrive. Tom says he will, but he seems far too stunned to convicingly pretend anything.

Meanwhile, Lisa has arrived on the second story and finds Julia's dressing room. Lisa, for a moment, seems to regret what she has to do and what she has done, but carries on as Tom now looks for her.

Scene 53: On stage, Act I has completed and Julia heads to her dressing room. Meanwhile, the police cruiser is speeding to the theater. Tom arrives in the box seat to find that Lisa isn't there.

Scene 54: Julia goes to change, when she sees a cobra waiting for her at her wardrobe. She screams for her life and runs to the window with the snake slowly on her trail. While this occurs, Tom is on his way up to check the dressing room for Lisa.

Tom hears Julia's screams.

Scene 55: When he bursts in, he sees the snake and throws a dressing robe over its head. He then smashes out the window with a chair. Using a coat rack, he picks the snake up and tosses it out of the window....

There is a brief struggle, as the music tries to convince us that Tom is in deadly danger of being bitten as he tries to use the coat rack to push the cobra off of a catwalk.

Scene 56: The snake goes tumbling to the ground, just as Paul and the cops pull into the alley with a squeal of tires...

... And the headlights reveal Lisa, transforming back to human, fully dressed and bejeweled and even with her wrap still intact under her shoulders.

Tom is understandably horrified, as the Inspector checks Lisa for a pulse and shakes his head in the negative at Paul. Tom and Julia race down the stairs...

Tom is devastated by another love gone wrong and glares at Paul and Julia. He finally stands and staggers away under "The End".

The Good: Most of the actors do quite well, taking the story seriously despite the silliness of the woman into cobra tale.

The pacing is mostly very good. Even when someone isn't dying, the story remains of interest with only a few exceptions.

The body count is surprisingly high for a B-picture from the 50s, with four characters we get to know dying.

Marshall Thompson does some exceptional acting work, staying mostly likeable despite the script problems with his character.

The Bad: Well, Tom's character has some really severe flaws that the movie doesn't seem aware of... and that's not even counting the usual 50's horndoggery toward women.

Uh... man, I hate to put this here because I feel bad about it, but I really have to: William Reynold's Pete is horribly flat. His seeing his best friend and roommate splattered on the concrete is nearly a shrug - not stunned silence, or shock... just, "Huh. Look at that."

The clumsy casting - the scenes in India have some not-at-all-disguised white people trying to pass as Indians, which just makes Faith Domergue's casting as Lisa Moya ridiculous, rather than a clever disguise to get close to her victims.

Nick's stupidly suicidal behavior, which caused the death of at least one man - which no one seems to feel any regret over until they start getting murdered themselves.

Other Thoughts: There are other script problems with this, including those awkward transition scenes I mentioned in the review. There also seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way Paul is connecting the dots, or the way that Tom reacts to Paul's suspicions, when he doesn't seem to have any way of knowing about them.

The Score: So yes, there are script problems with this one. But, I gotta say that I enjoy it anyway because of the acting and the interesting story. The love subplot is, of course, rushed and a bit ridiculous, but the actors carry it fine. This may not be the best B-Movie ever, but it's not a bad one either and is much more engaging, than say "The Deadly Mantis" with its constant padding of radar dishes:

3.75 out of 5

Tags: review cult of the cobra

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