Monday, January 28, 2008

Black Cobra Review - Stelvio Massi charms a Cobra

Black Cobra
1987 L'Immagine
Directed by Stelvio Massi
With Fred Williamson, Karl Landgren, Vassili Karis,
Eva Grimaldi, Maurice Poli and Sabrina Siani
Review by Paul Cooke

‘‘I’m not doing it for you , I’m just doing it’’

Playing like a pre post apocalyptic variation on ‘Bronx Warriors’ comes Director Stelvio Massi’s chin bruising Italian outing ‘Black Cobra’ , chiselled from the mould set by George Pan Cosmatos’ earlier 1986 American made movie vehicle ‘Cobra’.
Rampaging through proceedings with his own square set chin is black leather clad bad guy Karl Landgren as the leader of a gang of malicious territorial street thugs. Looking like fellow ‘B’ movie Action star Conrad Nichols attempting a plausible impression of the iconic Mark Gregory. A role type that ‘Cobra’ star Sylvester Stallone himself once revelled in way back in 1975 with the Roger Corman produced cult classic ‘Death Race 2000’. Like any good low budget outing in time the flavour becomes ever more palatable to widely discerning audiences , and with ‘Black Cobra’ what was itself in its time perceived as being a ‘bomb’ now resurrects as an explosively enjoyable find.
The opening sequence is pretty much a rerun of ‘Cobra’ with the introduction to events of special police enforcer Fred Williamson as the stoic Detective Malone. Appearing as cool as ever in a heavy garbed black coat , itself a less obtrusive fascia for his gun laden personage , and readied for Action with his insignia cigar pointing him in the direction of trouble.
Having been introduced to the take no prisoners style of Malone we then get to see gang leader Karl Landgren setting a style statement all of his own. One that that may well have been the inspiration behind Arnold Schwarzenegger’s look for ‘Terminator 2’ , with a black leather dressage and matching sunglasses to garnish his pose sat astride the requisite chunky motorcycle. Landgren and his thug band of indoctrinates go on a killing rampage , but are caught one evening in the act of murder as a neighbour returns home to witness the vicious assault. Fashion model photographer Eva Grimaldi flees for her life as her presence is soon noticed , escaping the gangs clutches by using her camera flash to temporarily blind their leader Landgren. She manages to elude capture by running into the safe hands of the police , leaving her assailants no choice but to back off from their malicious intent.
Aware that her taken pictures will incriminate him Landgren and cohorts set out to kill Grimaldi to cover their tracks. Detective Malone is assigned to protect her from the scourge which leads to Fred Williamson getting to do what he does best , dish out the rough stuff to those that are most deserving. The movies storyline opens up for some highly entertaining scuffles that allow for gunplay aplenty and a body count that mounts up as the indomitable Fred takes no prisoners. He may be governed by the badge but he sure as heck stamps his own interpretation on passage and verse of its law.
With gang leader Landgren becoming more frustrated at not being able to get through Malone’s self styled witness protection programme he has to change tact. A smartly exercised ambush is set and Detective Malone’s police chief friend Max Walker , portrayed by Maurice Poli , has his daughter abducted to further Landgren’s hand at forcing Malone’s to hand over the girl. Police chief Walker has no option but to turn to Malone for help in getting back his daughter , played by the welcomingly attractive Sabrina Siani.
Time for the audience to prepare for big time retribution Spaghetti Western stand off style as the metaphorical chain watch is flipped to chime its way down to the bullet ballet ahead. Armed to the hilt with an arsenal , a cigar and his long time police partner friend in co star Vassili Karis , big bad Fred Williamson steps up to square off and take down the gang. It’s ‘Gunfight At The OK Corral’ and Detective Malone is readied once and for all to fill this communal Tombstone with bad boy bodies. Good guys versus bad in the big showdown with fearless Fred striving to win the day and save the girl.
Director Stelvio Massi is a very adept ‘B’ movie veteran who makes good use of tightly shot close camera work and uses the full frame very well in his Action sequences , as cars collide and bodies fall in numbers under the plenitude of gun fire throughout the film. There is a momentary feeling of flatness for the audience as the showdown comes to what seems an unsatisfactory conclusion , but in the best tradition for movies of this fun ilk there is a double ending to revel in. With three sequels following it will come as no surprise that bad ass brawler Fred Williamson has the final word , which in the tradition of Roman gladiators means this ‘Cobra Nero’ gets a deserving thumbs up.
3.5 Exploding Huts

Japanese VHS Cover
US DVD-Poor Quality. Note that DVD is in lowercase letters!


OOP said...


Thank you so much for this great site.I have been lurking around since the tomb of dvd days and then Horror HQ and now your great blogs.
I have one question, how much is the crappy us dvd cut? Do you see the women get killed at the hospital in the Jap VHS?
Thanks again for this wonderful blog, and keep up the great work!

Jeremy Richey said...

Excellent post on a film I really adore. I first got my eyes on BLACK COBRA back in the early nineties when I rented it on VHS and it's a prime piece of eighties action I never tire of revisiting.
Williamson is great in it and Grimaldi is of course quite striking. I am wondering now if the print I have been seeing is cut...right now there are like a 100 different public domain discs of it out and they all seem to be ported from the old VHS.
Anyway great post and the new blog is looking fantastic. I added it to my links and I suspect it will be a regular stop for me.

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.