Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982)

Hunters of the Golden Cobra PosterIf you recall the magical doodads Indiana Jones was after in his various adventures, they all had some kind of superpower that was supposed to awe us. The Lost Ark melted dudes who stared at it, the Holy Grail was like a fountain of youth and really kick ass dose of Neosporin and nobody remembers anything about the Temple of Doom or that crystal skull.

For my money though, the most fearsome of these jungle Maltese Falcons infused with voodoo magic juice isn’t one those top of the line cinema treasures, but one of its economy-class import imitators, the Golden Cobra! And you know why? Because anyone with a home theater can identify with what happens to our heroes in this film!

Yes, folks are hunted by savages, thrown into a temple of snakes and get trapped in an exploding volcano, but the scariest moment for modern audiences is when the high priest of the Golden Cobra uses his supernatural powers to interrupt a top secret military slide show!

Can you imagine? You spend thousands of dollars on an elite home theater viewing experience and right in the middle of the latest Resident Evil 3Dstravganza some old witch doctor shows up on screen and sends in a guy with a machete after you and your guests!

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This little parlor trick backfired on the high priest though because it convinced a skeptical David Warbeck that maybe there was something to all the confusing nonsense about the Golden Cobra’s powers being used to rule that part of the world. I still wasn’t sure what convinced the military that David Warbeck was the GI for the job since he and his British pal (fellow Italian trash royalty John Steiner) failed at nabbing the Cobra only one year before!

That initial two man commando raid on the Japanese base was probably always destined to fail, especially when it morphed into a “one man jumping out of a plane into the jungle” scheme that saw Warbeck ending up floating down a river after a run in with the disciples of the Golden Cobra. The incident did serve to introduce a beautiful and mysterious white woman who lived among the Golden Cobra tribe. But would Warbeck ever see her again?

Of course he would! In fact he would see lots of her because the next year he meets her twin sister who is with her uncle searching for the sister she lost in the jungle years ago. You know how you know this is an cheap Italian adventure movie? Not that there are twins mysteriously turning up during our hero’s mission, but that the fact they are twins plays no part in the story. Their only role is to force director Antonio Margheriti to use quick cuts and editing tricks whenever they appear on screen together!

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Margheriti though is no slouch behind the camera, as evidenced by the variety of entertaining cheap Italian cash-in movies he made during a career that included Cannibal Apocalypse, Car Crash, Yor, the Hunter from the Future, pioneering the Italian space film genre, various peplum efforts and scores of others. This first of his three Italiana Jones flicks (The Ark of the Sun God and Jungle Raiders being the other two) is full of well put together action, despite the reality of the film’s financial constraints showing through periodically (like the bus-truck collision that saw the bus stop just short of the truck’s bumper resulting in both exploding due to the apparently flammable air between them).

Shoot outs, a brawl between Warbeck and Steiner at a cockfighting event, chases, hand to hand combat and an exciting and suspenseful encounter in the cobra-infested temple are just the warm up for the big finish inside the volcano where the Golden Cobra is located. When we see the Cobra is perched above a mammoth drop into fiery lava pits, we’re just waiting for the inevitable fall. And when has an Italian exploitation film ever missed an opportunity to throw a floppy dummy off a cliff?

Warbeck is always fun to watch as he brings his regular guy looks and surly but likable disposition with good authority while Steiner’s jaunty English chap partner is a good foil for Warbeck to play off of. Add in the great character actor Luciano Pigozzi as the archeologist uncle and you can’t help but be swept up in the fun.

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The script of course has the expected problems of characters not behaving in believable fashion (Why was the niece taken along on the trip after Steiner said they were not taking her and the uncle? Would the only adjustment to civilization the twin sister who lived in the jungle all those years have to make is learning to walk in high heels?) and gaping plot holes and associated deus ex machina just explained away by one character as “top secret.”

The film also doesn’t reach the silly highs of the other two jungle adventures Margheriti did (no Trams Am chases or characters as colorful as Christopher Connely’s Captain Yankee), but with the frequent action, the Philippine jungle locations, and the three principals being so fun to watch, it’s hard not to like. The movie even ends with the unsettling prospect of future low tech military slide shows being interrupted by the Golden Cobra’s priest. And to think, we’re just worried about Chinese hackers!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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