G.I. foe: the rise of the cobra.
Some promo posters work exactly as intended. We saw this one for Cult of the Cobra and immediately dropped everything to find the film. We knew it was going to be a cheesy b-movie because we'd never heard of it before, and perhaps having low expectations is the key to enjoying it. In the story six American G.I.s in (presumably) India decide to alleviate their boredom by attending a local cobra cult's ritual. When they disrupt the ceremony in spectacularly boneheaded fashion the high priest curses the group. They pay no attention to this at all.
They return to the U.S. not knowing they've been tracked there, but when they start dropping dead they think, “Hey, didn't that high priest dude curse us?” Yes, he did. In fact, he specifically said the cobra goddess would kill them one by one. Missy Misdemeanor Eliot once memorably rapped in her hit song “Slide,” Behind every curtain there's a snake bitch lurkin', and that neatly encapsulates the problem for the surviving G.I.s—they realize they're in trouble but have no idea who their nemesis could be.
But we viewers don't have to guess. Their homicidal stalker is Faith Domergue, raven haired veteran of many beloved sci-fi and horror films, including This Island Earth and The Atomic Man. She also starred in the occasional decent drama such as Vendetta and Where Danger Lives. She's an unusual looking woman but here her sloe-eyed beauty really works. You can almost believe she'll turn into a snake at any moment. Check her out: Definite snakelike qualities, right?
Cult of the Cobra is a bad but fun Universal International cheapie, what we like to call a popcorn muncher, a time killer you can enjoy and forget immediately thereafter. Its main attractions are Domergue as the snake woman, the luscious Kathleen Hughes as the hero's love interest, and some amusing cobra-vision sequences. And that amazing promo poster. We also have the alternate U.S. promo and Australian promo below. Cult of the Cobra slithered into cinemas for the first time today in 1955.
Clearly they have consent issues.
Monsters may be horrible but you can't fault their taste. To borrow a line from one of their number, they're automatically attracted to beautiful. It's like a magnet. We wonder if it's possible their need is an unconscious manifestation of the id of male Hollywood screenwriters. Or were the writers deliberately making commentaries about male power, nuclear paranoia, and environmental degradation? Well, those are questions for smarter people than us. We take monsters at face value. Maybe that's not what we mean—some don't even have proper faces. What we mean is we judge them as individuals. Most monsters are direct, like Pongo, above, trying to impress Maris Wrixon in the 1945 movie White Pongo, while some, on the other claw, are more circumspect. But the language barrier usually sabotages their delicate efforts. “I know an independently owned café that serves a killer macchiato,” comes out as a series of glottal grunts. “I loved La La Land too and I think the naysayers are mainly joyless jazz purists,” comes out as a sustained sodden hiss. Even if these vocalizations could give a true indication of the inner depths of a monster's personality, women generally wouldn't give them a shot anyway, because despite what they say, looks really do matter. What's a monster to do?
This Island Earth, with Faith Domergue.
The Time Machine, with Yvette Mimieux.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Julie Adams.
The Alligator People, with Beverly Garland.
The Man from Planet X, with Margaret Field.
Robot Monster, with Claudia Barrett.
The Beach Girls and the Monster, with Sue Casey.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas, with Jeanne Carmen.
The Day of the Triffids, with Janette Scott.
It! the Terror from Beyond Space, with Shirley Patterson.
I Walked with a Zombie, with Christine Gordon.
From Hell It Came.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, with Dawn Richard.
It Conquered the World, with Beverly Garland again crushing a monster's hopes for love and fulfillment.
El retorno del Hombre Lobo, aka Night of the Werewolf.
Empire of the Ants, with Joan Collins.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, with Gloria Talbott.
The Wolf Man, with Evelyn Ankers.
Wanna go out with me Friday? Oh, you’re committing suicide that night? How about Thursday?
Above is one of the great film noir posters—the three-sheet promo for Where Danger Lives (presumably de-seamed by some enterprising Photoshopper). The movie starred Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, and Claude Rains, and deals with a doctor who gets involved with a suicidal patient, a situation that simply can’t end well. Like most film noirs, Where Danger Lives is well regarded today, but it’s strictly second tier—watching Mitchum stagger around for half the movie making bad decisions because of a concussion just didn’t engage us, but more importantly there’s no real basis for his relationship with Domergue. Writing it into a script is not enough—the actors need to establish chemistry and heat to make recklessness understandable. When you start asking questions like, “But why would he have any interest in this crazy chick when he already has a great girlfriend?” you know the movie is fatally flawed. If you like noirs, you might be inclined to give this one’s failings a pass—after all, even so-so noir is better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. And it has Mitchum, who’s also better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. Where Danger Lives premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
1970—Angela Davis Arrested
After two months of evading police and federal authorities, Angela Davis is arrested in New York City by the FBI. She had been sought in connection with a kidnapping and murder because one of the guns used in the crime had been bought under her name. But after a trial a jury agreed that owning the weapon did not automatically make her complicit in the crimes.
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