A decent premise drives this 1955 feature about six US soldiers caught up in a cult of snake worshippers. Creepy atmosphere, effective set-ups, and fine lighting highlight this somewhat uninteresting feature. Cult of the Cobra is solid for what it is and nothing more.
Those expecting snake attacks will be sorely disappointed. Cobra isn’t a creature feature, but more of a murder mystery. Faith Domergue plays Lisa, sent to New York to kill the six GIs who interrupted a sacred ceremony while on duty. She’s cold and sultry, a far cry from her characters in It Came from Beneath the Sea and This Island Earth the same year. She has the ability to metamorphose into a cobra, her means of claiming her victims.
Not enough time is spent with the soldiers, led by Tom (Marshall Thompson) and Paul (Richard Long), and their mental state. Once into the city, they begin meeting their fates quickly and continually dismiss the ever-real possibility that a curse has come true. Instead, the script takes the turn into a relationship story between Tom and Lisa.
This fails too. Their time on screen is never spent in a unique way other than Lisa constantly shrugging off Tom’s advances. The moral question of her religion, any explanation for the transformations, why she adapts so easily to a more modern society, and other questions remain unanswered.
Director Francis Lyon keeps the inevitable snake attacks interesting. Whether or not the strikes are performed from a point of view of the snake for style or budgetary reasons, they work. When the cobra does land some screen time, it’s an effective puppet, highly detailed to remain believable in rapid cuts. There’s something to nearly every death besides a basic venom shot.
Cult of the Cobra moves quickly, wasting little time to make it to the curse and getting the soldiers back to their homes in the US. This creates a fun action sequence when the men are caught spying and their eventual escape. It draws the viewer in and keeps them in place.
Logic is of course at a premium. Apparently, the coroner failed to notice snake bites on all the victims until requested by Paul. The deaths are all under suspicious circumstances.