Friday, March 11, 2016

044. 045. 046. Black Cobra 1, 2, & 3

044. Black Cobra aka Cobra Nero(1987)
Director: Stelvio Massi
Writer: Danilo Massi
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

Chicago Detective Robert Malone must protect the only woman who can identify the leader of a roving motorcycle gang.

045. Black Cobra 2 (1989)
Director: Edoardo Margheriti
From: Cult Cinema

Detective Robert Malone is sent to Manila on forced sabatical, but finds himself immediately tied up in an investigation of an international crime syndicate.

046. Black Cobra 3 (1990)
Director: Edoardo Margheriti
From: Cult Cinema

Detective Robert Malone once again must travel to the Philippines, this time to investigate the disappearance of an arms shipment being investigated by the son of an old friend.

To celebrate my birthday, I invited my bad movie friends, the Space Dukes, over for a triple-feature of Black Cobra 1, 2, & 3. During the course of the films, I baked cookies, brought out hummus and a cheese plate, reheated some black bean soup for myself, one of my friends left to get Indonesian, and we drank, and drank, and, upon seeing what the movies had to offer, drank and drank and drank. Also, my friend gave me a copy of Buttageddon by Chuck Tingle. Read the description there at Amazon if you're not already familiar with the works of Chuck Tingle or you can just follow Kindle Cover Disasters to truly appreciate the levels of what-the-fuckery.

I have little to say about the movies as we did not pay particularly close attention to them as they did not warrant it. Fred Williamson plays Detective Robert Malone, a Chicago cop who plays by his own rules and other cop movie clich├ęs. The first movie is an attempt to make a black Dirty Harry including lines about the bullet capacity of a .44 Magnum being addressed to a “punk” who's asked if he feels “lucky.” All of this comes at the end, though. The majority of the movie is a gang of criminals committing random acts of violence and trying to find a young woman who can identify the gang's leader. The movie, overall, is pretty silly and forgettable.

All three of these movies are Italian productions so enjoy those opening establishing shots of Chicago because that's the last you'll see of the city. The rest of the film is shot in, as my friend said, “Shitaly,” and the film looks it. While Black Cobra 2 and 3 have English-speaking co-stars, this first one only has Williamson who's clearly talking to heavily dubbed people. Add that he's always chewing a cigar and a final sequence that looks like it was choreographed in Crazy Taxi and you have a moderately enjoyable bad movie.

There are two more, though, both of which send our hero to the Philippines because I guess it was cheaper than shooting in Italy (although they're done just as shittily). In Black Cobra 2, Williamson, after shooting a hostage-taker in the face through a motorcycle helmet (which, yeah, is pretty boss), is sent on a forced sabbatical to Manila on the pretense of being trained by Interpol. Before he can get through customs, though, his wallet is stolen which embroils him in some kind of international crime thingy whatsit.

I don't care because, as my friend pointed out, his co-star is Spiderman from the 70's live-action TV show (and I only just noticed that the IMDB doesn't list a writer for this movie. I find that completely plausible).

This movie is dumber than the first and way more fun. It's a generic action-cop flick shot in Manila—the kind of thing they talk about in Electric Boogaloo, the excellent documentary on Cannon Films—featuring silly slo-mo, villains watching Williamson roll across a floor before shooting them, and various moments that pop up out of nowhere like a woman at a bar who's actually the bar's lounge singer and just launches into a song—badly.

Oh, so deliciously badly.

There's a whole lot of silly to this film, but some disappointments as well. Williamson has a brief romantic interest and we don't see the love scene. I'm not sure we even see them kiss, and that felt like a purposeful absence, like the filmmakers weren't willing to show an interracial kiss on-screen.

The third movie, the best of the three, (and how often can you say that of sequels?) opens in the Philippines without Williamson at all. Some guy is trying to infiltrate a military/rebel/terrorist/??? base using 80's fake technology and white-guy karate. He does . . . stuff? . . . and is then chased away. He escapes, but not before being shot and somehow gets a message to Williamson. Williamson worked with rando's dad and was the best damn cop he ever knew. Since rando has uncovered some heavy shit, Williamson is the only one who he trusts to come down and handle it.

This third movie abandons all pretense. It's just silly action sequences. In fact, this may have been the inspiration for the final act of Black Dynamite. Williamson has to get permission to leave from his police chief—the same angry chief that sent him to the Philippines in the second movie—and their meeting is interrupted by a call from the mayor relaying a message from the governor to send in Detective Robert Malone!

So he goes down, meets his co-stars, much shooty, much splodey, much silly. I thought I saw an obvious twist on the horizon that never manifested and I don't know if that's to the movie's credit or a failure on their part. While I don't have much to say about this third one, it was the one that kept my friends and I laughing the most and was definitely the most fun.

Apparently there's a fourth one of these, but there's no description. The only review makes it sound like someone recut the first and second to make a new sequel. However, IMDB also lists what looks to be a reboot, The Black Cobra Returns, starring Coy Duke and Sheriff Little from The Dukes of Hazzard. I highly recommend poking around that IMDB link, especially to see the bio of writer/director Markus James. It is a glorious piece of autobiography masquerading as biography.

Overall, the films are forgettable, potentially interesting examples of blaxploitation, late-80's action-generica, and made-for-export Italian film. A black version of Dirty Harry would have been pretty interesting if honestly pursued. It feels like they aimed for that a bit with the remake of Shaft, but missed the mark there too. If you stumble across these or feel like hunting them down, just go straight to the third. No plot elements carry over and that's the one that gets closest to all killer, no filler.

Edit: Black Cobra apparently is PD so I've uploaded an MPEG-2 to archive.org.

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