Cobra Woman (1944)

Rating: **
Review Date: 7/29/18
Cast: Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Sabu

"Fear has made them religious fanatics."

Ramu (Jon Hall) is about to marry an island girl named Tollea (Maria Montez) when she is kidnapped and whisked away to Cobra Island. It turns out that she's the rightful ruler of the island and that she must depose her wicked twin sister Naja, who delights in the torture and suffering of her people. Strangers on Cobra Island are punished by death, but that doesn't keep Ramu and island boy Kado (Sabu) from trying to rescue Tollea. After much silliness and some conveniently timed volcanic eruptions, Naja and her chief lawmaker pay for their crimes and the people of Cobra Island are free from tyranny and religious oppression once more.

Quite possibly Maria Montez's best and most nuanced performance, but she's still not a very good actress. On the plus side, she gets to play both a good girl AND a bad girl, which offers her a wide variety of playfully sexy outfits to wear (although her rouge is a bit overpowering). The story is nothing more than a pulpy romance set in an exotic location, and the broken English of the island natives is appalling. It's a colorful Technicolor adventure, but the matte paintings are embarrassingly awful. A trained chimpanzee named Koko shows up for comedy relief and repeatedly saves Kado from doom, but her tricks are overly contrived and the blatant exploitation is uncomfortable to watch. Her presence also raises the biggest question in the film: How did she get to Cobra Island? Kado stowed away on Ramu's boat and no one else approached the island, so did she sail there on her own? Very puzzling.