Saturday, July 12, 2008

Black Cobra (1987)


Detective Robert Malone (Fred "The Hammer" Williamson) is a hard boiled, take-no-prisoners, loose cannon cop. Between randomly blowing street scum away, Malone protects a fashion photographer (Eva Grimaldi) who witnesses a biker gang's brutal assault. And that's pretty much it. Oh! And Malone has a partner (Vassili Karis) who helps him out before the gang sends him a message by kidnapping his daughter. This leads to this wonderful bit of dialogue from Williamson: "I'm not doing it for you. I'm just doing it. I would do it even if it were Santa Claus' daughter."

Well said.


I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra was released in 1986, while the following year we find the first (of FOUR!) films shot in Italy featuring a similar no-nonsese cop called Black Cobra. It's not like the Italian film industry is in the habit of making cheap rip offs of American flicks, right? (Except for the dozens of Italian Exorcist, Dawn Of The Dead, Mad Max, Jaws, Saturday Night Fever, etc. etc. etc. etc. knock offs)

Though in all fairness, Cobra wasn't a huge blockbuster, and the film owes as much (if not more) to Dirty Harry than the Stallone Vehicle. One other thing Black Cobra has going for it is the presence of Fred THE HAMMER Williamson as Detective Robert Malone. Williamson was nearing 50 when this film came out, but the man still bleeds bad-ass, and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Though it's comical in action, there's a gunfight in Black Cobra where Williamson swings from a wire, knocking over an assailant. While the actual "tackle" consists almost solely of Williamson ramming his ass against the shoulder of the attacker, I give points for effort. particularly in a film of this ilk.

Speaking of films of this ilk, this is certainly *not* a martial arts film. There's quite a bit of gun play, and Williamson tosses around grenades for good measure, but hand to hand combat is minimal. This is an action movie in the 80s American sense of the word, though filtered through an Italian eye (and budget).

The film itself is blandly (though competently) directed, but the print is really terrible (obviously mastered from a VHS tape) and dark, and the audio is muddy and can be difficult to make out. This is particularly hurtful since the actors (as is often the case in Italian productions) are dubbed, with Williamson apparently being one of the few that provide their own voice. This also appears to be an edited version of the film, as there are some obvious moments of carnage that have been excised (sometimes leaving a few frames behind, making it seem like the film was hacked up with rusty scissors). There is a single breast on display, which was gratuitous but at least woke me up at a particularly slow section of the film.

The plot itself is terribly thin, though Williamson gets a few (mostly unintentionally) funny lines. What's really missing from the film is a sense of fun, particularly considering that we get such a bland group of villains whose motives are anyone's guess. Without a reasonable threat (or suitably maniacal bad guy), we are left with a hard nosed cop being generally dickish for no apparent reason. That can be fun for a while, but wears very thin over 90 minutes.

I better get used to it, though.. I have two more of Black Cobra films coming up in the set.

This one isn't worth your time, particularly with this shoddy image and audio quality.

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